Leg Paralysis in Cats With Nerve Damage

If your vet has determined that your cat is suffering from nerve damage in her leg, you can have a role in helping her recover. Taking care of a cat with leg nerve damage is fairly easy, provided you follow the vet’s instructions to ensure you don’t aggravate her condition. Your primary mission will be to get her to rest, which can be difficult or easy, depending on your cat’s normal activity level. The location of her injury and the condition of the affected nerve sheath will factor into her prognosis, Leg Paralysis in Cats.

in cats Paralysis of a leg often results from damage to the peripheral spinal nerves. Paralysis of a front leg is usually associated with injury to the nerve roots in the neck

Paralysis in cats
Paralysis of a leg often results from damage to the peripheral spinal nerves. Paralysis of a front leg is usually associated with injury to the nerve roots in the neck or shoulder, or injury to the musculocutaneous, radial, median, or ulnar nerve in the leg. Paralysis of a hind leg is usually associated with injury to the nerve roots in the lower back or tailbone or the femoral, sciatic, peroneal, or tibial nerve in the leg.

How do you evaluate a situation
The cat’s or dogs’ posture and gait, spinal reflexes, pain sensation, and the condition of the muscles in the affected limb are evaluated to identify the location of the injury. The closer a nerve injury is to the muscle, the better the outlook for recovery, so it is important to determine the exact location of the injury. The ability or inability of the animal to flex the joint and bear weight on the leg, and the presence or absence of pain sensation and reflexes at various places in the leg, depending on the site of the nerve damage. Within a few days, muscles wither and lose mass because of the lost nerve connection. Measuring the electrical activity of the muscles (a procedure called electromyography) 7 to 10 days after the injury can also help determine the location of the damage.

Nerves regenerate slowly (at the rate of about 1 inch per month), and full functional recovery depends on the condition of the nerve sheath and on the distance between the injury and the muscle where the nerve ends. Some nerve injuries can resolve after several weeks or months; however, when total nerve rupture occurs, surgical reattachment is required for regeneration.

If an abnormal eye condition known as Horner’s syndrome (pupil small, eyelid partially closed, and the third eyelid elevated) is present on the same side of the body as a completely paralyzed front leg, then the nerve roots have been torn and the chances for recovery are minimal. If Horner’s syndrome is not present with front leg paralysis, the outlook for recovery may be better.

Applying heat, performing a massage, and stretching tendons should be done as directed to keep muscles, tendons, and joints of a paralyzed leg healthy while the nerve is regenerating. A light, but not tight, a bandage may prevent damage to the foot from dragging. If the leg drags on the ground, it can be held up with a sling to prevent damage to the paw.

Treatment and problems
No specific therapy is available to help nerve regeneration. Acupuncture or laser therapy may help recovery. If voluntary movement, pain sensation, and spinal reflexes improve over 1 to 2 months, the outlook for recovery is good. An Elizabethan collar may be needed to prevent the cat from chewing on its leg. If the nerve injury is suspected to be permanent and the animal is chewing the leg, amputation may be the best option. Three-legged cats generally have a good quality of life.

Tumors located at or near the nerve roots can also result in paralysis of one limb. Lymphosarcoma is the most common tumor to affect these locations in cats. Chemotherapy may improve the length and quality of life in affected cats.

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Degenerative Disorders in cats
Says Hanen Abdel Rahman Idiopathic facial paralysis is a common disorder that results in weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles in cats. Domestic longhaired cats are at increased risk. There is a sudden onset of an inability to blink one or both eyes, drooping ears, drooping upper lip, and drooling from the corner of the mouth. Facial sensation (controlled by the trigeminal nerve) remains normal. The cause is unknown. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and exclusion of other causes of facial paralysis, including ear disease, trauma, and brainstem lesions. The cause is unknown, and there is no specific treatment. Artificial tears often help prevent corneal damage. Partial improvement may occur in a few weeks, but the loss of function often persists.

Acquired laryngeal paralysis occasionally occurs in cats. In most cases, the cause is unknown. However, the disorder can also be caused by an injury or tumor affecting the neck or by hypothyroidism. The condition occurs when nerve degeneration leads to paralysis of one or more cartilages in the larynx (“voice box”). The paralyzed cartilage(s) partially blocks the airway, causing a voice change, noisy breathing, or a dry cough. In severe cases, the cat may have difficulty breathing, be unwilling or unable to exercise, and have its tongue and gums turn bluish. Some cats have more general signs of a neurologic disorder, such as weakness and a reduced sense of position. Veterinarians diagnose the condition by examining the cat’s larynx while the cat is under light anesthesia. Although surgery cannot completely resolve the signs, it can usually relieve the breathing difficulties.

Dr. Hanen Abdel Rahman