Cat Dragging Back Legs: Causes and What to Do

My cat is dragging her hind legs
My cat is dragging her hind legs.

Your cat may suddenly start dragging the back legs while moving. When this happens, you need to take the cat to your veterinary officer as soon as possible.

Although not guaranteed, you cat may regain control of his or her muscles and walk normally again. It depends on the severity of the condition causing the dragging of legs.

This article will explain the factors that can make your cat drag the back legs and give you insight on what to do in case this happens.

Is it normal for cats to drag hind legs?

No! It is not normal for cats to drag their back legs. Ideally, a cat in normal conditions should be walking upright and with ease.

Possible causes and reasons for wobbly back legs

The reasons for a wobbling gait in cats are numerous. They may range from more obvious reasons such as accidents to extreme health complications such as diabetes or thromboembolism.

Irrespective of the condition making your cat to drag his or her back legs, you should seek prompt medical attention for your cat.

Here are some of the causes and reasons for wobbly back legs.

1. Injury and trauma

Some cats are prone to getting out of the house most of the time. One thing is for sure, the external environment is packed with danger all the time.

For instance, your cat may be walking peacefully along the lawn then he or she gets hit by a ball or a hard object.

Similarly, he or she may be hit by a car or a bicycle on the road, or a dog can ambush him or her out of nowhere.

Trauma is not only limited to occurrence outside the house. Children or visitors may accidentally sit on your cat while he or she is asleep in the couch.

Falling objects inside the house can also land on the back of your cat. You may also kick your cat so hard due to frustration or let him or her fall from a height.

These unprecedented occurrences may cause injury to the hind legs or direct trauma to the spine.

Such trauma will hamper the flow of nerve impulses that regulate movement hence causing the cat to drag these legs. It presents with severe pain that should be managed as soon as possible.

Your veterinary officer will perform a physical examination and order for an x-ray before making a diagnosis.

2. Diabetes

Although rare, feline diabetic neuropathy is a serious condition that can cause weakness of the hind limbs.

The development of this condition (its pathogenesis) is somewhat complex, but the high level of blood sugar associated with this type of diabetes damages the nerves that supply the muscles of the hind limbs.

Once the nerves are damaged, impulses will not be able to reach the leg muscles hence inability to move.

However, if diabetic neuropathy is the cause of dragging of back legs, the cat will present with other symptoms of feline diabetes.

These symptoms include: thirst, increased urination, pain, increased appetite and desire to eat, and significant loss of weight.

Vitamin B 12, also known as cobalamin, is the commonly used medication to treat peripheral neuropathy. However, your veterinary officer will also prescribe some injections of feline insulin to combat the diabetes.

Since this feline diabetes has no cure, your cat may be on a regimen of insulin injection as long as he or she lives. Your veterinary officer will give you advice on how to administer these medications at home.

3. Infestation by ticks

Certain species of ticks produces a neurotoxin which they release to the body of the cat through their saliva as they feed on the cat’s blood.

This neurotoxin directly damages the nervous system of cats. Although the condition affects all nerves in the body and becomes systemic in the final stages, the initial stages of infection only cause general weakness and wobbling gait of the hind limbs.

If your cat suddenly starts wobbling as he or she moves, suspect an infestation by ticks and start checking the coat for ticks as you remove them.

It is important that you take your cat to the veterinary officer immediately since tick paralysis eventually leads to death if it is not treated promptly.

4. Feline aortic thromboembolism

Thromboembolism is a medical term that is formed essentially by two words; thrombus and embolus.

A thrombus is more like a blood clot that has formed inside the blood vessels. If this blood clot breaks from the wall of the blood vessels and starts floating freely in blood, it is called an embolus.

Now, when a blood clot forms in a blood vessel, floats freely in the blood and gets lodged in the aorta, it is called an aortic thromboembolus and the condition is called aortic thromboembolism.

These emboli generally originate from the heart as a complication of diseases of the heart such as cardiomyopathy. Just like in humans, some cats are more susceptible to developing thrombi than others.

How it causes wobbling gait in cats

The blood supply to the hind legs of cats is from two major arteries branching from the aorta. Each artery supplies each limb.

When an embolus originates from the heart, it may lodge in the saddle where these two arteries branch from the aorta.

This will ideally cut off the blood supply to the entire hind limb. With the supply of oxygen and nutrients curtailed, the muscles start swelling and the nerves begin dying.

The condition is painful and your cat may be permanently paralyzed. There is only a 50% chance of regaining muscle control and achieving upright movement if the condition is detected early and managed.

If treatment is not prompt, the entire hind limb will become completely paralyzed.

5. Feline arthritis

Sometimes the reason for a wobbling gait in a cat is arthritis. This is a disease characterized by inflammation of the joints and usually affects older cats.

It is not limited to the limbs only since it can affect all the joints in the body. Cats with arthritis always dread walking. They avoid raised places or staircases.

Sometimes they urinate outside the litter box. Limping is the most common manifestation of arthritis but the cat may exhibit a wobbling gait if the movement becomes painful.

Arthritis is managed by prescribed medications which combat the inflammation and provide pain relief. The medications also prevent joint swelling.

6. Hip dysplasia

Dysplasia simply means an abnormal growth of cells or tissues. In the hip, dysplasia results from an abnormal fusion of the hip joint.

This condition requires the expertise of a professional to make a diagnosis. It results in symptoms such as:

  • Loss of muscle mass especially of the thigh muscles. This condition is called muscle atrophy.
  • The cat is immobile most of the time. He or she prefers to lie around and their activity is generally reduced.
  • The hind limbs become weak.
  • As a compensatory mechanism, the muscles of the shoulder become broader and enlarged.
  • The cat will dread high places and prefers not to climb stairs.

Your veterinary officer will intervene and correct the problem before it worsens

7. Allergies

Allergies can be caused by environmental factors or certain proteins in food. Regardless of the cause, an allergic reaction can cause wounds and sores to develop in the skin of cats.

These sores and wounds may interfere with walking if they occur in the legs or paws. This will manifest as limping or wobbly gait when the cat is moving around.

When to see a vet

It is beyond reasonable doubt that the onset of limb weakness in your cat is a dire situation that needs to be attended to as soon as possible.

Irrespective of the cause, limb paralysis is very painful. You won’t just stay unmoved and watch your lovely pet wallowing in pain.

Usually, these conditions progress from slight weakness to permanent paralysis. Some of them can actually cause death.

You need to see a veterinary officer as soon as you notice that your cat is experiencing any form of difficulty while walking. If you tarry any longer, the condition might progress to an irreversible state where you won’t be able to restore your cat’s ability to move.

Conclusion

The instances of cats dragging hind legs are very rare. But if they occur, the underlying condition may be so severe that it costs the cats his or her life.

Always stay close to your cat and keep them safe from direct injury and trauma. If your cat is suffering from a known condition such as diabetes mellitus or a heart disease such as cardiomyopathy, be always on the lookout for any changes in his or her health.

Be prompt when seeking treatment for your cut to ensure that the condition is reversed before it gets worse.

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