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Cat Paralysis

If your cat is experiencing paralysis, they will be unable to move their limbs or other body parts, depending on the severity. Today, our Benton vets share everything you need to know about paralysis in cats.

What is cat paralysis? 

Cat paralysis, also known as feline paraplegia, refers to a condition in which a cat experiences partial or complete loss of movement and sensation in its hind limbs. This loss of function can be temporary or permanent and may result from various underlying causes. 

Why Complete & Partial Paralysis in Cats Occurs 

Complete and partial paralysis in cats occurs when signals from the brain asking a body part to move are interrupted due to damage to the cat's central nervous system (CNS), located within the spinal column.

When the movement signals are blocked from reaching the appropriate limb, your cat cannot move properly. The location of the damage to your cat's CNS dictates which body parts are affected by paralysis.

Common Causes of Cat Paralysis

Damage can occur to your cat's spinal column in several ways, including:

  • Trauma such as a car accident, fall, or fight
  • Tumors in the spine or brain which place pressure on nearby nerves
  • Slipped discs that damage or pinch nearby nerves
  • Inflammation around the spine places pressure on nearby nerves
  • Tick paralysis is a condition caused by neurotoxins found in the saliva of ticks, transferred to the pet when the tick latches on for some time
  • Obstruction of an artery restricting proper blood flow to the affected body part
  • Infection in bones or tissue near the spinal column
  • Nerve damage caused by poisons or toxins such as botulism
  • Malformation of the spine or individual vertebrae

Diagnosing Complete & Partial Paralysis in Cats

When diagnosing your cat's condition, your veterinarian will work with you to determine if your cat has experienced a traumatic injury, such as a car accident, that may have resulted in a spinal column injury.

Your vet will ask for a recent history of your cat's symptoms, whether they appeared suddenly or gradually, and if there have been any fluctuations in their severity.

A full physical examination will be performed, including gentle manipulation of the affected limb/limbs and perhaps a test to determine if your cat has a pain response. Further diagnostic testing may be required, possibly including an MRI scan, CT scan, or X-rays.

Treating Complete & Partial Feline Paralysis

Treatment for complete or partial paralysis in cats will depend on the underlying cause and the likelihood of recovery. If an infection is the cause, antibiotics will be used. If an injury is the cause, anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to reduce pressure on the spinal column. Cats with paralysis will require significant home care, and your vet will discuss the best ways to help your cat and the prognosis.

Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis in cats is a serious condition that affects the upper airway. It occurs when the cartilage of the cat's larynx does not open and close normally during breathing, causing increasing breathing difficulties. In the early stages, it can be identified by a noise when the airway walls do not open normally as the cat breathes in. As the condition worsens, the walls of the windpipe may be drawn inward during inhalation, leading to a narrowing of the windpipe and, in some cases, complete blockage, which can result in suffocation.

Signs of Laryngeal Paralysis

This is a very serious condition that requires urgent veterinary care. If your cat shows any of the following symptoms, it's time to take it to the vet for an examination.

  • Increased panting
  • Panting even when at rest
  • A raspy, or hoarse-sounding voice 

More severe and advanced cases may lead to the following symptoms:

  • Obvious signs of working hard to breathe (sides moving in and out with effort)
  • Anxious or panicked facial expression
  • Chest vigorously expanding and contracting to breathe
  • Panting with lips pulled back as if smiling and tongue out
  • Noise when your cat is breathing
  • Tongue darker red or purple
  • Reluctance to be touched or handled

If your cat is showing any of the symptoms above, urgent veterinary care is required! Contact your vet right away or go to the nearest animal emergency hospital.

Treating Laryngeal Paralysis in Cats

Your veterinarian's first priority will be stabilizing your cat's condition. This may involve oxygen therapy, external cooling (as cats with laryngeal paralysis can overheat quickly), sedation, and possibly intubation to temporarily assist with breathing.

Once your cat's condition is stable, your veterinarian will discuss the next steps with you. Laryngeal paralysis will not resolve on its own. However, a surgical procedure called Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization or "Tieback" has shown promising results in treating cats with laryngeal paralysis. In this surgery, one side of the airway is tied back to allow air to flow more freely into the lungs.

If Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization is not suitable for your cat, other surgical options may be recommended.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you worried your cat is showing signs of paralysis? Contact our Benton emergency vets right away.

Welcoming Cats & Dogs to Our Animal Hospital

Saline County Animal Clinic welcomes cats, dogs, and their people to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Benton dogs and cats. Get in touch to book your pet's appointment.

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