The cat experiences weakness in the (hind) legs but rather than walking normally on his toes, the cat will walk on his hocks. A flat-footed stance in cats can be cause by for example diabetes, vitamin deficiency, or an injury. Always consult a veterinarian to determine the cause and possible treatment.
How to Recognize
A flat-footed stance in your cat is a cause for concern. It is usually one of the symptoms of a couple of common feline health condition that require attention, and a visit to your veterinarian will determine the course of treatment. This symptom is easy to spot. Normally, cats appear to walk on the toes of their rear paws, and the hocks of the paws are vertical. Flat-footed stance, which is known as plantigrade stance, occurs when the rear paws make contact with the ground from the toes to the top of the hock. The cat’s hock is positioned horizontally. This can be seen when the cat is standing still and when the cat walks. The hock may not always make contact with the ground, but it will at least appear noticeably lowered.
The causes of plantigrade stances in cats include neuropathy, in which the nerves are unable to transmit signals to the brain, and hypokalemia, which is defined as a low blood potassium level.
A veterinarian will ask you questions regarding your cat’s recent activities and other unusual signs that you may have observed, such as whether or not your cat has been drinking and urinating more. After a physical examination, a blood chemistry panel and urinalysis will be run to evaluate kidney function, glucose levels and other organ values.
Most cats that have a plantigrade stance present with both of their rear paws in this position. They can usually move around somewhat swiftly, albeit awkwardly. If a cat presents with only one flat foot, limps, walks stiffly or is unable to walk, these symptoms may indicate a sustained traumatic injury to the paw or leg. If both of a cat’s rear legs are dragging on the ground and appear to be splayed behind when the cat is attempting to sit up, this may be indicative of a thromboembolism, which is a blood clot that has lodged in the blood vessel that branches off to supply blood flow to the rear limbs. Any of these unusual positions requires immediate veterinary attention.
The most common condition that can result in plantigrade stance in cats is diabetes, an endocrine condition in which blood glucose levels are too high. Diabetic neuropathy is one of the effects of high glucose levels. In cats, the neuropathy presents as the flat-footed stance and unusual gait. Another common feline health condition that can result in this stance is chronic renal failure, or kidney disease. This condition is degenerative. As the kidney function becomes increasingly insufficient, waste is no longer adequately filtered from the blood. These toxins build up in the bloodstream and affect the cat’s health in numerous ways. One of the effects is a decrease in the blood potassium level, which is called hypokalemia. Potassium is an electrolyte that is essential for nerve and muscle function. When a cat’s potassium level is too low, the flat-footed stance occurs.
The treatment will depend on the cause of the cat’s flat-footed stance. In the case of diabetes, this will likely include a change in the cat’s diet, and insulin administration will be needed for the remainder of the cat’s life. Diabetic care requires diligent monitoring on the part of the owner and periodic checkups and laboratory screenings from the veterinarian. If the cat is diagnosed with chronic renal failure, a change in diet, fluid therapy and oral medications, including potassium supplementation, will be the likely course of lifelong treatment.
Flat-footed Stance in Cats Affects