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Cat Broken Tails

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Revision as of 18:41, September 13, 2007 by Rami (Talk | contribs)
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Overview

A cat can get tail injuries in various ways. While there is sometimes an obvious kink in the tail, in most cases there is no discernable external trauma, or the trauma goes unnoticed because of other more significant wounds on the cat’s body. While the spinal cord does not extend down to the tail, there are many important nerves in this region that can become damaged when the tail is pulled or broken. These nerves are responsible for controlling the motor function and sensation of the hind limbs, as well as the proper function of the urinary bladder, large intestine, and anal sphincter. Since external injury may not be immediately apparent, the malfunction of these organs as a result of nerve damage can be the first sign of a broken tail.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Some signs of a broken tail include: tail dragging, inability to hold the tail high, dribbling of urine, dilated anal sphincter with possible fecal incontinence, and decreased motor function or uncoordinated movement of the hind legs. There might also be a loss of sensation in the tail or a painful tail head (where the tail connects to the body). A radiograph can usually show a break or dislocation in the tail, and might also reveal a distended bladder. Other tests such as a chemistry profile or a urinalysis may also be needed to fully assess the animal’s neurological function.

Treatment

Treatment and prognosis usually depend on how extensive the injury is and if the nerves have been permanently damaged. If the cat still has sensation in its tail, the dislocation or break can be repaired and sometimes the cat can heal by itself without surgery. Cats that show more neurological symptoms may or may not fully regain its normal function. Cats that have impaired urinary functions can usually recover, although in some cases the cat may lose the ability to fully empty its bladder, in which case it must be manually expressed on a daily basis. Recovery rate decreases if the injury has influenced the anal sphincter function, and these cats might need special care such as periodic enemas. If the tail is paralyzed, amputation is sometimes recommended to avoid further nerve injuries via excessive dragging. Amputation of the tail does not influence the mobility of the cat, and will not hinder its daily activities.

Since nerves regenerate at a very slow rate, recovery from a tail injury can take a long time. Some cats will unfortunately remain incontinent for life. For these cases, there are some medications available that can improve urinary functions and help the animal regain a percentage of its normal function.

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