Understanding What Happens When A Cat's Legs Suddenly Give Out

7 September 2017
 Categories: , Blog


If you see your cat walking, jumping, or running and then see their back legs give out, then you may panic. This is indeed an emergency situation, and it is a common one that causes distress in felines. If you notice this issue, then you will need to bring your pet to an animal hospital as soon as possible (see this site). If you want to know more about the issue, what causes it, and the possible treatment for the problem, then keep reading.

What Causes The Legs To Give Out?

If you see your cat's legs suddenly give out, then it is very likely that the back legs have become paralyzed. This is terrifying to many pet owners, but the situation may be temporary if you act quickly. The issue occurs due to the formation of a blood clot in the main artery that feeds oxygenated blood to the back legs. The artery is called the illiac artery and it runs down the dorsal or back region of your cat and branches out into the right and left legs. If your cat develops a blood clot in the heart, then the clot can easily travel to the artery and block it. The artery itself branches out into a right and left vessel, and the location of the clot will determine whether blood flow is blocked from one or both legs.

For example, if the larger artery is blocked, then both the legs will stop receiving blood flow. If the right one is blocked, the right leg will be affected, and the left leg will stop working if the left artery contains a clot. The legs become paralyzed when they stop receiving blood flow, because blood is essential to the function of the muscular system. The issue is called aortic thromboembolism and the blood clot or clots must be released or the tissues in the legs will begin to die. 

How Can The Issue Be Treated?

Aortic thromboembolisms can only be treated if you take your cat to an animal hospital as soon as possible. While many clots are partial and allow some blood flow to the extremities, larger clots can also develop and completely block the illiac artery. You should know that your cat's body will start to break down clots as soon as they develop, so the embolism may release on its own. However, if it does not release quickly enough, then your cat may remain paralyzed. Also, the clot can dislodge and travel to the brain, heart, or lungs and cause a much more severe medical issue.

To reduce this sort of issue, an animal doctor will provide your cat with a blood thinner. Blood thinners do several things. They allow your cat's body to break up the embolism naturally and in such a way that the clot does not travel, build, and cause a stroke or heart attack. They also help to reduce issues with new clots forming around the embolism as the body breaks down the clot. This means that the clot can disintegrate more quickly and blood flow can return to the legs.

At the animal hospital, your cat will be monitored as the embolism disintegrates and your feline will be evaluated to see if full or partial movement returns. Also, since the clotting issue is often caused by a heart disease issue, the organ will be examined and your cat may be placed on medicine to control the disease. Other medications, like Plavix, may be prescribed as well to help reduce the chances of blood clots forming in the future. They will often reoccur and the medication can minimize size and frequency to keep life-threatening issues from developing.