Is your cat dragging back legs all of a sudden? Then you need to get veterinary attention urgently. Don’t worry though: although not always, there is still a chance that your cat will walk normally again. On your way to the vet’s office or facility, you may want to know some of the possible causes of sudden paralysis in cat’s back legs. These are discussed in this article.
Reasons for Cat Dragging Back Legs
There are various reasons why you may spot your cat back legs giving way. These range from the obvious ones such as getting hit by a car to less apparent ones such as feline aortic thromboembolism. Regardless of the underlying cause, one thing remains true: all cases of paralyzed back legs in cats are usually serious and an urgent trip to the vet is required. Here are some of the reasons why you may suddenly spot your cat dragging back legs:
One of the most obvious reasons why a cat may lose control of his hind legs is injury to the spine. For feral cats and outdoor cats – cats that go outside – for example, this can occur when they accidentally get hit by a car, get ambushed by a dog, get hit by a ball, etc.
Indoor cats can still get injured when a child sits on them or something falls on their back, for example.
These traumatic events can cause damage to the legs and spine, hampering the natural flow of communication impulses between the brain, nerves in the spine, and muscles.
If your veterinarian suspects that spinal injury is the reason why your cat back legs are not working normally, an x-ray will be used to confirm the injury.
A rare condition known as feline diabetic neuropathy can manifest itself in weakness in a cat’s back legs. This occurs when the rise in blood sugar level associated with feline diabetes – as a result of low insulin production in the pancreas – causes damage to the nerves that go to the legs.
This hampers the vital communication between the brain and the legs, leading to a funny crouched, walking position.
If diabetic neuropathy is the factor behind your “cat dragging back legs”, you are likely to view other symptoms of diabetes mellitus in cats such as increased thirst and urination, increased desire to eat, and weight loss. The cat may also appear to be in pain.
Bringing the sugar level under control helps to treat diabetic neuropathy and the associated hind legs weakness. This entails injection with feline insulin. Your kitten may have to remain on insulin for the rest of her life. Treatment with B12 may also be recommended to counter the damaging effect of cat diabetes on nerves – diabetic neuropathy.
Feline Aortic Thromboembolism (FATE)
Also referred to as saddle thrombus, feline aortic thromboembolism (FATE) is another reason why you may see your cat dragging back legs all of a sudden. This is a serious condition characterized by the presence of a lose blood clot.
According to CatHealth.com, FATE is usually a complication of heart disease and is seen in about a quarter of all cats with a feline heart condition known as cardiomyopathy. It typically appears without warning.
Some cat breeds are at higher risk of heart disease, and by extension FATE, including Birmans, ragdolls, and Abyssinians. Older males are also more susceptible than their younger and female counterparts.
How Feline Aortic Thromboembolism Occurs
Feline aortic thromboembolism starts with a blood clot in the heart. The blood clots then breaks loose, entering into the circulatory system. While in circulation, the clot eventually causes blockage.
The saddle – the area in the lower abdomen (pelvic area) where the main artery coming from the heart (aorta) splits into two branches leading to either sides of the back legs – is the most common point of blockage.
Other than weak hind legs, and the subsequent dragging of one or both back legs, FATE is associated with severe pain which is typically manifested in constant meowing.
Your kitty’s back legs may also get very cold as a result of cut-off blood supply. The muscles and nerves in the rear legs will also typically get swollen as a result of poor supply of oxygen and vital nutrients. Some cats also exhibit panting – breathing with the mouth – as one of the symptoms of FATE.
There is only about a 50 percent chance for your cat to regain control of her hind legs.
Other Causes of Cat Back Leg Weakness
The following health conditions are not implicated per se for cases of cat dragging back legs, but they are known to cause cats to lose control of their hind legs, albeit temporarily:
Is your cat losing control of his back legs intermittently? This could be a sign of epilepsy, says thenest.com. With epilepsy, cats go through periodic seizure sessions that causes them to suddenly lose control of their limbs.
Other symptoms such as drooling, and temporary loss of bowel and urinary control are typically seen. It is advisable to seek veterinary attention right away if your cat develops signs and symptoms of seizures, regardless of whether or not it seems to recover from the condition.
Treatment of seizures in cats involves the prescription of a medication known as phenobarbital. This helps to prevent the recurrence of seizure episodes.
Arthritis may be the underlying cause for wobbly hind legs in older cats. This is a painful condition that occur as a result of joint inflammation. Any joint in the body can be affected and back legs joints are no exception.
A cat suffering from arthritis will usually show it by limping. She will also avoid stairs and other places that involve jumping or climbing, and spend more time sleeping. Some cats with arthritis exhibit inappropriate behaviors such as urinating outside the litter box.
Another reason why your cat may suddenly start walking funny on the back legs as some people put it is a condition known as hip dysplasia.
For this condition, the hip joint fails to develop as it normally does and continues to deteriorate over time. Progressive loss of hip joint function parallels and is ultimately manifests in the following symptoms:
- Decreased activity (cat lay around more than usual)
- Rear leg weakness
- Muscle atrophy (loss of muscle) in the thighs
- Shoulder muscle enlargement
- Reluctance to climb stairs, run, or jump.
Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia including Main coon and Persians. Female cats are also more susceptible than their male counterparts.
Cat’s back legs that are giving way may also be a sign of kidney failure. Other symptoms that are commonly seen in cats with kidney failure are:
- Weakness (lethargy)
- Decreased appetite
- Rough coat
- Frequent urination – but small amount of urine, which may in later stages have an ammonia smell.
Hind leg weakness is attributed to falling levels of potassium in the blood.
Whether or not you can figure out the underlying cause of cat dragging back legs, it is vitally important that you take your cat on a trip to the vet right away. This may be a symptom of a fatal condition and you don’t want to take chances. The faster you take your cat to your vet, the higher the chances of full recovery.
CatHealth.com: Saddle Thrombus: Aortic Blood Clots in Cats
PetMD: Hip Dysplasia in Cats
PetMD: Paralysis in Cats
TheNest.com: What Causes Cats to Lose Control of Their Legs?
Vetinfo.com: Feline Diabetic Neuropathy: What You Should Know