16 yr old cat - sudden temporary hind leg paralysis

Cesrenia

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Hello! I have a 16-year-old cat named Jo. He has hyperthyroidism which is being maintained with methimazole. Tonight upon coming out of the litter box he coughed about four times kind of sounding like a hairball type cough but weaker. (He never coughs). Then he tried to jump on the bed very weakly and all of a sudden his back legs went limp. And he laid down and acted like he was exhausted. And I tried picking him up and he cried out in pain. So I let him lay there and he wouldn't get up for at least 20 minutes. He would not take his favorite treats, acted lethargic although breathing seemed normal. I called the emergency vet and they recommended me bring him in. Upon getting him ready to go I tried putting him on the floor and he started walking around. He still seemed a little weak but he was walking. And I kind of waited a few minutes more and he went and drank water and then ate some treats.
I'm wondering if someone else has had a similar case like this. Of course I've been looking up everything and it sounds like a saddle thrombus from heart disease. If he has heart disease it has not been diagnosed. I'm keeping an eye on him, am very worried but also feeling hopeful that I can just take him to the vet in the morning to get his heart checked out since it doesn't seem like an emergency anymore. I'm just afraid this is going to happen again and possibly kill him if it is a blood clot. Thank you for any replies!!
 
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sunny578

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Oh Jo! Good luck. I've never dealt with this with a cat, but my dog had similar issues. They thought it might have been mild strokes that would cause his back legs to stop working, or some other neurological thing. It was always a temporary problem with him, but felt like such a mystery for so long. I hope the vet gives you good info!!
 

fionasmom

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Did you get to the vet? If not, you do need to go regardless of any seeming improvement. This does sound like a warning of something and I lost an indoor only pet several years ago to an undiagnosed heart condition which resulted in a thrown clot. Hopefully you will get good news, but definitely err on the side of caution.
 

CindyH66

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PLEASE take him in immediately ! I have had 2 cats that had to be put to sleep in emergency visit due to saddle thrombosis ! we had no warning on them, and both had seen vets not long before, or been diagnosed with heart disease. It is from a traveling blood clot, and if IS a blot clot, waiting is a recipe for disaster. once it is lodged somewhere, it will be to late ! if they find it and get it out, there will be hope! please, take him in ! what you experienced sounds like a classic warning sign .. I pray they find it and treat it and the underlying cause in time! please keep us posted !! 🙏
 
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Cesrenia

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I just picked him up from the vet. It was not the saddle thrombosis like I thought, They told me that was much more serious. They said he has disk disease and his spine was pressing on the disks which causes nerve problems and contributed to the leg paralysis. Well sometime during the day at the vet his back legs just stopped working. I'm pretty devastated but they're trying to be hopeful that the prednisone will take down the inflammation and stop pressing on the nerve. He's on gabapentin for pain. It's just so upsetting because he was fine this morning and now he can't walk. I'm pretty upset
 

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I concur with the above. Take him in immediately if you can. We had a cat who experienced an unexpected and very sudden saddle thrombus last September that sadly had to be put to sleep because of it. The earlier you have him seen the better the outcome may be.
 

fionasmom

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So this is not thrilling either, but at least it is not going to be a blood clot. Spinal issues leading to leg paralysis are common in dogs and I have had my share of that. Take this one step at a time and see if there is improvement with the meds. Then proceed from there with further questions or help for him. Please keep us posted as to whether the pred and gaba help.
 
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Cesrenia

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It's pretty devastating to see. I don't even know if he can make it to the litter box if he can pee and poop on his own, which is huge. I'm taking off work tomorrow. There's no way I could leave him in this condition all day. They didn't tell me if he would be able to urinate and defecate on his own so I'm terrified. The vet is closed now but I'll call in the morning and ask. Does anybody have any advice in this specific area? I don't know if I'll sleep at all tonight...
 

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Mr. Meow Mr. Meow ?

As for right now, I would bring him to the litterbox if he cannot do this himself and gently support him. If you notice tonight that he is not eliminating, tell the vet. At this point they may not be sure of everything that is going on, but hopefully it is what they are hoping and will respond to treatment. If he is not peeing, you will need to express his bladder, so ask the vet how to do that. I don't want to throw too much at you right now, but there are numerous ways and products designed for short or long term care of a handicapped cat or dog. Is he walking, even haltingly? If so, just try to help him if he needs it. The fact that he felt pain is actually a good sign as it probably signal a disk problem or injury rather than neurological paralysis which is entirely painless and usually not reversible. Are you going to see the vet? What is their follow up going to be?
 
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Cesrenia

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Yes they mentioned checking to see if he has peed and taking him in tomorrow to express his bladder if not. I will try to learn how if that's the case, although I tried this with one cat and I could never get the hang of it. He's attempting to drag himself around but no weight on the back legs at all. He walks with his front legs just fine, if I hold his back legs but they are completely dead weight however I can feel a little bit of tremor in his back when I pick up his back legs but I'm not sure what that is if it's pain or what. I'm going to call tomorrow morning to let them know how he's doing. They had me make an appointment 2 weeks out to check him again. I guess they were hopeful that he would improve. But this is all just so shocking and new and I don't know how people can do this and work. I'm just glad it's almost the weekend and I'm praying for some kind of improvement.
Thank you for your response!!!
I attached a photo of him trying to get up on this mat. He's very determined but I don't know if he can do it. I hate the fact that they trimmed his nails because it makes it harder for him to grab hold and pull himself. :(
 

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CindyH66

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:sigh: oh, I am sad and relieved both to read all your posts ! I am glad to see it was not a blood clot. Knowing that is worse nightmare thing, glad that was not the case. Now, I see you are dealing with disc disease. Oy vey ! I work with humans in that condition.(nurse) . I know how very involved it can be .terrifying to anyone not familiar with it. I also know how amazing a body is (human and otherwise ) and how much love and good care can accomplish ! It is so very hard to watch someone we love (human or furry) struggle ... but that aside, all the things you see seem treatable and hopefully the paralysis will be temporary ! there is so much adaptive equipment available today for special needs , that is huge as well. it sounds more hopeful for your baby !! Praying now for best outcome for you ! My nephew adopted a kitty that wobbly kitty (CH) problems .. a known brain disorder .. because the mom was a stray hanging around and gave birth at a chemical plant ! (so they think) all the kittens had it. :( it seems this neurological problem doesn't bother THEM , they adapt to it , but people dont want them as it is hard to watch them get around and stuff. ) BUT there are people like my nephew who realized .. he'd get used to it , and he did . That kitty has a good home. It will amaze you what can become normal in time. Hang in there .. and hopefully with time and some treatments, things will even be reversible ? Lord willing !🙏🙏 . please keep us posted !
 

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Sorry to have been away for so long. The pandemic is keeping me on 12-16 hour shifts at work.

Paralysis isn't the end of the world and many cats and dogs can have wonderful lives even without the use of their legs, but they will require special attention. First and foremost is to find out whether or not the use of a litter box is something that your kitty can do on his own. If he can't, that would signal that there might be more to the story than just an inflamed disc. However, if kitty can go to the bathroom on his own, it's possible that with antiinflammatories that the reuse of his back legs will be possible if the inflammation is controlled and managed.

In the meantime, cat diapers, puppy pads, pet safe cleaning wipes and even some stairs will all help until a more proper diagnosis can be determined.

Avoid any jumping or unnecessary climbing (place pet stairs up to his favorite place) and play with toys that don't involve running or jumping.

Please keep us updated on his prognosis and we'll be better able to provide advice and suggestions.
 
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Cesrenia

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Thank you for responding. Throughout the night he didn't move much on his own. Once he moved himself somehow over to my bed, it was maybe a couple of feet. He did not go to the litter box so he peed all over himself. Called the vet this morning to give them an update and he acted like it wasn't a good sign but didn't really go into detail. He told me the longer the paralysis goes on the less likely he'll recover. They said the best thing for him right now is rest and if he doesn't move around it's okay. That we have to give the medicine time to help. And it is good that he is eating and drinking. I'm going to go get some puppy pads later. I haven't heard about cat diapers but I will look into them, thank you for that. I appreciate you guys advice. I tend to think the worst so having a hard time staying hopeful. I'll keep y'all updated.
 

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I am so sorry and happy at the same time for your cat - in that it is not saddle thrombus. Besides actual diapers, there are ones that collect pee but allow for poop to not be caught at the same time, and are a little less cumbersome. If he has normal stool that would be easier to clean up, these 'diapers might be the way to go as they might reduce the amount of skin irritation from standard diapers. Worth looking into as an option anyway.
Cat Diaper Pull-ups Allow for Defecating in Litterbox (barkertime.com)

Also, as mentioned above, ask the vet about anti-inflammatories - there are ones that aren't steroid based, which might be something else to consider.

However, I would encourage you to find a specialist in neurology - perhaps even through a vet university, as they may have some other ideas on how to help your little guy. When it comes to a vet university, most will work with your regular vet, ideally precluding a trip that might be hours away.
 
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Cesrenia

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Okay. My veterinarian is closed on the weekends but I'm going to call Monday with another update. Maybe it's because they want to take this one step at a time to see if he respond to the meds and that's why they haven't told me any other options yet. But I'll definitely ask about a specialist. Thanks.

Also thank you to everyone who has responded, from the bottom of my heart I appreciate it. My cats are my children so when I go through something like this it turns my world upside down and I feel alone so thank you so much for caring to respond. ❤
 

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While it may not seem so, it is a good sign that he peed all over the place. If his bladder were paralyzed, that is an entirely different problem. Get the pee pads and the cat diapers of whatever type will work for you, or a belly band with a liner and that will keep him a lot drier and comfortable. If he has to be kept in a pee pad of any kind, watch his skin underneath as an animal can get diaper rash just as much as a human baby.

Your vet is probably competent; however, I don't think that this is a "wait and watch" situation and it does sound to me a tiny bit like he is seeing this as an older cat with a serious issue with limited options. Try to get a referral to a neurologist or specialist. If not available, ask your vet if he can work with one at a teaching hospital or referral clinic. Neurology is complicated and subtle and not something that might be entirely understood by a regular vet, even a good one.
 
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Cesrenia

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Thank you fionasmom! I'm definitely going to ask about a referral or the teaching hospital, everything you guys suggested lol, when I call on Monday. I do agree this is complicated and I still quite don't understand it. I've never had to take a pet to a specialist before so this is a whole new ballgame for me.

I did buy the pee pads and doggie diapers today just to have something to start with. So far so good with the diaper but dang he filled the first one up really quick. I guess it'll be trial and error with the diapers. This again is something that I've never had to deal with so thanks for the advice about the pee pads and diapers and about preventing a rash etc.
Also when he wanted to get water and I assisted him by holding his back legs, I felt some shakiness around the area where he's paralyzed and have no clue why.
All the prayers for sweet Jo 😘
 

fionasmom

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I am certainly no neurologist but the shakiness could be that there is some feeling there which might be a good sign. He is a cat, so certainly easy to lift but you can try making a little sling out of a piece of fabric or towel and put it under him to assist him in moving with the use of his front legs only. It helps him to walk but prevents him from dragging himself around, if he is doing that, by his front legs.
If he decides that the way to get around is by dragging himself, try to help him because if he does it continually he will start to abrade the skin on his feet or lower legs.

This is by far the cheapest and most immediate solution to a rear end sling. The vet even says in the beginning that it can be used for cats.

My experience has been that specialists get to the root of the condition much more quickly.
 
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