What You Should Know About Spinal Injuries in Cats

All cat owners want their cats to be as safe and healthy as possible. Sometimes, despite our best efforts,  our pets can suffer  from injury. Spinal injuries, though not particularly common in cats, can be quite serious when they do occur.

Spinal Injuries Can Cause Many Symptoms

When a cat has a spinal cord injury, they may experience many symptoms ranging from seemingly mild to severe. Some cats may, for example, have uncoordinated movements or minor muscle spasms  due to damage to the spinal column. Some cats may even just seem to have tense muscles or an odd posture.

On the other hand, some cats might have severe spasms or even experience partial paralysis due to spinal problems. Other issues caused by spinal injuries can include incontinence (both fecal and urinary), poor appetite, and crying or excessive meowing.

There Are Many Potential Causes

There is no single cause of spinal injuries in cats as damage or injury can occur for many reasons. One of the more common in-home causes is high falls. If your cat is a climber and falls from a significant height, it is important to get them to the vet as as delaying treatment can increase the severity of the injury. Genetic conditions and birth defects can also cause spinal trauma in cats.

If your cat is an  indoor/outdoor cat, you may have to worry about other potential causes of spinal injuries. Being hit by a car, for example, can easily cause a spinal injury. Gunshot wounds or even bites can also cause trauma to the spine.

Cats can also rupture discs in their spines. So even if you have not noticed your cat fall or if they have limited outward signs of trauma, they could still have a spinal injury.

Treatment Can Vary

The type of treatment your cat will receive for their spinal injury will vary depending on a number of factors, including the severity of the injury. In some cases, spinal surgery is required to correct the damage; this is especially true if the symptoms related to the injury are severe.

To determine the severity of your cat’s spinal cord injury, the veterinarian will take a detailed history of your cat’s symptoms. The vet will also do a physical and may recommend x-rays or a CT scan. These methods will help them find the location of the spinal injury and determine severity.

Some cases of spinal injuries in cats do not require surgery. Rest,  rehabilitation therapy, and even acupuncture may instead be the recommended treatments. Rehabilitation therapy is geared towards helping injured pets improve function and reduce pain. Cats with spinal injuries can benefit from many types of rehabilitation therapy treatments, including hydrotherapy, cold laser therapy, and therapeutic exercise. For cats with severe spinal injuries, surgery may be required. Often, surgical patients receive rehabilitation therapy afterwards in order to fully heal.

Acupuncture can be a very effective treatment for injuries in cats, particularly as a means of pain management. The veterinary acupuncturist (who is highly trained) will insert tiny needles into specific points on your cat’s body that can relieve stress and tension as well as associated pain.

Anytime you suspect a spinal injury, it is important to have your cat seen as soon as possible. Contact your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment right away.