If your cat starts walking like a drunk, weak in the hind end, don't assume he got into the catnip. That hind leg neuropathy indicates he's probably suffering from feline diabetes mellitus. Take him to the vet for diagnosis and treatment: he should soon be back on all four legs.
Hind leg neuropathy might be the first sign, and certainly the most obvious sign, that your cat suffers from feline diabetes mellitus. If he's older and overweight, he's at higher risk of developing the disease. You might have noticed that he's also drinking a lot and flooding the litter box, as well as losing weight although his appetite is good. His pancreas no longer produces insulin, or doesn't make enough of it. This hormone regulates glucose in his body, so without it his blood sugar rises to dangerous levels. Another name for diabetes mellitus is sugar diabetes.
Under normal circumstances, Kitty moves gracefully on his toes. If he's exhibiting signs of hind leg neuropathy, he'll stand on his hocks, the joint in the back legs that's similar to human ankles. Your cat might also appear crouched over. The neuropathy results from chronic nerve damage caused by the high glucose levels in his system. According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, possible symptoms also include complete loss of movement, and if the condition is left untreated muscle atrophy can result. Kitty could also experience difficulty controlling his bowels and bladder. In a worst-case scenario, if the condition isn't treated, the neuropathy can result in the cat's death due to gangrene of the leg.
Your vet conducts a physical examination of Kitty, along with blood tests and urinalysis to measure the level of his blood sugar. Once diagnosed, your cat needs to begin treatment immediately to regulate his blood sugar and get him back to as normal a state as possible.
Once your cat begins receiving daily insulin shots, there's a good chance his neuropathy will reverse itself and he'll start moving normally. Your vet will show you how to administer these subcutaneous (under the skin) injections. She might also recommend vitamin B12 supplements specifically for the neuropathy. Give Kitty his insulin shot at the same time each day, followed by food. Your vet will also recommend a diet for your diabetic cat, especially if he needs to lose weight. If your cat formerly ate free-choice meals, that probably has to change, replaced by feeding at specific times. You'll bring your cat to the vet regularly for checkups, so she can adjust insulin dosage levels based on testing.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.