Tetanus affects all animals, but cats have been reported to be 7,200 times more resistant to the tetanus toxin than horses. In this case, a 14-month-old, 5-kg spayed female domestic shorthair presented in lateral recumbency with profound rigidity of all four limbs. The cat had been hit by a car 2 weeks earlier but showed no clinical signs at that time. It started limping with the left forelimb 10 days later. The lameness became increasingly worse and progressed to the lateral recumbency with profound limb rigidity. Mentation was normal, and spastic nonambulatory tetraparesis was noted on neurologic examination. Gas-filled bowel loops and a distended bladder were found. Careful examination revealed abrasions on the left front forelimb, which were believed to have resulted from the car accident. It was speculated that the wound had allowed entry of Clostridium tetani. The cat recovered with treatment and supportive care, which included tetanus antitoxin and antimicrobials. Diagnosis of tetanus is usually based on history and clinical signs. In cats, it is particularly difficult because they are more likely to develop mild forms of the disease.

COMMENTARY: Although tetanus in cats is fairly rare, it should be considered in cases of paresis. Prompt treatment is necessary for a successful outcome.

Tetanus in the cat-an unusual presentation. De Risio L, Gelati A. J FELINE MED SURG 5:237-240, 2003.