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Help! Should I take my cat to the vet for limping?

As a cat owner, it's natural to be concerned when your feline friend starts limping unexpectedly. A cat limping can be alarming, and understanding the potential causes and appropriate responses is crucial. In this blog, our Gilbert vets share a few common reasons for limping in cats and what you should do.

Why is my cat limping all of a sudden?

There are several reasons why your cat might start limping suddenly. It could be due to a minor injury like a sprain or a more serious condition such as a fracture. Common causes include:

  • Injury: Cats are curious and active creatures. They might sprain or strain their legs while playing or exploring. A limp can also result from a more severe injury like a broken bone.
  • Arthritis: Older cats, in particular, can develop arthritis, which can lead to a gradual or sudden onset of limping.
  • Infections or Abscesses: Bites or scratches from other animals can become infected, causing pain and swelling that leads to limping.
  • Foreign Objects: Sometimes, foreign objects like thorns or splinters can get lodged in a cat's paw, causing discomfort and limping.

What to do if my cat is limping?

If you notice your cat limping, keeping them calm while you check their leg for any issues is important. Start by gently running your fingers down the leg to look for sensitive areas, open wounds, swelling, or redness. You should also check for any dangling limbs. Begin at the paw and work your way up.

If you find a thorn, carefully remove it with tweezers and clean the area with soap and water. Keep an eye on the area to ensure it doesn't get infected as it heals. If overgrown nails are the problem, trim them as usual or ask your vet to do it.

If you can't identify the cause of the limp and your cat is still limping after 24 hours, make an appointment with your vet. It can be difficult to tell if a cat's leg is broken because the symptoms can be similar to other injuries or a sprain (such as swelling, limping, holding the leg in an odd position, or lacking appetite). Therefore, it's best to seek advice from your vet.

Before the vet appointment, limit your cat's movements to prevent further injury. Keep your cat in a low-surface room or in a carrier. Ensure their comfort by providing a cozy place to sleep and keeping them warm with their favorite blankets. Keep a close eye on their condition.

How do you tell if your cat's leg is broken or sprained?

Determining whether your cat's leg is broken or sprained can be challenging. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Sprain: A sprain may cause your cat to limp from its back or front leg, but they may still be able to put some weight on the affected leg. There might be swelling, but the leg won't appear deformed.
  • Fracture: A broken leg often results in severe pain, inability to bear weight, and a noticeable deformity. The leg may appear bent or out of place.
If you suspect a fracture, get your cat to the vet as soon as possible.

When You Should Take Your Cat to The Vet For Limping

It is always a good idea to take your cat to the vet for limping to prevent infection or get a proper diagnosis. If any of the following situations apply to your cat, make an appointment with your vet:

  • Mild Limping: If your cat is limping but not in pain, and the limp is mild, monitor the situation for a day or two. Sometimes, minor injuries heal on their own.
  • Persistent Limping: If the limping persists for more than 24-48 hours or worsens, it's best to consult a vet.
  • Severe Limping: If your cat is unable to put weight on the leg, is in visible pain, or if there is swelling or an obvious deformity, seek veterinary care immediately.

If you notice any visible signs such as bleeding, swelling, or a limb hanging unusually, don't wait 24 hours. Contact your vet immediately to prevent infection or a worsening condition. If you are unsure how to handle the situation, it's best to call your vet for advice on the next steps to take.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat is limping, contact us to book an examination. Our vets in Gilbert can diagnose the cause of your cat's limp and provide effective treatments to help your cat walk normally again. 

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