Cat paralysis – Causes, symptoms and treatments
Your cat’s life can change from one moment to another due to a fall from a great height, a car accident, an illness, etc., leaving him in a state of partial or total paralysis depending on the severity of the injury and the first aids received after the accident. Years ago sacrifice was the only option because the expectations of improvement were hopeless, but fortunately today cats can continue to enjoy daily activities through various therapies and orthopedic instruments.
For a cat to move in an optimal way and perform daily activities it´s important that a proper coordination happens between his brain, nerves, muscles and spine; any interference in communication between the brain and the spinal cord can lead to a total paralysis (if the interruption is complete) or a partial one (if the communication is poor).
- Diseases such as infectious peritonitis, feline immunodeficiency virus and toxoplasmosis (parasitic infection).
- Polyneuritis (infection or inflammation of the nerves).
- Intervertebral disc disease (slipped discs in the back).
- Embolism (blockage of blood flow to the spine).
- Aortic embolism (blockage of blood flow to the hind legs).
- Tumors, or spine or brain cancer.
- Tick bite paralysis due to neurotoxins secreted by their salivary glands into the bloodstream of the cat.
- Spine injuries (jumps or abrupt falls).
- Botulism (bacterial toxins found on improperly canned or preserved foods).
- Infection in the spine´s vertebrae.
1. Inability to urinate or defecate.
2. Difficulty controlling urination or bowel movements.
3. Doesn´t walk on the hind leg´s pads.
4. Frequently falls or stumbles when walking.
5. Instability in the hind legs.
6. Immobility of the hind legs (paraplegia).
Cat with paraplegia
7. Immobility of the 4 legs (quadriplegia).
8. Pain on the spinal cord, neck or legs.
How should I transport my cat if he suffers a sudden paralysis?
- You can use an ironing or wooden board to keep the animal as still as possible. You shouldn´t medicate him unless the vet has approved it.
- Cover him with a blanket to keep him calm and warm. It´s very important to stay calmed yourself to pass this mood on to your pet.
- You shouldn´t be surprised if he bites you due to the pain, fear or stress he may be feeling at that moment.
- You should consider your cat´s paralysis as an emergency and immediately consult your veterinarian.
How to take care of a cat with paralysis?
– Talk to your veterinarian about his real situation, what to expect regarding his quality of life and care needs.
– Place him in an orthopedic bed, changing his position several times a day to prevent the formation of ulcers.
– Keep control of feces and urine: this is often difficult in paralyzed cats, hence it´s important to continuously clean them up to prevent skin infections.
– The cat´s independent and adventurous personality makes his paralysis more difficult to carry. He needs specialized care, love and entertainment to suit his playful needs and curiosity.
– This new situation will keep him feeling very nervous, so it´s necessary to maintain the daily routine to avoid surprises that may scare him.
Prevention: how to avoid your cat from suffering injuries that could cause paralysis
– Balconies and windows are unsafe places for the cat and they must be protected by bars, mesh or mosquito nets.
– Oscillating windows are also dangerous because most of the time they try to jump over and many of them end up with a fractured spine.
– In order to avoid violent injuries from automobile accidents is better to avoid street escapes.
There´s no unique treatment to guarantee the total recovery of the cat´s mobility, but it has been shown that results improve when traditional medicine is integrated with other alternative or natural therapies which we´ll speak about later, such as acupuncture, electro-acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Depending on each case, some will need surgery and others pharmacological therapy. Surgery is indicated in cases of tumors or spinal cord injury, while drugs apply in cases of infection.
Recovering from surgery
If your cat has had surgery, waiting a few weeks until the wound has healed is recommended. During the resting stage the vet may recommend some exercises like stimulation (scratching, rubbing or tickling) and massages on the feet or legs to stimulate circulation and promote healing. Once the cat is recovered from the surgery you may begin to integrate exercises like overcoming small obstacles such as low wood pieces or walking in different surfaces (flat, rocky, leaning, green areas) using a harness or a sling made at home with a towel or a cot sheet.
Ball exercises will help him to learn how to support his own weight. These are made with the physiotherapist and the owner can continue them at home as long as they are supervised by a specialist.
A wheelchair improves the cat´s quality of life for he can continue with his daily activities like playing, running, walking, relieving himself and satisfying his curious spirit.
Similar to the cases of paralyzed dogs, alternative therapies can be very useful for their recovery:
Excellent for animals suffering from paralysis or limited mobility. This technique combines exercise, massage and water jets to increase blood circulation, reducing pain and inflammations and improving mobility. They can also be done in the bathtub or jacuzzi under a specialist´s supervision. However, this treatment isn´t recommended for cats suffering from panic to water.
This is an Eastern technique that uses the insertion of needles at different points all over the body to stimulate the central and peripheral nervous system, eliminating pain while freeing restorative mechanisms. It´s mainly indicated in the case of hip dysplasia, arthritis, acute and chronic traumatic injuries, diseases on the cervical and intervertebral discs, pain and inflammations on the neck and back, facial nerve paralysis, lack of coordination and respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. It’s amazing how well cats tolerate acupuncture needles without showing the slightest nervousness during therapy.
It enhances traditional acupuncture benefits due to the application of a low frequency micro-current into certain points of the body to relieve pain and inflammation. Its advantage over traditional acupuncture is that it stimulates a larger area around the needle.
Finally, here’s a video showing a cat being walked in a wheelchair.