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Cat Paralysis

If your cat experiences paralysis, it may lose the ability to move its limbs or other body parts, depending on the severity. Our Monterey Park veterinarians provide essential information about cat paralysis.

What is cat paralysis?

Cat paralysis, also known as feline paralysis or feline paraplegia, refers to a condition in which a cat experiences partial or complete loss of motor function in its hind limbs. This condition can result from various underlying causes, including spinal cord injury, trauma, infectious diseases, neurological disorders, and sometimes even cancerous growths affecting the spine.

The symptoms of cat paralysis typically manifest as weakness, inability to stand or walk, dragging of the hind limbs, and in severe cases, complete loss of movement in the affected area. Depending on the cause and severity of the paralysis, other symptoms, such as urinary or fecal incontinence, may also occur.

What causes sudden paralysis in cats? 

Sudden paralysis in cats can be a distressing and alarming condition for both the cat and its owner. Several potential causes can lead to sudden onset paralysis in cats, 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
It's essential to seek immediate veterinary attention if a cat experiences sudden paralysis, as prompt diagnosis and treatment can significantly impact the prognosis and potential for recovery.

How is paralysis diagnosed in cats?

When diagnosing your cat's condition, your veterinarian will work with you to ascertain whether your cat has experienced a traumatic injury, such as a car accident, that may have resulted in an injury to the spinal column. Your vet will request a recent history of your cat's symptoms, whether their symptoms came on suddenly or gradually, and whether there have been any fluctuations in the severity of your cat's symptoms.

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

How do you treat a paralyzed cat? 

Treatment for complete or partial paralysis in cats will depend upon the cause of the paralysis and the likelihood of whether it is a temporary condition that your cat can recover from.  

If an infection is the cause of your cat's complete or partial paralysis, treatment will include antibiotics to fight the infection. If an injury is causing your cat's paralysis, anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to help reduce pressure on the spinal column.

Pet parents need to understand that cats with full or partial paralysis will require considerable home care. Your vet will take the time to discuss how best to help your kitty, your cat's prognosis, and the best next steps.

What is laryngeal paralysis in cats?

The incomplete opening of the larynx characterizes laryngeal paralysis in cats, the structure commonly referred to as the voice box. In this condition, the muscles responsible for opening the larynx fail to function properly, leading to partial airway obstruction.

While laryngeal paralysis is more commonly recognized in dogs, it is relatively rare in cats. The condition can occur due to various underlying factors, including neurological issues, trauma, or inflammation affecting the nerves and muscles controlling the larynx.

Signs of Laryngeal Paralysis

This is a very serious condition that requires urgent veterinary care. If your cat is showing any of the following symptoms, it's time to head 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 head to the nearest animal emergency hospital.

Treating Laryngeal Paralysis in Cats

Treatment options for laryngeal paralysis in cats depend on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms. In some cases, medical management with corticosteroids or other medications may help alleviate inflammation and improve laryngeal function. However, surgical intervention, such as laryngeal tie-back surgery (laryngoplasty), may be necessary to permanently open the airway and relieve respiratory distress, especially in cases of severe or progressive paralysis.

While laryngeal paralysis in cats is relatively uncommon, prompt recognition and appropriate management are essential to improve the cat's quality of life and prevent respiratory complications. Owners noticing any signs of breathing difficulties or unusual vocalizations in their cats should seek veterinary attention for proper evaluation and management.

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 Monterey Park emergency vets right away.

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