Gray, a 9-month-old male cat, was found as a stray in Hawaii and taken in by his new owner. Shortly after settling in with his new family, Gray’s posture became abnormal and his hind limbs splayed outward, severely affecting his ability to walk. He was painful to the touch, and over the next few days, became increasingly immobile. Radiographs taken by a local veterinarian indicated a vertebral disc space narrowing in Gray’s lower back. Within a few days, he was no longer able to walk at all, so his owner researched where to get the best help for Gray. They were soon on their way to California to see neurologists at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.
On examination at UC Davis, neurologists found that Gray no longer had any feeling in his hind limbs. The lack of pain sensation is the last function to be lost in the spinal cord, and the neurologists were worried that even if they could treat Gray’s underlying problem, he may never be able to walk again. Gray’s owner was committed to finding out what was wrong and doing all he could for him.
Based on further radiographs and an MRI study of his spine, Gray was diagnosed with an infection of his spinal cord and surrounding vertebrae. Compression of the spinal cord in the area of his infection rendered him unable to move or feel pain in his hind limbs.
Although veterinarians continued to think that it would be unlikely for Gray to walk again, his owner chose to proceed with any and all possible treatments in hopes that Gray would beat the odds and regain mobility. The best option at that point was to go immediately into surgery and do a hemilaminectomy – removal of part of the vertebrae in order to remove any infected material and decompress the spinal cord. Much of the infected area was removed during the surgery, and since Gray didn’t display any spinal instability during the procedure, placement of pins and cement to stabilize his back was avoided.
For a week following surgery, Gray was hospitalized for monitoring and treatment. Pain and inflammation were managed with medication, and the bacterial spinal infection was treated with antibiotics. While his appetite was good and he seemed comfortable, he was still paralyzed in his hind legs and had no feeling in them.
At his 3-week recheck examination, Gray remained paraplegic with no sensation in his pelvic limbs or tail. It grew increasingly unlikely that he would ever walk again. Neurologists continued treatment.
Two days later, Gray shocked his owner by moving his hind legs. By the time they visited the hospital in another two weeks, Gray was walking again—albeit a bit wobbly—and he was comfortable and continued to improve.