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Spinal Cord Disorder Caused by Blocked Blood Vessel in Cats

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Fibrocartilaginous Embolic Myelopathy in Cats


Fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy in cats is a condition in which an area of the spinal cord is not able to function properly and eventually atrophies as a result of a blockage, or emboli, in the blood vessels of the spinal cord. Though relatively rare in cats, the cause of this disorder is typically the result of an injury to the spine. Injury may be the result of jumping and landing in the wrong way, fighting, or any accident that leads to a spinal injury.


Symptoms and Types


The symptoms appear suddenly and usually follow what appears to be a mild injury or vigorous exercise.


  • Sudden, severe pain, cat may cry out at time of injury
  • Pain may subside after few minutes to hours
  • Paresis (signs of weakness or partial paralysis)
  • Paralysis
  • Lack of pain response
  • Cat may stabilize within 12-24 hours
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken gait (ataxia)




The exact cause is still unknown, but it is thought that a seemingly minor injury to the spine can force intervertebral disc material into the spinal cord, causing an embolism, or blockage of blood flow through the spinal cord.




You will need to provide a thorough history of your cat's health leading up to the onset of symptoms, and any injuries that you suspect to have recently occurred. Your veterinarian will rule out other causes, such as spinal tumor, intervertebral disc disease, or fracture before settling on a diagnosis. The above mentioned conditioned are very painful, therefore, a lack of pain can be indicative of an embolism in the spinal cord. Keep in mind that though there may be a lack of pain, the condition can be progressive and may affect long-term damage to the spine and neurological system. Immediate and supportive care is paramount.


Routine laboratory test results, such as urinalysis and complete blood counts, are usually unremarkable. A sample of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) may be taken for analysis, and a sample of blood from the veins and arteries of the spinal cord may show microscopic fragments of fibrocartilage. Radiographic imaging studies may help in diagnosis. Apart from routine radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) remains the best diagnostic technique for viewing the spinal cord. In the later stage of fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy, swelling may be present at the site of the blockage.





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