Cat losing control of back legs - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-26-2006, 12:07 AM Thread Starter
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Cat losing control of back legs

Has anyone ever had a cat with a degenerative problem of the spine or muscles in the back legs?

Our orange kitty Reilly has been having a steady decline in his motor skills. We have had him since he was about a year old, rescued from the streets and he had never been considered a very graceful kitty, even from the begining.

I first noticed him having trouble landing from jumping down in early 2004. In September, just before we were leaving to fly across country to a funeral, I saw his head shaking slightly, sort of trembling. I didn't think it was a seizure, because it was just his head, but I called the vets office (it was only 15min before closing) and they wouldn't let me bring him in so he had to wait for us to get back from our trip.

When we returned and took him to the vet, he checked out as fine. He was about 4 years old at that time and bloodwork (extensive) was normal. Over time I observed him having more and more trouble getting around the house. He didn't seem well coordinated when jumping down from furniture and when he ran, his back end would fish-tail and if he knocked into your leg, he could knock your leg out from under you. (he and I liked to play 'chase' up and down the hall after each other)

Eventually, he couldn't run anymore and as he walked, his back legs would sway from side to side. This progressed to his hind end sort of swaying as he walked and getting his back twisted to the side where he couldn't straighten out and he'd sit down suddenly on that side. Now it is much worse, he can usually only take a few steps before he gets sideways and sits down. He uses his claws in the carpet to pull himself upright again, usually spinning in a circle once or twice before he is able to get up.

He cannot use the litter box because he cannot get traction to stand in the cat-sand so we have set up a litter box with a towel in it and he uses that. He is also having trouble eliminating solid waste and will try to reach his box, but usually lays on his side just outside the box, paddling his hind legs as he eliminates. Husband and I clean up after him, he cannot help it.

If you hold his tail, using it to help hold his back end up, he can walk very well. He just doesn't seem to have the strength to hold himself up and get his legs to work. When he moves his back legs, they sort of 'hesitate' before he lifts up to swing them forward and again when he puts them down. He will also, while laying down, seem to uncontrollably flex and straighten/stretch his back legs. They will be fully extended, claws seperated and the leg will sometimes shake with the 'effort'...but he seems to not notice it at all! If I massage the muscles, it will relax, but he doesn't seem to be aware of it.

We treated him with steroid injections for about a year. I thought I was seeing improvement, but I know now that it was wishful thinking and him gaining weight that made me think that. He has been on a steady decline for several years.

If you stroke his back, when you reach a point about midway between his shoulders and hips, his skin shivers and he will 'sink' away from your hand. This makes me think it is a spinal thing. The vet thinks so also and we have not done any other tests because the only surgury that could be done, we cannot afford to do and there is no guarantee it would be successful. In the mean time, Reilly gets whatever he wants. When his quality of life is more miserable than happy, we will make the hard decision...but for now, he is still playful if you drag the string within his reach and he loves to be loved and purrs like a Big Block motor.

Has anyone else had a cat with this type of problem?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-26-2006, 09:07 AM
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Poor Reilly . I've never had this happen with one of my cats, but you are correct that it appears to be a lesion to the spinal cord. It could be due to a couple of different things, but they either require surgery or are not medically treatable. Surgery is very expensive, but has a good success rate if the animal is still walking.

Possible causes of his symptoms are a disc that is compressing the spinal cord, a disease where the spinal cord itself begins to degenerate or it could be a tumor. Unfortunately, all three of those tend to progress until the animal cannot use its hind legs at all .

Has he had any problems urinating? One of the problems as these cases progress is that bladder function is impaired. Although it is counterintuitive, compression of the spinal cord in front of the hindlegs causes the muscles in the legs and bladder to be hyper-reactive. This is manifested as tremors and rigidity in the limbs, as you have already seen. Complete spinal cord lesions in this area will cause the hind legs to become completely rigid with the toes pointed.

The reason I ask about his urinating habits is because spinal cord compression has the same effect on the bladder. The bladder sphincter will contract more, and so will the bladder wall. The problem is that this is uncoordinated, so the bladder will contract and the sphincter will be closed and vice versa. This can make voiding urine difficult. Just make sure that he is urinating an adequate amount each day because as these diseases progress, many animals will hold their urine and their bladders will get very large.

Have you discussed with your veterinarian the plan if he continues to worsen?

It sounds like he still has fair quality of life right now. I'm glad you are so dedicated to him. It must be heart-wrenching to see him struggle .
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-26-2006, 10:16 AM Thread Starter
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He uses the box with the towel to urinate and I have observed him in the squatting position and his tail will vibrate while he urinates, though the stream sounds like it is fluid and non-interupted.

It is hard to see him have such trouble. We have a large dog crate on the back patio that we put towel and a cat bed in so he can be outside and enjoy fresh air and sunshine. That is his favorite thing to do. When he can no longer move himself around the house...then we will make the hard decision. Vet tells us to just try to keep him happy and comfortable. My biggest fear is he will break a leg getting down from the couch. We've made a 'ramp' for him, but he is very uncoordinated and an accident could still happen.

What is hard, is trying to talk with my Mother about Rei, and she just gets irritated at us for "keeping him" and tells me to put him down. I cannot just euthanize him because he has a little trouble, especially when he is content and happy more than he is unhappy. The only time he is unhappy is when he is trying to eliminate solid waste, because he lays on his side and will sometimes vomit from the effort voiding takes. I now don't talk about Rei with my Mom. ...and I think that is sad.
She feels we have too many cats. We do have 11, but I think the biggest factor in her attitude is she will be getting no grandchildren from me.
Why can't she appreciate my love for animals over human babies? Human babies scare the devil outta me! I much prefer animals.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-28-2006, 07:46 PM
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This might be out from left field....
But are you using any types of flea treatments on him?
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-28-2006, 07:57 PM
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You said that there was extensive bloodwork done correct? Did that include glucose testing? There is a problem diabetic cats get that sounds the same as what you are describing called neuropathy, so I just wanted to double check that diabetes was ruled out.

Jennifer and the monsters
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-28-2006, 11:53 PM Thread Starter
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The last time we treated for fleas was probably three years ago and we used Advantage.

Diabeties. When we first brought him in and pulled the blood for testing, our vet was CONVINCED he was diabetic because of his presentation of symptoms. She was stunned when his test results came back normal.

Vet did ask about cleaners and grocery bought 'treatments' (flea/worming)we may have been using. Negative to all.

Reilly is a lovely kitty. He used to ride to work 55mi with Hubby every day, sitting on his shoulder and 'commenting' on the traffic. When Hubby had to stop taking him to work with him, Rei would run from window to window as Hubby walked outside the house to his truck, Rei crying the whole time; "Wait! You're forgetting me!"
To keep him happy, we would take him for a car ride once a week. When we moved from WA state to GA, Rei spent nearly all of the driving time on the dash of the RV. We have been unable to take him for car rides since he began losing control of his legs. He has to ride in a carrier now, for his safety.
Reilly, about 4 years ago:
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-18-2006, 05:17 PM
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I can completely relate!! My cat, Max, is having very similar issues. In fact, just today I finally took him to a neurologist. I have watched him slowly lose most control of his rear legs and walk with that same sway you talk about, or sometimes he even just pulls himself forward with his front legs somewhat sideways like a little sand crab. It has all been very sad. In addition, he is being treated for high blood pressure- at first I thought perhaps it was due to him having a stroke that he lost his legs, but after many visits to the vet and now the neurologist they are narrowing things down. The most common problem would be a herniated disc in the L4-S1 area of his spine which controls his back foot and also his anal glands, which would explain his episodes of incontinence and not being able to get to the litter box. The Dr. also noticed he had slightly decreaded facial sensation- which could be sign of a brain tumor which could also effect the hind leg area. I was told these tumors are very slow growing. Anyway, they recommend I test him for FIP, FeLV, FIV, and Toxoplasma infection (have you had any of this done?) And then, since he has the high blood pressure they would like him to see an cardiologist to see if he is up for an MRI, which would tell us exaclty what is wrong with him. Of course, then if it's the herniated disc they can perform surgery and he would be better in a matter of days. Now, it's just whether we can afford all of this. Around $2000 not including any surgery.

If we keep doing what we are doing- heart medication, the occaisional anti-inflammatory (which seems to work and help him walk, you may want to try) then basically we are just trying to make him comfortable. He doesn't seem to be in any pain- only sometimes when I rub just the right spot on his back, it gets him all worked up.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share what we are going through with our kitty as it sounds very similar. Basically it's whether you can commit financially and emotionally to do it. Otherwise, it's how long you can put up with cleaning up after them. Good luck to you.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-18-2006, 06:54 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by thepuff
Anyway, I just thought I'd share what we are going through with our kitty as it sounds very similar. Basically it's whether you can commit financially and emotionally to do it. Otherwise, it's how long you can put up with cleaning up after them. Good luck to you.
This is all we can do for Reilly. I am being treated for a medical condition whose program requires me to have chemo for 5 years, with periods of time on steroids and I have been unable to work for 5 years prior to begining this treatment last year. We are living only on husband's income and don't have any extra. At least, not the extra the vets are saying surgury would cost.

Rei has been given shots of steroids, but overall I do not think they helped him so we discontinued the shots. He is still lovey and playful. It is just hard to see him have such trouble getting around. He has also been having urinary accidents, but luckily they have mostly been on the linoleum and not the carpet.
All we can do is love him and keep him comfortable as long as we can. I don't mind cleaning up after him.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-31-2006, 02:01 PM
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Chucky The Cat - Osteosarcoma in Lumbar Vertebrae

Hi everyone. I was particularly interested in reading your posts about your cats and their progressing inability to use their back legs. In the summer I was going through the same ordeal and I searched this website but found nothing. In fact, I could hardly find any information on this anywhere - period. This was confirmed later by Chucky's vet team who said this type of cancer and location was very rare and literally unheard of!

My cat Chucky started exhibiting many of the same symptoms you have discussed in the summer of 2006. Over time he had trouble walking and going to the bathroom (bowel moments) was very difficult for him. It got so bad that we couldn't even walk past him - he would growl and cry. This made us think it was something definitely neurological.

In July and half of August we did every test possible and sadly, nothing came back abnormal except for gas around his stomach (from an ultrasound) and some bloodwork which indicated slight anemia but this later corrected itself. Just before my wedding day I received a call from our vet who consulted with a tip-top surgeon and they were able to see a small lesion on his spine. The day after our wedding we had him flown to Saskatoon where it was determined that Chucky had osteosarcoma (bone cancer) of the lumbar vertebrae and it was compressing his spine. We did the surgery and some radiation (he couldn't take much more) and he has been home for 2 months now. He is doing very well and the surgeon and radiation team have hope for him although nothing is certain. This ordeal has been very expensive and I am just glad that my husband has been supportive. I have certainly run into people who do not agree with what we have done to keep Chucky alive.

It has been very hard on us - financially and emotionally but it has been worth every penny. He is doing so much better - and yes, we do clean up after him a lot but with every day that goes by he gets more healthy and rarely is there messes at all anymore. He is functioning quite independently, off medication, eating on his own and very, very happy. His 'walking' is improving every day and we are doing a lot of physio with him! I think those people who judged us for what we did, are having second thoughts. We gave him a second chance and no matter how much longer he has left, well - I am happy I did what I could for him. I also feel blessed that I was able to - as I know that it would be impossible for many. Chucky is also an orange male cat hehe. I am sorry you guys are going through this as well. It is very difficult to watch your animal go through such a big ordeal!! But when you see them purr and know that they are pain-free, it is so worth it!

Sorry for such a story, feel free to e-mail me if you want to know anything more about Chucky's case. My goal is to help other people who may have to face this with their pets!
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-03-2011, 07:56 PM
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Hi everyone - just wanted to send an update almost 4 years later! LOL. Chucky is right by my feet here as I write this. He is doing well and, although it has been ++ and - -, we are still so happy that we went through with the surgery and radiation in 2006. The team in Saskatoon still keeps in touch with us - just amazing. Chucky has been relatively comfortable but it has been a lot of work and his bladder is growing so we know that things are progressively getting worse....but on a small scale. We love him so much. Hope everyone is doing well!

Jackie and Chucky
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