Why are my cat’s back legs weak?

If you are reading this then you have noticed that your cat’s back legs seem weak, as in they aren’t able to jump, they’re walking rather stiffly or not walking at all, something that is clearly wrong and warrants a visit to the veterinarian. Many factors can come into play for this: the cat may be ill, she may have a slipped disc or even a tumor, or she may have experienced a traumatic injury or even ingested something rather harmful.

Reasons why your cat’s back legs could be weak

Here are some of the reasons why your cat may have suddenly developed weak back legs:

  1. They may have diabetic neuropathy.

This is a rather uncommon case as around 10 percent of chronically hyperglycemic diabetic cats can develop this specific complication called diabetic neuropathy, which affects the femoral nerve.

So, if a cat has diabetic neuropathy her rear legs start to become increasingly damaged as those legs’ tarsal joints and nerves begin to deteriorate, which leads to numbness or pain, general weakness in that area, and the worst case scenario – paralysis.

It is a rather common sight for a cat suffering from this condition to walk on their heels or hocks, and as the hind legs become weaker and weaker, the cat won’t be able to jump and eventually lose all ability to walk.

How Is diabetic neuropathy in cats treated ?

If this diabetic neuropathy is caught in its early stages, it can fortunately be treated and reversed by regulating the cat’s blood glucose concentration levels.

  1. They may have degenerative joint disease

Getting old can be tough for anyone, let alone felines. It can be especially rough on a cat’s joints. If a cat’s joints are inflamed, they have arthritis and their joint cartilage is undergoing deterioration and that’s causing joint inflammation, the cat has osteoarthritis which is also more commonly known as degenerative joint disease – DJD for short.

Another common symptom of degenerative joint disease is lameness, along with a stiff legged gait and exhibiting difficulty when doing routine tasks that were previously rather easy to do such as jumping, grooming and getting to the litter box.

Degenerative joint disease can be either idiopathic or it can develop as a result of some physical trauma or abnormal wear both on the joints and on the cartilage. Another factor can be obesity, as the weight causes increased stress on the joints.

Is degenerative joint disease in cats treatable ?

Unfortunately, degenerative joint disease does not have a cure, but it can be managed with surgery, physical therapy and anti – inflammatory drugs.

  1. They may have an infectious disease

Many infections, whether viral, fungal, bacterial or parasitic, can be detrimental to the spinal cord, leading to hind leg weakness in cats. FIP, also known as feline infectious peritonitis, is a disease that inflames the spinal cord due to a rather abnormal response to a coronavirus. Some symptoms to this illness include spinal pain and partial paralysis in two or four legs.

Feline leukemia is another illness that may cause nerve damage which can lead to loss of motor control and hind leg weakness, ultimately leading to paraplegic paralysis. Rabies virus can present a variety of symptoms, although, when the infection reaches the spinal cord, both motor controls and reflexes deteriorate and the paralysis progresses further.

Many fungal diseases, such as Cryptococcus neoformans, Blastomyces and histoplasma damage the cat’s central nervous system, which leads to spinal pain and partial or total paralysis. Protozoal infections which include toxoplasmosis, and parasites like the verminous myelitis can also cause spinal cord inflammation and can impact the cat’s motor skills. Many of them are not treatable and regaining mobility heavily depends on the type of infection.

  1. Cats with weak back legs may have heart disease

Another reason why your cat’s back legs are weak or not working is that they may have a cardiovascular disease.

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that heart disease in cats sometimes comes with developing issues with their hind legs. This back leg weakness can be found in cats that have heart disease known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – HCM. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes thickening of the heart muscle, which can in turn cause blood clots that interrupt the blood supply to the rear legs, also known as feline aortic thromboembolism – FATE.

Many other heart conditions can also be present. If a cat has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, also known as HCM, their left ventricle is abnormally enlarged which affects its ability to deliver blood to the aortic valve, which evenly distributes oxygenated blood all throughout the cat’s body.

Worst case scenario – sudden hind leg paralysis may develop, along with a loss of appetite, a weak pulse, intolerance to exercise and lethargy, a kind of blueish discoloration of the nail beds and footpads.

Many types of medication can be used to treat hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, introducing a low in sodium diet to your cat may also help to further maintain stable blood pressure.

Feline aortic thromboembolism is characterized by a smaller blood clot breaking off from a larger clot in the heart and travels through the aorta until it is ultimately stuck in the “saddle” which is the place where the aorta splits off into the arteries to the hind legs. In this case the blood supply to the hind legs is completely cut off, which leads to a very painful condition for the cat that causes hardening of the hind legs and blueish footpads.

Your cat’s back legs may also be cold, the cat may start to hyperventilate as well as cry in pain. If your cat has these symptoms IMMEDIATELY take them to the vet so they could get the necessary treatment, and if the cat survives then your vet may attempt to minimize the chance of recurrence of this disease with medication.

You might also be interested : Miliary Dermatitis in Cats : Causes and Treatment

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