Spinal Cord Development Disorders in Cats


PetMD Editorial

Updated Aug. 24, 2022

Spinal Dysraphism in Cats


"Spinal Dysraphism" is a broad term encompassing spinal cord developmental disorders leading to various structural defects. It may be progressive or non-progressive in nature.


Spinal Dysraphism has been reported in Manx cats and some breeds of dog.


Symptoms and Types


  • Limb weakness
  • Imbalance
  • Neck or head pain
  • Uncoordinated walk
  • Postural abnormalities




Often, spinal dysraphism is due to spinal cord damage due to infection, trauma, or tumor(s).




You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. The veterinarian 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.


X-rays may reveal abnormalities related to vertebral column and spinal cord compression in some patients. However, without using sophisticated imaging techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT), the diagnosis is almost impossible in most cats.




Those with mild symptoms may require little treatment, whereas more severe cases may require the use of special carts to assist mobility. Surgical intervention may also help in arresting the progression or improve the course by slowing the progression of neurological symptoms.


In case of urinary infections, antibiotics are used to control infections. Drugs, meanwhile, are used to reduce cerebrospinal fluid or CSF pressure in brain and spinal cord.


Living and Management


Maintaining the quality of life is important in cats suffering from spinal dysraphism. Other concerns include secondary urinary tract infections, which benefit from antibiotic therapy, and constant turning of cats that remain flat. This will help prevent ulcers and urine and fecal scalds.


If the cat shows little response to treatment, or in cases of advanced disease, your veterinarian may recommend euthanasia.

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