Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Intervertebral disk disease

Contributor(s): Carley Abramson, Laurent Garosi


  • Cause: extrusion or protrusion of disk material into vertebral canal.
  • Signs: uncommon compared with dog.
  • Diagnosis: radiography, myelography, advanced imaging (MRI or CT).
  • Treatment: conservative or decompressive surgery if severe or progressive clinical signs.
  • Prognosis: good if only minor neurological deficits or if early surgery in severe cases.
    Print off the owner factsheet Intervertebral disk herniation or "slipped disk"   Intervertebral disk herniation or slipped disk  to give to your client.



  • Thoracic and lumbar disk protrusion most common clinically, cervical disk protrusion most prevalent in post-mortem studies.
  • Both acute intervertebral disk extrusion and chronic intervertebral disk protrusion are reported to occur in cats.
  • Cervical spinal region has been reported as the most common site for disk protrusion (Hansen type II) followed by the mid to caudal lumbar region.
  • Disk extrusions (Hansen type I) occur most commonly in the thoracolumbar region with a predilection to the caudal lumbar and lumbrosacral regions. The more frequently reported sites were between the T11/T12 and L1/L2 disk spaces and at the L4/L5 disk interspace.
  • Cats have tendencies to jump while applying increased biomechanical loads on their lumbar spine, which may predispose for caudal lumbar disk extrusions.

Type I disk protrusion

  • Calcification of vertebral disk   →   sudden extrusion of disk material into vertebral canal   →   pain and neurological deficits.

Type II disk protrusion

  • Degenerative changes in intervertebral disk   →   slow protrusion of material into intervertebral space   →   spinal cord compression   →   slowly progressive neurological signs.
  • Fibroid disk degeneration is the most common form.


  • May be acute or chronic in nature.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Marioni-Henry K (2010) Feline spinal cord diseases. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 40 (5), 1011-1028 PubMed.
  • Harris J E, Dhupa S (2008) Lumbrosacral intervertebral disc disease in six cats. JAAHA 44 (3), 109-115 PubMed.
  • Maritato K C, Colon J A, Mauterer J V (2007) Acute non-ambulatory tetraparesis attributable to cranial cervical intervertebral disk disease in a cat. J Feline Med Surg (6), 494-498 PubMed
  • Marioni-Henry K, Vite C H, Newton A L et al (2004) Prevalence of diseases of the spinal cord in cats. JVIM 18 (6), 851-858 PubMed.
  • McConnell J F, Garosi L S (2004) Intramedullary intervertebral disc extrusion in a cat.Vet Radiol Ultrasound 45 (4), 327-330 PubMed.
  • Lu D, Lamb C R, Wesselingh K et al (2002) Acute intervertebral disc extrusion in a cat: clinical and MRI findingsJ Feline Med Surg (1), 65-68 PubMed.
  • Knipe M F, Vernau K M, Hornof W J et al (2001) Intervertebral disk extrusion in six cats. JFMS (3), 161-168 PubMed.
  • Muñana K R, Olby N J, Sharp N J et al (2001) Intervertebral disk disease in 10 cats. JAAHA 37 (4), 384-389 PubMed.
  • Kathmann I, Cizinauskas S, Rytz U et al (2000) Spontaneous lumbar intervertebral disk protrusion in cats - literature review and case presentations. JFMS (4), 207-212 PubMed.
  • Bagley R S, Tucker R L, Moore M P et al (1995) Radiographic diagnosis. Intervertebral disk extrusion in a cat. Vet Radiol 36 (5), 380-382 VetMedResource.
  • Braund K G, Shores A & Brawner W R (1990) Recovering from spinal trauma - the rehabilitation steps, complications and prognosis. Vet Med 85, 740-743.
  • Sparkes A H & Skerry T M (1990) Successful management of a prolapsed intervertebral disk in a Siamese cat. Feline Pract 18 (1), 7-9 VetMedResource.
  • Salisbury S K & Cook J R (1988) Recovery of neurologic function following focal myelomalacia in a cat. JAAHA 24 (2), 227-230 AGRIS FAO.