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Terri, Feline Healthcare Expert
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 31941
Experience:  Expert in feline health and behavior. 20 years experience with cats.
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I got home and found my cat with a lame right hind leg (paw ...

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I got home and found my cat with a lame right hind leg (paw is curled under and he is dragging his foot when attempting to walk); the left hind leg is also dragging but seems less affected than the right leg. Especially his right hind leg feels very cold to the touch. He seemed in great pain, crying alot. I took him to the vet on an emergency basis, x-ray showed no broken bones. He was unable to give a diagnosis and gave an injection for pain. My cat eats and drinks and urinates. He is a house cat, maybe 3 or 4 years old. There is no outer injury. Please what could this be and what treatment if any should be implemented other than pain medication? Many thanks for your answer.

Hi there,

How long ago was he seen by a vet.

Did the vet notice the leg was cold?

Is he able to urinate?



A "cold" limb and what you are describing can be very serious if it is something called a Saddle Thrombus and is caused by a blood clot preventing blood flow by getting caught in a major blood vessel. Most often these blood clots are caused by underlying heart disease. I know that you reported no heart murmurs but your boy could still have had heart disease, but so mild there was no murmur. Let me explain....

When I hear a murmur while auscultating the heart, it tells me that there is turbulent blood flow within the heart. Think of a stream - if it is flowing smoothly, you can hardly hear it. But if there are lots of rocks and a waterfall, there is turbulence and now you can hear it.

The same is true of the heart. When there is turbulent blood flow, a blood clot or thromboembolus may form. Your boy may have a very soft murmur that could not be heard, but was still causing clots. This blood clot can leave the heart in the large blood vessels exiting the heart, but then get stuck in many of the smaller blood vessels leaving those major arteries. When this happens, it can cut off blood supply to a limb. Suddenly the cat limps on that limb and is very painful.

Think of wrapping an elastic band tightly around your finger. Pretty quickly it becomes painful and it is hard to use the finger. This is essentially the same thing that happens when a thrombus blocks blood supply to a cat's limb.

On exam, these kitties present with pain and limping. If the clot has gone to the right front leg (the first "exit" from the major arteries) that foot will be colder than the others and the nail beds will be blue. The blood clot may lodge in the caudal vena cava, which is a major blood vessel leading to both back legs. In this case, the cat will not be able to use the back legs but will drag them around and will be in severe pain. If this happened some time ago, the limbs may be so numb by now that there is no pain from them anymore. However, the pads will be notably cool, the nail beds will be blue and the cat will not have pulses on the back legs. This carries a grave prognosis.

Early treatment involves drugs to stop more clots from forming - the choices are aspirin or coumadin (rodenticide, rat poison, warfarin). Unfortunately, if there is a major clot to both back legs, treatment may not be possible.

Here is more about thrombus formation in cats:

And more about Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy which is the most common heart problem in cats, and the most common reason they develop blood clots:

If this is a possibiliy, print this answer and take your boy right back to a vet.

Please let me know how he is doing.

Sincerest best wishes,


Terri and 2 other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Reply to Terri Riba's Post: My cat was seen by a vet about 2 hours ago. The vet noticed that the leg was cold but did/could not offer an explanation? Following the injection for pain my cat urinated when he got back home.

I would print the answer and take him right back.

If he has a thrombosis, time is of the essence.

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