We all want to do what's best for our pets. As technicians, we hold ourselves to a higher standard because of our additional
training and education, but even we can still fall into typical assumptions. This article is about my cat's experience with
feline lumbosacral disease. Through this process, as a pet owner, I discovered that it's a disease technicians need to be
better informed about.
Pollux is a male, neutered, 14-year-old, gray, domestic longhaired cat that is missing his left eye and has a stumped tail.
He had a two-year history of stiff hindlimbs, an inability to jump, and sensitivity when his hind end was touched. All of
these signs slowly worsened over time. Pollux's appetite had steadily decreased, but he was still eating fairly well.
Jennifer Keefe and Pollux
I assumed Pollux had arthritis partly because of his habit of jumping off of a second-story porch, which had once resulted
in an inguinal hernia. Initially, Pollux was treated for his current clinical signs conservatively with the oral supplements
glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. This amounted to the contents of one Cosequin For Cats (Nutramax Laboratories) capsule
mixed in his food daily. Radiographs were not obtained at this time because of Pollux's temperament, which would have necessitated
Further evaluation was pursued when it appeared the glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate were not helping and some muscle atrophy
Feline disk disease at a glance
A board-certified surgeon initially evaluated Pollux. He received sedation and orthopedic, neurologic, and radiographic examinations.
Physical examination results revealed generalized muscle atrophy that was visibly worse over both hindlimbs. No evidence of
patella luxation, cruciate disease, or hip osteoarthritis was present. The remainder of the orthopedic examination results
were normal. The neurologic evaluation revealed consistent caudal lumbar or lumbosacral pain on direct palpation and tail
manipulation. There was no evidence of proprioception (see "Glossary" for definitions of italicized words throughout the article) deficits or other reflex deficits of the hindlimbs.
Pollux appeared to have both fecal and urinary continence.
Radiographs revealed marked narrowing of the lumbosacral (L7-S1) intervertebral and intervertebral foraminal spaces. There also was marked ventral spondylosis deformans of the L6-L7 and L7-S1 regions and mild osteolytic changes to the adjacent vertebral endplates (Figure 1). The differential diagnosis list included degenerative lumbosacral stenosis, a spinal compressive lesion from a disk protrusion or neoplasia, diskospondylitis, or another nonspecific orthopedic or neurologic cause for the pain.
1. A lateral radiograph of the lumbar spinal region. Marked narrowing of the lumbosacral (L7-S1) intervertebral and intervertebral
foraminal spaces is seen. There are also marked ventral spondylosis deformans of the L6-L7 and L7-S1 regions and mild osteolytic
changes to the adjacent vertebral endplates (white arrows).
Palliative medical therapy was started with a combination of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) and gabapentin, an anticonvulsant
that can help with neurogenic pain when given in lower doses as an adjunct medication. Pollux was given 2.5 mg/kg of gabapentin orally twice a day and meloxicam
at a loading dose of 0.1 mg/kg orally once a day for three days and then at a maintenance dose of 0.025 mg/kg orally two or
three times a week. Note that though these drugs are commonly used with success in such cases, it is extralabel use. Gabapentin
is not FDA-approved for use in dogs and cats, and meloxicam is only FDA-approved for injection in cats. Pollux was much more
comfortable and active initially, but the clinical signs recurred several months later.