A closer look: Weakness in Cats
Weakness is a very common symptom in cats. In some cases, weakness in cats is not a serious health concern, but in other cases, weakness is a symptom of a life-threatening illness. Cats with weakness require veterinary attention. Cats with sudden and severe weakness, or weakness accompanied by high fever, tremors, incoordination, lameness, pale gums, weight loss, paralysis, or labored breathing, require emergency veterinary attention.
Signs that a cat is weak include
- Inability to do the activities of daily life without fatigue
- Exercise intolerance
- Inability or difficulty to execute athletic movements such as running, jumping, balancing, or grooming
- Holding body parts in unusual positions. such as the hind paws make contact with the ground from the toes to the hock or the inability to pick the head up fully
- Asymmetry in the body or in movements
- Inability to use specific limbs properly
- Intermittent paralysis
It can be difficult to assess weakness in cats, especially when it is subtle, without veterinary expertise.
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Almost any condition that affects cats has weakness as one of its potential symptoms. This is because any type of disruption to any of the body’s systems has the potential to change the way the body as a whole functions.
The severity of weakness depends on how much of the body is affected, the seriousness of the underlying cause, whether it is resolvable or permanent, and whether it is progressive or not.
In some cases, a congenital issue is present from birth, causing weakness. In these cases, the symptom appears in the first few months of life.
In other cases, the onset occurs later in life. Sometimes, as with injury, onset is sudden. In other cases, such as with certain infections, the weakness is subtle at first but progresses along with the untreated disease process.
Testing and diagnosis
Cats experiencing weakness require veterinary attention to determine the cause and plan treatment. Diagnostic tools include:
- Physical examination
- Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or ultrasounds
- Bacterial or fungal cultures
Treatment is difficult to generalize due to the variety of underlying conditions. Some possibilities include:
- Anthelmintics (also known as antiparasitics)
- Blood transfusions
Cats require significant amounts of sleep during the day. It is possible to mistake a normal amount of sleep for fatigue due to weakness.
In some cases, the signs of weakness are subtle. Attention and observation are required to note small differences in stance, movement, and capacity.