Spinal Damage in Cats — What to Know

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Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


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Cats is perhaps amazingly agile and able to becoming themselves into varied unusually formed objects to nap, however they’re simply as prone to spinal accidents as people are. Spinal accidents in cats can vary from gentle to extreme and have an effect on mind and motor perform.

Though trauma from a foul fall or a automobile accident is the largest motive that cats develop spinal accidents, their age and weight can also have an effect on their backbone, as can different well being circumstances, reminiscent of bacterial infections, tumors, and genetics.

This information goes over spinal accidents in cats, their severity, and why you must contact your veterinarian for those who suspect that your cat has broken their again.

What Are Spinal Accidents in Cats?

Like in people, a cat’s spinal twine is important for motion and neurological perform. Regardless of a cat’s searching abilities, uncanny skill to land on their ft, and enormous variety of vertebrae, their backbone can nonetheless be injured.

Spinal accidents in cats will be minor or extreme. These kinds of accidents are sometimes attributable to fractured vertebrae, luxation (the place the bone surrounding the backbone strikes or loosens), or intervertebral disc illness. Accidents reminiscent of falls or being hit by a automobile are widespread causes of spinal accidents, however these accidents can be attributable to well being circumstances reminiscent of tumors, genetics, blocked blood vessels, and bacterial infections.

Cats can endure from gentle or extreme spinal accidents. Their restoration relies on the severity of the harm and the way rapidly the difficulty was identified and handled. Delicate spinal accidents will be handled with relaxation and rehabilitation, whereas extreme spinal accidents may require surgical procedure. Sure spinal accidents can result in everlasting incontinence or paralysis and should not all the time treatable. An early prognosis and remedy can help your cat’s possibilities of restoration from most minor accidents.

Sad Bored Cat
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What Are the Indicators of Spinal Accidents in Cats?

Cats will usually do every thing that they will to cover their ache from their homeowners. In reality, they’re infamous for pretending that nothing is incorrect with them. When it’s a probably critical harm that they’re hiding, although, not understanding how you can learn your cat’s physique language can have devastating penalties.

Fortuitously, cats aren’t as not possible to learn as they suppose that they’re. When you pay shut consideration, you’ll be able to determine once they’re sick or hiding an harm. Even for those who don’t witness your cat moving into an accident that would have injured them, spinal accidents have a number of indicators to be careful for:

  • Posture adjustments
  • Paralysis
  • No indicators of feeling under the broken a part of the backbone
  • Stiff neck
  • Not elevating or turning their head
  • Indicators of ache whereas they’re transferring or whenever you contact their again
  • Bruising, scratches, or swelling across the backbone
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of coordination
  • No urge for food
  • Fever
  • Extreme meowing

Not all again and neck ache is attributable to spinal accidents, nevertheless it’s greatest to speak to your veterinarian for a correct prognosis. The sooner that you just get your cat examined for potential spinal accidents, the sooner you’ll be able to deal with the issue and forestall extra critical points from growing.

sad cat
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What Are the Causes of Spinal Damage in Cats?

Spinal accidents in cats are mostly attributable to trauma, which may injury the spinal twine on account of a fracture or dislocation of the backbone. These accidents can final past the preliminary occasion too. They’re usually accompanied by swelling, bleeding, broken nerves, and tissue decay, which may worsen the harm if it goes untreated.

Listed below are a couple of of the commonest causes of spinal accidents in cats.

Automobile Accidents

Automobile accidents are among the many commonest causes of spinal accidents in outside cats. Whereas most cats will keep away from transferring automobiles, accidents can occur even in quiet neighborhoods. In case your cat will get spooked by one thing or chased by a canine or one other cat, they could dash throughout a street in an try to flee.

Your cat is perhaps fortunate sufficient to outlive the accident nevertheless it’s unlikely that they’ll be unscathed. A spinal harm is without doubt one of the many issues that may outcome from a automobile accident.

Sick Wounded Cat
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Though we assume that cats all the time land on their ft, this skill doesn’t all the time stop accidents, and a foul fall can occur to your cat inside or outdoors your private home.

For a housecat, the chance of spinal harm comes from falling from a excessive place, like the highest of a bookshelf or down the steps. One other widespread accident at house is a cat tree falling over as a result of it’s not correctly secured. If their cat tree falls over when your cat is utilizing it, they’re more likely to get severely injured.

Gunshot and Chew Wounds

When your cat is out of the home on their very own, it’s not possible to manage the place they go or what they work together with. If a bigger animal like a canine or wild cat manages to get the perfect of your cat, the altercation can result in extreme accidents and even dying.

There are individuals who don’t tolerate cats or don’t understand that the cat has a house and isn’t a stray. Whereas many individuals will pass over poison, some will shoot animals that trespass on their property, together with cats.

Tumors, Infections, or Genetic Situations

Together with traumatic accidents to the backbone, cats can endure from accidents attributable to well being points. Genetic circumstances, bacterial infections, blocked blood vessels, and tumors can all trigger swelling and put stress on the spinal twine. A veterinarian should carry out an X-ray to find out the issue and the severity of the difficulty.

ginger cat with swollen and wounded nose
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How Do I Care For a Cat With a Spinal Damage?

Step one in correctly caring for a cat with a spinal harm is to get the situation correctly identified as rapidly as attainable. In case your cat falls from a excessive peak, will get hit by a automobile, or will get harm one other manner, take them to a veterinarian as quickly as attainable.

To diagnose a spinal harm, your veterinarian will use X-rays, myelograms, CT scans, and MRIs. These exams will assist decide the kind of harm that your cat has sustained and its severity. As soon as a prognosis is made, the remedy relies on the severity of the spinal harm.

Listed below are a couple of widespread methods of treating spinal accidents.

  • Immobilization – When you suspect that your cat has sustained a spinal harm, the very first thing that it’s essential to do is immobilize them to stop additional injury. Whereas this may appear merciless, it’s the tactic used for stopping extreme spinal accidents in people too. Earlier than you’re taking your cat to the vet, place them on their facet on a stiff board, and use a blanket to stop them from transferring.

  • Medicine – Sure spinal accidents will be handled with treatment reminiscent of anti-inflammatories, steroids, antibiotics, and painkillers. The kind of treatment that your veterinarian prescribes relies on the kind of harm that your cat has. Relying on the harm’s severity, treatment is usually mixed with surgical procedure to successfully deal with the difficulty.

  • Surgical procedure – Many spinal accidents can’t be handled by treatment alone, particularly if the harm has resulted in paralysis or incontinence. In extreme circumstances, surgical procedure can be utilized to alleviate stress on the spinal twine by eradicating contaminated tissue and fluid or items of the vertebral bone if crucial. Whereas surgical procedure may help, it isn’t a cure-all. Your cat will nonetheless want time to recuperate and should by no means regain their earlier mobility.

  • Relaxation and Rehabilitation – Whether or not your cat has a minor or extreme spinal harm, relaxation and rehabilitation might be a part of their remedy. Your cat might be confined to a cage for a couple of weeks to restrict their motion and assist them relaxation. This additionally offers their backbone time to heal even when they don’t require surgical procedure. As your cat recovers, rehabilitation remedy will assist enhance their mobility and cut back ache. Your veterinarian may counsel varied remedy sorts, together with therapeutic train, hydrotherapy, and chilly laser remedy. Acupuncture has additionally been used to assist deal with accidents and handle ache.

  • Euthanasia – Typically, the spinal harm sustained is untreatable as a result of severity of the fracture. Within the worst-case state of affairs when a spinal harm can’t be handled, euthanasia is perhaps the one choice to stop pointless struggling.
british shorthair cat being treated by a vet
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Incessantly Requested Questions (FAQs)

Can a Cat Get better From a Spinal Damage?

Relying on the kind of spinal harm that your cat has, restoration is feasible with the best remedy. Typically, all they should recuperate is sufficient time to correctly relaxation and permit their backbone to heal. As soon as they’ve healed, you and your veterinarian can work on bettering their mobility and lowering ache by way of rehabilitation remedy.

Nonetheless, there are circumstances when full restoration isn’t attainable. Extreme accidents to the spinal twine can result in everlasting incontinence or paralysis.

domestic cat on the table with medicines for colds
Picture Credit score: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

Do Spinal Accidents Get Worse Over Time?

Though most spinal accidents present indicators instantly, in some circumstances, the injury can happen a day or so after the accident. For this reason it’s essential to pay shut consideration to your cat following a critical accident, even when they appear superb on the time.

In the event that they’ve injured their again, the swelling attributable to inner bleeding across the backbone can slowly put stress on their spinal twine. This continued stress can lead to a extra extreme spinal harm lengthy after the accident that brought about it. The sooner that you just get your cat examined for a spinal harm, the more practical the remedy might be.


By no means attempt to deal with a spinal harm at house with out steerage from a veterinarian. To stop additional and probably everlasting injury, you must take your cat to a vet as quickly as attainable. Your veterinarian will use exams to find out the severity of the harm earlier than discussing remedy choices.

You possibly can assist defend your cat from spinal accidents by monitoring their weight and stopping them from leaping down from excessive heights once they’re kittens. Maintaining your cat indoors can stop automobile accidents, however you must defend your own home cat too, particularly in the event that they like sitting in excessive locations.

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