Myelomalacia in Cats
The terms “myelomalacia” or “hematomyelia” refer to an acute, progressive, and ischemic (due to the blockage of blood supply) necrosis of the spinal cord following an injury. The premature death (necrosis) of spinal cord cells initially occurs at the injury site but progresses forward and backward from the point of injury over time.
Dogs and cats of any age or breed can be affected by this condition.
Symptoms and Types:
- Paralysis of hind limbs
- Numbness to pain in areas below the injury
- Loss of tone and reflexes in hind limbs due to softening of the spinal cord (malacia)
- Dilated anus
- Type 1 disk disease
- Spinal injury
You need to provide a thorough history of your cat’s health, including details about the onset and nature of symptoms, to your veterinarian. Questions may focus on any accidents or injuries your cat may have experienced. A complete physical examination, along with a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC), will be conducted. These results may initially be normal but could deteriorate as injuries to vital organs worsen.
Spinal X-rays and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are valuable tools for evaluating the structural and functional aspects of the spinal cord. These tests may reveal evidence of herniated disks and vertebral fractures. Additionally, your veterinarian may collect cerebrospinal fluid, which protects and nourishes the brain and spinal cord, and send it to a laboratory for further evaluation.
Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment available to reverse spinal cord damage. Therapeutic protocols for treating secondary effects can vary from patient to patient, as there is no universally agreed-upon approach among veterinarians. While there are drugs (such as methylprednisolone sodium succinate, m 21-aminosteroid compounds) that may halt the progression of the disease, their effectiveness has not been conclusively proven.
Living and Management:
The prognosis for cats with myelomalacia is not favorable. Paralysis is always permanent, and many veterinarians may recommend euthanizing the animal to prevent suffering and potential death from respiratory difficulties.