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Limping In Cats – How To Make A Happy Home For Your Pet

There are a few reasons your cat may begin to limp, but regardless of why it can happen, veterinary care is usually required. Since limping is usually a sign of pain or discomfort, knowing what caused the limp, how to treat it, and how to prevent it can help your cat feel comfortable.

Causes of Limping in Cats Cat

While many people assume that a cat only limps if it has a broken bone, there are actually a number of reasons why a limp can be seen.

Broken bones

Broken bones or fractures are very painful, so it’s no surprise that a cat with a broken bone won’t want to put weight on this leg. Trauma, malnutrition, or even cancer can lead to fractures.

Dislocated joint

Dislocations of the shoulder and hip joints can occur when a cat experiences severe physical trauma. Getting hit by a car or falling off a second-floor balcony can result in a dislocated joint, if not a broken bone or two.

Osteoarthritis

This joint disease is commonly known as arthritis and can be painful and cause a cat to limp.

Overgrown nails

Cat nails will curl and grow into the pads of the paws if not kept short. This can be very painful and even lead to infection.

Foreign body in the foot

Thorns, splinters of wood, tacks, thistles, and more can lodge in your cat’s foot or toe and cause pain or discomfort.

Wounds

Bites, scratches, cuts, and abrasions to the leg or paw can lead to an open wound, bleeding, and even an abscess.

Cruciate ligament tear

The ligament in a cat’s knee can tear and cause the joint to become unstable, resulting in a limp.

Patellaluxation

Some cats are born with kneecaps that slide around. These are called patellar luxations and can cause a cat to limp.

Nerve damage

Usually as a result of an injury to the spine, nerve damage can prevent a cat from using its leg properly.

Blood clots

Saddle thrombus is a special type of blood clot that causes paralysis of the hind legs. It’s very sudden, painful, and life threatening.

Paw ball burns

If your cat steps on a hot surface such as a cooktop or a hot sidewalk, it may cause burns to its paws. These are very painful and make a cat limp.

Broken bones may require a splint, a cast, or even surgery.

Yelena Shander / Getty Images

Diagnosing the cause of your cat’s limp

Since there are a variety of reasons your cat may limp, your veterinarian must begin with a full physical exam of your cat. Depending on which leg your cat is limping on, it will look for abnormalities in its feet, legs, hips, and shoulders. You can palpate your cat’s joints for signs of ligament, joint, or kneecap abnormalities, and if there are no obvious signs of a wound, burn, foreign object, or overgrown nail, an X-ray is recommended. X-rays can detect broken bones and dislocated joints, but not torn ligaments, blood clots, or nerve damage. Depending on your veterinarian’s findings, more extensive diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI or CT scan, may be recommended.

treatment

Various treatment plans may be required to manage your cat’s limp. Drugs for pain, inflammation, infection, and other specific items may be prescribed; Wounds, burns and overgrown nails can be cleaned; and operations, splints, bandages or plaster casts can be warranted for broken bones and dislocated joints. Sedation or anesthesia may be required to remove foreign objects and take care of painful legs and paws. Occasionally, depending on the cause of the limp, physical therapy may be needed to help your cat regain full function of its leg.

How to prevent limping in cats

Since most cases of limping in cats are due to injury, and cats are injured more often than domestic cats outdoors, keeping your cat indoors is a great way to prevent them from limping. Giving your cat joint supplements, such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help keep your cat’s joints healthy as they age. Trimming your nails can prevent overgrown nails from contributing to a limp. Finally, keeping your cat at a healthy weight can help avoid unnecessary stress on the joints that can lead to joint disease.