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Ask the Veterinarian/Cat trauma to Spinal Cord


QUESTION: Hello Doc,

My name is Alex. Yesterday I noticed that one of our cats was walking with it's head bent down as though as it is too heavy. I thought something was wrong with her so I checked to see if there was some muscle reflex or if there was any swelling or injury around the neck area. I went online to see what were the causes and I read about thiamine deficiency and low potassium that can cause the ventroflexion. we took her to a vet and when the vet examine her he said most like she has a spinal cord injury. Everything seems fine with her, she tries to walk, she still has an appetite but has difficulty eating, she wags her tail and breathing rate is normal. The vet gave her a shot of steroid and anti-imflammatory. Can you please comment on the research I've found online to his diagnosis. Can spinal cord injury cause the ventro flexion? I don't see how it is possible that the cat got a spinal injury. Is there anything I can do to comfort her because anytime I call her name she replies with a 'meow'. Also her diet contains sometimes cat food, sausages, cooked fish and very rare raw fish. Please I don't really know what is wrong with her, I need your advice!!! Thank you very much.

ANSWER: Thiamine deficiency is so rarely seen that most vets pooh-pooh it, but I would bet you bottom dollar that that is what she has.

We have seen it, and my own boss dismissed it, but the NEW vet I was training was SURE that it was this so we gave her an injection of Thiamine and in a few hours she was back to normal.

Her diet is part of the problem. Raw fish and fish in general is not good for cats, regardless of what you read online. Sausages are full of nitrates and things bad for us and worse for cats.

You need to get her to another vet who will listen to you and be willing to try this very cheap injection for her. Ventroflexion can certainly be from a spinal cord injury, but they are usually manifested in rear (front or both) end paralysis.

Raw fish is one of the major causes of B1 deficiency: See the bottom line.

   Prolonged lack of appetite
   Diseases that cause malassimilation or malabsorption of nutrients
   Extensive surgical resection of jejunum and ileum
   Diuresis (excessive urination)
   Feeding an all meat diet
   Feeding meat based diet that has been preserved with sulfur dioxide
   Consumption of diet which has destroyed vitamin B1 during food processing. Some food recalls have been related to thiamine destruction which occurred during processing and caused inadequate thiamine levels in food. Food lacking adequate quantities of thiamine may in turn cause a thiamine deficiency for cats eating the food.
   Destruction of B1 by thiaminase present in some bacteria and in certain types of raw fish (cod, catfish, carp, herring, etc).

You really need to let your vet or another one what you have been feeding and try this injection. It is not expensive, they can get it at a pharmacy and they have nothing to lose by giving it to her.

Please PLEASE be very adamant about this and please let me know how she does.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Doc,

A million thanks to you!! I just have some follow up questions.

My concern is that we have three cats and all are fed the same diet as I just described. Could it only affect this one? Also, Could I purchase this thiamine shot from a pharmacy and administer on my own? Are there any side effects to thiamine?

ANSWER: Hi Alex,
firstly I am not a doctor but a vet tech. That is why I do not prescribe or diagnose.

Secondly, yes, it's concievable that only one cat is affected if her particular body chemistry is not doing as well as the other cats, or she doesn't absorb nutrients the same as they are.

I have no idea if you can buy thiamine injectable directly. I highly doubt it. We had to get a prescription for it.

So get these cats on normal diets (preferrably Science Diet) and get this one to the vets asap.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thanks again for your advice. I really appreciate it. I was unable to get the thiamine injection at the pharmacy. They said they don't have that so I don't know where to really get it from. Seeing that it was late to carry the cat by another vet, I bought some Vitamin B complex with a high concention of B1 in each capsule. I gave her one with some food and I shall let you know how she is doing tomorrow. She seems to be doing ok so far. I am still hoping for her to make a full recovery.

I never said that she has this issue, just that it was a possibility. Without knowing for sure what she has, and giving her vitamins that could be in a very high dose and thus toxic to cats, you are taking a big risk here.

Just so you know that. I would have taken her to another veterinarian and had them re-evaluate her and have them give her the injection. The problem is that she isn't absorbing the Vit B1, so giving it to her orally isn't going to help.

That is why the vets give an injection. There could be many other things in these vitamin caps that given in high doses could be potentially toxic to a cat.

Instead of risking that, please call another vet and have her seen tomorrow. Call around and ask them if they have the Thiamine injection available before you take her in.

But please don't risk giving your cat a toxic dose of anything!!

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 35 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.

Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 550 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

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Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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