Discospondylitis in Cats
Once considered to be quite rare it can no longer be ignored as it extremely serious

Discospondylitis in cats is an extremely dangerous condition, and although at one time it was considered rare in cats, it can no longer be ignored.

It can be relatively mild and only cause fevers or loss of appetite in your cat, or it can be so severe it can be devastating.

If it does become severe, your cat will slowly become lethargic, which is followed by a reluctance to move at all.

Once this develops, it is now only a matter of time before your cat may become totally paralyzed.

So what exactly is Discospondylitis in Cats and what actually causes it to develop.


Your cats spine is made up of several small bones that are referred to as the vertebrae, and this structure extends from the base of the back of their skull all the way to the end of their tail.

It is intertwined and interconnected by several flexible discs of cartilage, which are referred to as inter-vertebral discs.

Green eyes in catsThe challenge of Discospondylitis in cats is finding the cause

It is these discs that provide your cat cushioning between each of the bones and allows their neck, spine, and tail to bend.

It also gives your cat the ability to position and posture, and as any owner can attest to, cats are perhaps the most flexible of any animal.

Above these discs is the spinal cord, which runs through the bony vertebrae and is made of a mass of nerve fibers that run back and forth between your cat’s brain and their body.

When either a bacterial or fungal infection disrupts these critical functions, it is what is referred to as Discospondylitis in cats.

The actual technical definition of Discospondylitis is a destructive inflammatory and proliferate process that involves the inter-vertebral discs of your cat as well as the association of the end-plates and vertebral bodies.

Discospondylitis in cats is also known as diskospondylitis as well as spondylitis. However, this needs some clarification to fully understand it.

It can only be classified as spondylitis if it affects only the vertebrae of your cat.

The swelling that results from the bacterial or fungal infection will also start to cause bone deformities, and when this occurs, it places a tremendous pressure on your cats spinal cord.

There is also another related disease that is referred to as spondylosis, but it is important to note that this is a non-infectious fusion or degeneration of the vertebrae in your cat.


This is where the real discussion of discospondylitis in cats begins, as there are two different views on the actual cause of the underlying infection that triggers it.

The first view is that it is the result of plant awns such as grass seeds or fox tails that spread the infection; and the second is that the infection enters through your cat’s bloodstream.

The first places the cause of the infection from a migrating foreign body, such as grass awn or seeds, as these seeds generally have barbed ends that allow them to migrate.

Once they have penetrated your cat’s body with the bacterial of fungal infection attached, they migrate throughout the body and move through actual body tissues.

Wheat, barely, as well as fox tails also have very definitive barbed ends that can also rapidly penetrate into your cats body.

However, most experts agree that it is much more likely to be the result of an infection that has entered into the bloodstream.

Bacterial or fungal infections can easily be spread from your cat’s heart, some type of dental problem, or several types of urinary tract infections.

Once it is in your cats bloodstream, it almost immediately goes after the one of largest parts of your cat; their vertebra.


Discospondylitis in cats is not a well understood disease, and although it is now being routinely checked for in dogs, it is also become a very strong growing concern in cats.

However, there are some very distinctive symptoms that you can watch for with this condition.

If it is caught and identified very early, it can be treated and may not result in your cat becoming totally paralyzed.

The first symptoms that you will see with Discospondylitis are a fever that is associated with repeated bouts of urinary infections.

Although both of these are not uncommon in cats, if they begin to occur in repetition, all the red flags should go up that something is very wrong.

The next symptoms will be a gradual loss of appetite followed by lethargy in your cat. These symptoms again could be caused by several different conditions, but what follows next is not.

If you see any of these first four symptoms on any type of frequency, immediately check your cats spine.

If they flinch and will not let you touch it, it is now becoming severe and is most likely Discospondylitis. The next set of symptoms will be more visible and very easy to identify.

As this disease intensifies, your cat will be very reluctant to move and will start to become uncoordinated. At this stage, if it is not immediately treated, your cat may become totally paralyzed.


Discospondylitis in cats can be extremely difficult to properly diagnosis by your veterinarian, not only because it has been believed to be rare, but also because it is just very hard to find.

Bacterial and fungal infections can be silent killers in cats, as this is no different. Your veterinarian will have to run both blood cultures as well as urine cultures to identify the infection.

The toughest cases will also involve a myelography. A myelography is an x-ray of your cats spinal canal where a contrast agent is injected.

This allows for identification of any issues in the space around the spinal cord, spinal canal, as well as the nerve roots.

If your cats spinal cord has become compressed, the only alternative may be surgery. However, if you understand the symptoms and identify them early, treatments are in most cases promising.

Bone infections are always the most difficult to treat and it may take between six weeks and six months for the underlying infection to be eradicated.

This will involve more radio-graphs to view the process of the lesions that have developed, but easing of the symptoms will start to occur within a few weeks.

Your cat is in a lot of pain with this sinister disease, and as a result, they will also need pain medications. If the nerve damage has not been severe, your cat may recover fully.

However, if the nerve damage is extensive, you will have a very difficult decision to make as your cat will never lead a normal life again.


Discospondylitis in cats is a very wicked disease, as well as one that has been overlooked for several years by the medical community.

It is a growing threat to your cat and the only hope they may have is for you to identify the symptoms early and then treat it as quickly as possible.

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