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Dr. Gary
Dr. Gary, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 19798
Experience:  DVM, Emergency Veterinarian, BS (Physiology)
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Customer Question

Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Gary replied 8 years ago.

Inability to use the tail is often either due to a tail pull nerve injury or a fracture of the tail vertebrae. A good exam and palpation can usually differentiate and x-rays are occasionally done to visualize a tail fracture.

The treatment is usually the same no matter what the cause is- rest, time and pain management. Most tail pull injuries and tail fractures will heal on their own if you give them enough time and treat the pain accordingly. I would usually use Buprenex (Buprenorphine) for pain for 3-5 days and keep the cat confined to a small room for 1-2 weeks. It can take up to 3-4 weeks for the tail function to return, but it usually will. One thing to watch for is urination as some cats with tail pull injuries will also lose bladder or fecal control and could get constipation or urinary incontinence/ retention. If you can get this cat to the vet tomorrow then can evaluate bladder tone and see if any bladder control meds need to be added as well.

In rare instances, the tail function does not return and tail amputation is done for sanitary reasons.

I hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Could this happen even if the cat hasn't done anything.. this is a 15 year old cat that pretty much sleeps all day.
Expert:  Dr. Gary replied 8 years ago.
Most of the time there is no known trauma and it could be from laying on it wrong or catching it in a door.

Given the age, cancer and heart disease should also be ruled out. Spinal lymphoma can cause signs based on where the lymph node is but usually it's not that far back. Clot formation and thrombus can cause loss of movement in the rear legs and potentially the tail but usually it's higher up as well.

A good exam looking for pain and sensation of the tail will help narrow down the list.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I felt all around on his back end and nothing seemed to bother him. he can feel me messing with the hair on his tail.. he doesn't like that. I think he is a little irritated because he can't move it. if it is just from laying on it wrong how long will it take for it to get better?
Expert:  Dr. Gary replied 8 years ago.
With any tail paralysis, I would still give it a good 1-2 weeks before I would expect to see any improvement. There are some case reports of this taking up to 2 months to resolve but in my experience they will usually resolve sooner.

The fact that he can feel the tail is a good sign. Neurologic disease will go from pain to weakness to inability to move then the last thing to go is the ability to feel. The return of function will go in the reverse order.

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
ok thanks. I will make sure I keep a close eye on him.