Verterbral Disc Inflammation in Cats

4 min read

Diskspondylitis in Cats

In cats, as with other vertebrates, the vertebral column is composed of a series of vertebral bones. These bones maintain the structure of the body and serve in the protection of the spinal cord, which is nested within the vertebral column.

Between each vertebrae are structures called disks. These round, cartilaginous shock absorbers hold a nucleus of fibrous gel, which allows for normal movement of the vertebrae without the vertebral bones grinding against each other.

Diskspondylitis is the inflammation of vertebral disks due to an infection caused by the invasion of bacteria or fungus. The infections most commonly reach the intervertebral disks through the blood. Less common is infection due to fractures or local abscesses. Due to the proximity of the spinal cord many of the symptoms seen in affected animals are related to the nervous system. This disease is relatively rare in cats as compared to dogs.

Symptoms and Types

  • Back pain
  • Difficulty in standing and jumping
  • Stiff, uncoordinated walk
  • Limb weakness
  • Lameness
  • Fever
  • Paralysis in some patients, especially those not treated


  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Surgery
  • Bite wounds
  • Fracture
  • Back injury
  • Abscess near site of inflammation


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your cat, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. After the initial physical examination, your veterinarian will order routine laboratory tests, including a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. These tests can be of value in determining the presence of any infections that are primary causes of this disease. Your veterinarian will also take blood and urine samples for laboratory culturing in order to identify the causative bacteria or fungus. Drug sensitivity testing may also help your veterinarian to select the most effective drug(s) for your cat so that the underlying infection is appropriately treated.

Radiographic studies will help your veterinarian to determine the location of the inflamed disc, as well as the extent of the problem in your cat. Spinal X-rays will usually reveal damage to the vertebra and adjacent structures that have occurred due to infection. Displacement and collapse of intervertebral (between the vertebral bones) disks will also be evident in spinal X-rays. More specific radiographic studies, such as myelography, computed tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used for a more detailed and concise evaluation.

Myelography is a type of radiographic technique that uses an injectable substance that will contrast suitably on an X-ray device, in effect, "lighting" the internal area that is to be examined. This minimally invasive technique may allow your doctor to detect abnormalities of the spinal cord, making visible any compressions in the spinal cord, especially in those cases in which surgery may be required. Your veterinarian may also use CT or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans if normal X-rays and myelography imaging does not provide the needed details.


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