Neuropathic Pain in Cats
An injury or disease relating to the body’s nerves and how they function, or within the spinal cord itself is commonly the origin of neuropathic pain. This particular kind of pain is difficult to pinpoint, especially in patients that are unable to respond to specific inducements. A common condition seen in cats is diabetes, and a tingling and pain in the hind legs is one form of neuropathic pain.
Symptoms and Types
Damage to the tissues of the body, and the nerves running through them, creates a constant (chronic) pain that is brought on by a light touch to the affected area and/or a heightened perception of pain. Pain originating within the spinal cord causes problems with mobility and various functions of the body.
Some of the symptoms of neuropathic pain may include:
- Limping or dragging a limb
- Shaking or twitching of the skin
- Chewing on the affected area
- Muscle wasting (atrophy)
- Crying out (vocalizing)
- Decreased appetite
- Urinating and defecating inappropriately (incontinence)
Neuropathic pain may result from an injury to body tissues or a growth (tumor) in the spinal cord. Diseases that affect the spinal cord, such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), may cause pain in different areas of the body, depending on which part of the cord is affected. Another potential cause of neuropathic pain is amputation of a limb. Phantom limb pain results in the impression of pain coming from a leg that has been surgically removed.
In cats, a common cause of neuropathic pain is diabetes mellitus. The result is a weakness in the hind legs which comes from damage to the nerves caused by constant high levels of sugar in the blood. Pain may accompany the weakness, with tingling and numbness in the limbs.
In general, neuropathic pain is diagnosed by ruling out other causes of pain and performing reflex tests to evaluate the nervous system. Basic blood tests can help rule out infectious and disease-related causes. Blood glucose tests will help to determine if your cat is diabetic, if the cat has not already been previously diagnosed. X-rays and special imaging may be necessary to search for tumors in the bone or spinal cord. Finally, a good discussion of your cat's medical and behavioral history, and the symptoms that led up this condition will help lead to the proper diagnosis.