Kitten With Scoliosis

by Anne Kominowski
(Martinsville, IN USA)

Dear Dr. Neely,

I am fostering, for my local humane society, a 14 week old kitten named Swiffer that was diagnosed by my veterinarian with scoliosis. No x-ray was taken, and the diagnosis was based solely on feeling his spine which shows an obvious/severe curve.

While my kitten has movement in his back legs, he cannot stand on them. Occasionally, he tries to use them and gets enough momentum to push off, but otherwise, he scoots around using his front legs. My veterinarian prescribed a treatment of Prednisone (although she hated doing it at his young age), continued water therapy (this was started at the shelter), leg extensions, and gently forcing him to stand while rocking him back and forth to train him to put balance/pressure on each leg.

He has shown some improvement, but not a lot. Of course, it's only been about 1 month with the water therapy and 1 week with the other leg physical therapy and prednisone combination.

After receiving the diagnosis, I searched the web for feline scoliosis but found extremely limited information that doesn't even fit with the symptoms/diagnosis of my foster kitten. I am at a loss if I am doing enough for him or if I need to seek out advice from a veterinary specialist such as an orthopedic veterinarian or otherwise.

Among other veterinarians that I've contacted, I sent an e-mail to Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine to see if they had any information but have yet to hear from any that I've contacted.

Attached is a photo. The way Swiffer is sitting is relatively close to the way he sits when he is scooting, using only his front legs to move.

Thank you and looking forward to any information you can provide regarding feline scoliosis.


Dear Anne,

First, let me start by saying that I don’t see how prednisone would be of any use at all for your kitten and that it could, in fact, be detrimental to his overall health. Furthermore, a consultation with a veterinary orthopedic specialist would never be a bad idea for getting the best recommendations for treating a kitten with scoliosis.

In the meantime, I would suggest you continue the other forms of physical therapy that have been recommended for your kitten and give it more time. I have seen many miracles in my career in kittens and cats with all sorts of conditions, including ones with orthopedic problems. I have seen many kittens that were never supposed to walk again walk.

Please also try to keep in mind that cats have an incredible ability to compensate well for physical handicaps. Blind cats, deaf cats, three-legged cats, and cats with many other physical struggles can all learn to get around very well and have very happy lives. So, even if all of the therapies do not provide the desired results, your kitten can still

Ultimately, it sounds as though you are doing all the best you possibly can for this precious kitten, and I admire your dedication to his growth and development. Seeking advice, even if just a phone consultation, from a veterinary orthopedic specialist would be the only additional piece of advice I would recommend.

Very best wishes,
Dr. Neely

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