Correctly identifying intervertebral disk herniation as a cause of myelopathy is crucial because a favorable outcome can be
achieved with proper treatment.2,3,5 Patients treated with conservative therapy (e.g. enforced confinement, corticosteroid administration) compared with those treated with surgical intervention appear to have
a less favorable long-term outcome.3 Conservative therapy may be appropriate in cats with minimal spinal cord compression, but because cats tend to hide the
early signs of discomfort, the window of opportunity for treating the disease conservatively may be missed.
The recommended treatment for most patients with clinical intervertebral disk disease is surgical spinal cord decompression
and postoperative physical therapy.4-6 Physical therapy typically consists of performing passive range-of-motion exercises and massaging the muscles of the affected
limbs. With surgical spinal cord decompression, the prognosis for cats with intervertebral disk disease likely mirrors the
prognosis for dogs with intervertebral disk disease; that is, cats receiving spinal cord decompression surgery appear to show
good neurologic recovery.6 Most cats receiving spinal cord decompression surgery show good clinical improvement; residual neurologic deficits, although
common, often do not seriously affect the cat's quality of life.3 The return of pain perception and ambulation after surgery has been reported in cats that had deep pain loss before surgery.6 It is reasonable to assume that the patients with the best prognoses are those that retain deep pain perception because
they are more likely to regain voluntary motor function and continence than are those without deep pain perception.
The photographs and information for this case were provided by Tracy N. Prouty, DVM, and Joli M. Jarboe, DVM, DACVIM (neurology),
Veterinary Neurological Center, 4445 N. Rainbow Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89108. Dr. Prouty’s present address is Northwest Veterinary
Specialists, 16756 S.E. 82nd Drive, Clackamas, OR 97015.
1. Munana KR, Olby NJ, Sharp NJ, et al. Intervertebral disk disease in 10 cats. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2001;37:384-389.
2. Salisbury SK, Cook JR. Recovery of neurological function following focal myelomalacia in a cat. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 1988;24:227-230.
3. Seim HB III, Nafe LA. Spontaneous intervertebral disk extrusion with associated myelopathy in a cat. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 1981;17:201-204.
4. Rayward RM. Feline intervertebral disc disease: a review of the literature. Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol 2002;15:137-144.
5. Knipe MF, Vernau KM, Hornof WJ, et al. Intervertebral disc extrusion in six cats. J Feline Med Surg 2001;3:161-168.
6. Kathmann I, Cizinauskas S, Rytz U, et al. Spontaneous lumbar intervertebral disc protrusion in cats: literature review and
case presentations. J Feline Med Surg 2000;2:207-212.