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Why are my young cat's back legs suddenly weak?

Closeup of gray tabby cat's face; yellow eyes and a blue name medallion on its collar.

(Photo: Flickr/Rebecca Fleming)

Why are my young cat's back legs suddenly weak?

August 29, 2013

Q: My cat, Leo, is a gray tabby, and for three days he has acted like his back legs are very weak. He is also oozing a very smelly clear liquid from his anus.  He's about 3 years old. He has been lying in one spot and is only eating a little.

A: We should be able to rule out a blood clot caused by advanced heart disease in such a young cat. It still could occur but is most often seen in our geriatric cats.

Trauma is common in a young cat -- being hit by a car or grabbed by a dog could damage his spine. Curiously there might be little or no outward indications of such trauma -- most often because cats will groom themselves excessively after such an injury.

Because his symptoms have appeared suddenly, we can also rule out degenerative changes in his back or hips. One doesn't become arthritic overnight. Infection is a concern, however. The neurologic form of the FIP virus and the FeLV (leukemia) virus and FIV (kitty AIDS) virus can cause infection of the central nervous system.

I would proceed by having Leo given a thorough physical exam followed by viral testing -- an FeLV, FIV, FIP blood panel. If negative, X-rays of his spine are indicated.

Supportive therapy at this time involves the use of anti-inflammatory drugs -- either nonsteroidals such as meloxicam, or steroids such as prednisolone. The earlier these drugs are given, the better Leo's prognosis if trauma is underlying his symptoms.

-- Answer from Dr. Michael Salkin, a veterinarian on JustAnswer.

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