Feline neck ventroflexion: the hanging neck in the cat


Why will this cat had the head hanging down and he’s always looking towards the floor? Why does my cat doesn’t want to jump and seem less active?

Cervical ventroflexion is a dramatic sign of generalized neuromuscular weakness in cats. The chin usually rests near the thoracic inlet, with the eyes positioned dorsally to maintain a straight-ahead gaze. Other common physical examination findings are a slight protrusion of the dorsal aspects of the scapulae when weight is placed on thoracic limbs, and a stiff thoracic limb gait. A crouched, wide-based stance is often seen in pelvic limbs.

Why do cats have neck ventroflexion when they are weak?

Cats don’t have a nuchal ligament, therefore they have this neck position when they are weak in comparison to dogs.

It’s important you recognize this cervical position because it does not suggest neck pain, but weakness. Dogs with neck pain have a low hear carriage, but not neck ventroflexion. In dogs with neck pain the head and neck are on the same plane, and they will moe only the eyes to look at you. The shoulders won’t be sticking out like you see in cats with the neck ventroflexion.

Generalized weakness in cats can be secondary to neuromuscular diseases: Feline neuromuscular diseases may be classified according to their location as those involving peripheral nerves and/or nerve roots, those involving the neuromuscular junction, and those that involve muscle .

Be aware that cervical ventroflexion in cats have multiple differential diagnosis. It is not pathognomonic of an specific disease but a range of disorders

Which are the diseases you could be looking for?

Organophosphates intoxication
Hypopotasemic myopathy
Thiamine deficiency
Myasthenia gravis

Hypernatrimic myopathy
Ammonium chloride toxicity
Congenital myopathies
Hepatic encephalopathy

Each of these neuromuscular diseases will produce lower motor neuron (LMN) disease, however significant variations in clinical signs may occur.

Peripheral nerve result in varying degrees of paresis, muscle atrophy, reduced propioception and hyporeflexia. See this kitten with a polyneuropathy

Muscle diseases result in varying degrees of paresis, muscle atrophy but normal proprioception and spinal reflexes.

Neuromuscular junction disorders (“junctionopathies”) result in a variety of clinical signs that range from weakness to stiff gait and paresis with normal spinal reflexes and proprioception. Read more about junctionopathies in dogs and cats.

What can we see on this video? We can see weakness! The cat wants to walk, but as soon as he tries a bit, the head is like hanging down and he’s trying to sit all the time. This is exactly how a weak cat will look. The parents will be probably telling you he hasn’t been so active, or wanting to jump that much. He’ll be bright and happy and wanting to play, but tends to just sit and not use the back legs so much