Dysmetria in Cats
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Dysmetria in Cats

Cats
Health & Safety

Research has established there are three types of ataxia that can affect cats and all three negatively conditions can seriously impact a cat’s move coordination and the way they move. With this said, only two of them affect the movement in a cat's head and neck. The term ataxia describes sensory dysfunction which negatively impacts a cat's coordination and this in turn can seriously affect their balance. With dysmetria, a kitten or cat has a wobbly gait and they lack coordination.

The three types of the condition are as follows:

  • Sensory - also referred to as proprioceptive
  • Vestibular - this type of ataxia affects a cat's head and neck
  • Cerebellar - this type of ataxia affects a cat's head and neck

Sensory Ataxia Explained

When cats suffer from sensory ataxia it develops in their spinal cord which becomes compressed. The most common signs of there being something wrong with a cat when they are suffering from this type of ataxia are typically as follows:

  • Problems placing feet in the right place
  • Weakness - as their condition slowly gets progressively worse

The condition can take hold in various parts of a cat's body which includes the following:

  • Spinal cord
  • Brain stem which is the lower area of the brain found nearest to the neck
  • Cerebral regions

Symptoms Associated with the Condition

Cats suffering from the condition can show various signs of there being something wrong and this includes the following symptoms:

  • A weakness in their legs - one or more of their legs might be affected
  • Head tilt usually to one side or the other
  • Difficulty hearing - not responding when they are called
  • Swaying and stumbling
  • Persistently tired
  • A change in behaviour
  • Strange eye movements
  • Loss of appetite

The Causes

As previously mentioned there are various reasons why a cat might develop the condition which could include the following:

  • Neurological
  • Cerebellar

When cats develop the condition as a degenerative disorder, the causes are typically as follows:

  • Premature loss of cerebellum function which is referred to as cerebellar abiotrophy or cerebellar cortical abiotrophy
  • When cats develop the condition for reasons other than those commonly diagnosed, studies suggest this could be because of the following conditions:
  • As a secondary health issue caused by an infection that kittens developed before or just after birth which includes a condition known as panleukopenia otherwise known as feline distemper
  • Because a cyst has developed close to the fourth ventricle of the heart
  • Cancer
  • Feline infectious peritonitis – FIB
  • Immune-mediated inflammatory disorders
  • Toxins

When cats develop the vestibular form of the condition which attacks their central nervous system, the causes could be as follows:

  • Feline infectious peritonitis - FIB
  • Rickettsiosis (flea-borne)
  • Inflammatory disorders
  • Immune-mediated disorders
  • Toxins

When the condition is vestibular, a cat's peripheral nervous system is negatively impacted which could be for the following reasons:

  • Problems with the middle ear
  • A fungal infection
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Cancer
  • Trauma
  • Spinal cord issues which includes degeneration of nerve roots
  • Unknown causes

When the condition is vascular, a cat's nervous system does not receive the correct amount of blood which could be due to some sort of blockage or blood clot. Other reasons which are not typical of the condition could include the following:

  • Abnormalities in spinal cord and vertebrae
  • Cyst on spine
  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Trauma
  • Metabolic issues
  • Anaemia
  • Low potassium and blood sugar levels

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would need to have a cat's full medical history and they would ideally need to know how any symptoms first manifested themselves or whether an incident could have caused their symptoms. The sort of tests a vet would typically recommend carrying out could include the following:

  • A blood chemical profile
  • A complete blood count
  • A urinalysis
  • An electrolyte panel
  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • An abdominal ultrasound
  • A sample of cerebrospinal fluid - should the vet suspect a cat's nervous system is involved

Treatment Options

Unless a cat's condition is severe, a vet would be able to treat them as an outpatient. However, should they be suffering from a more serious and therefore life-threatening form of the condition, a cat would need to be hospitalised so they can be closely monitored. Treatments would depend on the severity and underlying causes of the problem. Once a cat is allowed home, they need to be kept as quiet as possible and their movements must be restricted especially if the vet suspects any spinal cord issues. Should a cat continue to show signs of instability and they still lose their balance, it is essential for them to be taken back to the vet so their condition can be reassessed sooner rather than later.

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