There are a few reasons why your cat might be walking with a plantigrade stance, and it's important to understand the causes in order to provide the necessary treatment. A plantigrade stance is when the cat stands with its weight on its heels or ankles, instead of its paws. In this article, we'll explore the two most common causes of plantigrade stance in cats and how you can help your feline friend walk correctly again. Keep reading for more information.
What is a plantigrade stance in cats?
A plantigrade stance is when the cat stands with its weight on its heels or ankles, instead of its paws. This can occur because of neurological or musculoskeletal disorders. The 2 most common reasons are diabetic neuropathy and disorders of the calcaneal tendon such as Achilles tendon rupture or degeneration.
1. Diabetic neuropathy causes a plantigrade stance in cats
Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves and usually occurs in cats who have diabetes mellitus that isn't well controlled. It's the most common type of neuropathy in cats and progression occurs over a period of many months.
What causes diabetic neuropathy in cats?
The underlying cause of diabetic neuropathy is high blood sugar levels as a result of untreated or unregulated diabetes mellitus. When blood sugar levels are high, it results in neurological degeneration. Over time, this severely damages the nerves and can lead to neuropathy.
What are the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy in cats?
Clinical signs are most frequently observed in middle-aged to older cats. The most common sign of diabetic neuropathy is a plantigrade stance. This means that the cat will walk with its weight on its heels or ankles instead of its paws. Other signs include:
- Muscular weakness
- Atrophy (muscle wasting)
- Excessive thirst and urination, which is secondary to the uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes
If you notice any of these signs, it's important to take your cat to your veterinarian as soon as possible for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
How is diabetic neuropathy in cats diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will ask about your cat's medical history and symptoms and perform a physical examination. They may also recommend blood tests, urine tests, and imaging (such as X-rays) to rule out other possible causes of the plantigrade stance. A definitive diagnosis of diabetic neuropathy can be made with a detailed neurological examination and supporting evidence of hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar levels).
What is the treatment for diabetic neuropathy in cats?
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for diabetic neuropathy. When diabetic neuropathy symptoms are present in cats, it is recommended to manage hyperglycemia aggressively. This can help slow the progression of the disease and prevent further nerve damage. Treatment typically includes:
- Insulin therapy
- Dietary management
- Weight loss (if necessary)
- Regular check-ups
What is the prognosis for cats with diabetic neuropathy?
In some cats, strict glycemic control can reverse the signs of neuropathy and plantigrade stance and usually occurs within 6 months. However, many affected cats still have varying degrees of clinical weakness and muscle atrophy.
2. Disorders of the calcaneal tendon cause a plantigrade stance in cats
Disorders of the calcaneal tendon, such as Achilles tendon rupture or degeneration, are another common cause of plantigrade stance in cats. The Achilles tendon is a strong band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. When it's damaged or deteriorates, it can no longer support the weight of the cat, resulting in a plantigrade stance.
What is the calcaneal tendon and what are its functions?
The calcaneal tendon or Achilles tendon is an extension of the gastrocnemius muscle (calf muscle) and attaches to the calcaneus. The calcaneal tendon is the primary extensor of the hock or tarsus joint.
What are the causes of a calcaneal tendon injury in cats?
The two main types of calcaneal tendon injury are traumatic and degenerative rupture. The most common location of the rupture is near the insertion at the calcaneus.
A complete or partial rupture of the calcaneal tendon may be caused by a laceration of the tendon or by landing forcefully on one or both hind limbs, such as falling from a significant height.
The weakening of tendons that can eventually lead to rupture is something that can happen over a long period of time and degenerate in many cases. Cats may suddenly rupture a tendon while running, even though there doesn't appear to be any obvious trauma. This happens because it's the result of a long process that may or may not have had any clinical signs associated with it. The exact cause of this degenerative process is unknown.
What are the symptoms of a calcaneal tendon injury in cats?
The most common symptom of a calcaneal tendon injury is plantigrade stance. This means that the cat will walk on its heels or ankles instead of its paws. Other symptoms can include:
- Lameness in the affected limb
- Swelling in the area around the tarsus or ankle
- Muscle atrophy (muscle wasting)
If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, it's important to take them to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
How is a calcaneal tendon injury in cats diagnosed?
A calcaneal tendon injury will be diagnosed based on your cat's medical history, symptoms, and physical examination. Your veterinarian may also recommend imaging tests such as X-rays or an MRI/CT to confirm the diagnosis.
What is the treatment for calcaneal tendon injuries in cats?
The treatment for a calcaneal tendon injury will depend on the severity of the rupture. In most cases, surgical correction is required. Additionally, If your cat has a ruptured calcaneal tendon, it is best to have surgery as soon as possible to have the best possible outcome.
In geriatric cats with degenerative tendon rupture, it is common to use custom orthotics or casts for 6 weeks as the surgical repair frequently fails. Usually, this produces acceptable results. Even if the hock retains a large amount of plantigrade stance, the leg of the cat often remains quite functional and is typically non-painful.
A plantigrade stance in cats can be caused by diabetic neuropathy which occurs as a consequence of untreated or unregulated diabetes mellitus or disorders of the calcaneal tendon. If you think your cat is walking with a plantigrade stance, it's important to take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible for an examination. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the plantigrade stance.
If you have any further questions about plantigrade stance in cats, please speak with your veterinarian.