It was obvious when "Chukkie" was first presented
at the Fairfield Veterinary Centre that he had experienced
an episode of trauma but it was only a few days later that
the full extent of his injuries became clear. Failure of
his injured tail to improve, in combination with urinary
incontinence generally points to a traction injury.
This is believed to occur when the patient traps their
tail under the wheel of a car which consequently tears the
body of the tail from the vertebral column (sacro-coccygeal
luxation). The disruption of the spinal nerves usually results
in a completely limp, paralysed tail which lacks any sensation.
If left untreated the tail can become necrotic and the
dying tissue acts a host for infection. Early removal of
the tail avoids these complications. However, the biggest
problem remains. An incontinent cat is not pleasant for
patient or owners. Cats, which are normally very fastidious
when it comes to their toileting habits lose control of
The most frustrating and difficult dilemma is trying to
decide how long to wait before concluding that recovery
is hopeless. Recovery of nerve damage is notoriously difficult
to predict both in human and veterinary medicine. Nerve
regeneration is both slow and often haphazard. It was thought
that with the extent that "Chukkie's" spine was
distracted, judging from the x-rays, that recovery was unlikely.
However, his owners felt that as a young adult cat he was
worth the benefit of the doubt.
Each day, with the assistance of my colleague Aga, his
bladder was squeezed by hand to express his urine. A thankless
task that requires both patience and perseverance with absolutely
no guarantee of success.
Fortunately, for "Chukkie" his owners had it
in abundance and their efforts paid off. Several weeks after
the initial trauma "Chukkie" has regained use
of his bladder and has now returned to his normal routine.