Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury in Cats

By PetMD Editorial on Feb. 24, 2010

Myelomalacia in Cats


The terms “myelomalacia” or “hematomyelia” are used to denoted an acute, progressive, and ischemic (due to blockage of blood supply) necrosis of the spinal cord after injuring the spinal cord. The premature death (necrosis) of the spinal cord cells first appears at the site of the injury but progresses forward and backward from the point of injury over time. 


Dogs and cats of any age or breed can succumb to this condition.


Symptoms and Types


  • Paralysis of hind limbs
  • Numbness to pain in areas lower than the injury
  • Loss of tone and reflexes in hind limbs due to softening of spinal cord (malacia)
  • Hyperthermia
  • Dilated anus




  • Type 1 disk disease
  • Spinal injury




You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. The questions may specifically pertain to accidents or injuries that may have befallen your cat. He or she will then conduct a complete physical examination, as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC) -- the results of which may be normal initially, but which may deteriorate as injuries to vital organ worsen.


Spinal X-rays and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are other valuable tools for evaluation of structural and functional aspects of spinal cord. These tests may show evidence of herniated disks and vertebral fractures. Your veterinarian will also take cerebrospinal fluid (which protects and nourishes the brain and spinal cord) and will send the sample to laboratory for further evaluation.



Unfortunately, there is no treatment currently available to reverse spinal cord damage. There is also no single therapeutic protocol agreed upon among veterinarian; often, treatment to treat secondary effects will vary from patient to patient. There are some drugs (methylprednisolone sodium succinate, m 21-aminosteroid compounds) that may halt the progression of the disease, but their effectiveness has not been proven.


Living and Management


The prognosis of cats with myelomalacia is not good. Paralysis is always permanent and many veterinarians will recommend euthanizing the animal so that it does not suffer -- and possibly die from -- respiration difficulties. 

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