Maggie is a five year old cat and a very much loved member of her family. She was known on the odd occasion to let herself into the garage via a quick dash under the roller door as it was closing. She would then meow to let her family know she was there and she would be let inside. One night, like any other night, Maggie’s family came home, parked the car in the garage and shut the automatic roller door behind them. After a short time, they heard a faint meow and went to the garage to let Maggie in. But Maggie did not appear. Instead, Maggie was found trapped and unable to move beneath the roller door.
The roller door had pinned Maggie to the ground across her lower back and her legs were splayed out like a frog behind her. Maggie’s quick-thinking owner pushed the roller door button to release her. But Maggie did not move her back legs, and when she was gently carried inside she wet herself. Her owners then headed straight to the Animal Emergency Centre with Maggie.
On arrival at the Animal Emergency Centre, Maggie’s condition had not improved. She was in shock, cold and unable to move or feel her back legs and her tail was floppy; she appeared to be paraplegic. Maggie experienced pain across her lower back (the lumbosacral spine) and had a black mark on her fur across this area from the roller door. A pain relief injection of methadone was immediately given, and Maggie was put on a drip of intravenous fluids and placed in a humidicrib to provide warmth and oxygen. Our veterinarian’s concerns were that she may have fractured her spine or pelvis. And if so, would her condition be permanent and had she sustained any internal injuries.
Maggie’s owners were given the news that she may have permanent neurological damage to her spinal cord, in particular the sacral nerves. The sacral nerves are important for movement of the back legs and tail, but also for bowel and bladder control; it was possible that Maggie may be permanently incontinent. There was also the possibility that she may have fractures of her pelvis or dislocations of her hips. Fortunately, Maggie’s owners were able to commit to the possible weeks to months of at home nursing care that may be required, therefore further diagnostic tests and treatments were pursued.
An abdominal ultrasound showed no internal injuries to Maggie’s abdomen, and x-rays of her pelvis and back legs did not show any fractures or dislocations. Over the course of the evening Maggie started to improve! She started to move her back legs a little and flick the tip of her tail. By the morning Maggie was eating her breakfast, purring, and could crouch in her back legs, but she was still unable to walk. An anti-inflammatory injection was given to help improve her rate of recovery. Maggie was then transferred to her family veterinarian that day for further monitoring as she was stable and safe to travel. She continued to improve throughout the day and she was discharged home that afternoon for her family to care for her while she was still recovering.
Under the watchful eye of her family, Maggie went on to gain almost normal function of her back legs and is able to toilet normally. She is able to walk normally and jump onto the couch. Her accident has left her unable to jump onto higher benches or beds, but it is hoped that over time she will regain this ability.
Unfortunately, not all stories of pets being trapped under garage doors end quite so happily. Please monitor and be aware of where your pets are whenever a risk might exist to their safety. If your pet is likely to be around when the garage door is closing or has a habit of slipping in like Maggie did, it is advisable to watch the door closing until complete to try and avoid any accidents involving your pets. Life-threatening and irreversible injuries can result from pets being trapped beneath garage doors. Thankfully, this was not the case for Maggie; she is one lucky pussy cat!