Clinical Exposures: Intervertebral disk disease: An unusual cause of a cat's lameness and tail weakness - Veterinary Medicine
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Clinical Exposures: Intervertebral disk disease: An unusual cause of a cat's lameness and tail weakness


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.


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