What is Brain Cell Degeneration ?
Neuroaxonal dystrophy is the scientific name for a group of inherited abiotrophies that can cause brain degeneration in felines. This term is used to describe the degeneration of brain cells that cause a loss of function in your cat. These conditions can appear without warning and have no identifiable cause.
Your cat’s brain is a complex organ that is responsible for many functions, including behavior. While most cats are healthy, some develop conditions that affect the brain in a negative way. Some of these conditions are minor and some are irreversible. Brain cell degeneration in cats can be a devastating diagnosis for cat owners.
Symptoms of Brain Cell Degeneration in Cats
The symptoms associated with brain cell degeneration in cats depend largely on the cause. Some of the most commonly seen symptoms include:
- Uncoordinated movements
- Swaying back and forth
- Unusual gait when walking
- Tilting of the head
- Posturing of the head
- Rigid front legs and flexed hind legs
- Wandering away far from home
- Staring into space
- Disrupted sleep
- Not using the litter box
- No interest in food or water
- Making loud noises for no apparent reason, often during the night
There are several different types of brain cell degeneration disorders that can affect your cat. A few of the most common are:
- Cognitive disease
- Viral infections
- Inherited conditions of unknown origin
Causes of Brain Cell Degeneration in Cats
In many cases, the cause of your cat’s brain dysfunction is unknown. However, some cats exhibit behaviors that are specific to certain conditions. Some of the most commonly diagnosed brain disorders in cats include:
- Infection of the Panleukopenia virus while still in the mother’s womb
- Advancing age; most common in cats over 10 years of age
- Kidney failure
- Neurological disorders
- Advanced periodontal disease
- Congenital brain abnormality
Diagnosis of Brain Cell Degeneration in Cats
Your veterinarian will go through a variety of steps to diagnose your cat’s condition. He will begin by taking a complete and detailed history of your cat’s health. Be sure to include any information that will assist your doctor in obtaining an accurate diagnosis. This includes unusual birth history, trauma suffered or pre-existing conditions diagnosed by another veterinarian.
After taking your cat’s history, your doctor will examine your cat in order to observe his behavior. He is looking for unusual gait patterns, abnormality in reflexes, vocal issues, cognitive awareness and head tilt. Your doctor may also draw blood in order to run laboratory tests including a complete biochemistry profile, blood glucose test and CBC. In addition, your doctor may take a urine sample to test for infections of the urinary tract.
Doctors typically take X-rays of the brain, to determine if a tumor could be responsible for your cat’s symptoms. If doctors want a more detailed view of your cat’s brain, a CT scan or MRI may be ordered. These tests are typically done at a special facility. If these tests come back normal, a spinal tap may be performed so your doctor can look at the spinal fluid. Abnormalities in the fluid of the spine could indicate an infection such as meningitis or encephalitis.
Treatment of Brain Cell Degeneration in Cats
In most cases of brain cell degeneration in cats, there is no curative treatment. Doctors often prescribe medications to help control symptoms if possible. This may include prescribing anti-anxiety medicines or prescribing a specific diet to ward off the effects of aging. If infection is present, your doctor may try a course of antibiotics. Some cats may benefit from an evaluation by an animal behaviorist or veterinary psychologist. These professionals can recommend things you can do at home to help your cat. Some suggestions may include avoiding stressful situations and keeping your cat’s litter box within easy access. It is often simply aging that cause brain cell degeneration in cats and there is no treatment for this condition. When this is the case, keeping your cat comfortable and stress-free is the best way to help him cope. As his symptoms worsen, it may be necessary to take steps to reduce the likelihood of falls. If you have a pool be sure to restrict access to avoid drowning. Those who have cats with these symptoms should never keep windows or doors open to prevent falls or wandering away.
Recovery of Brain Cell Degeneration in Cats
Since most cases of brain cell degeneration are largely untreatable, there is no known recovery time. These types of disorders are degenerative, which mean they worsen progressively over time. And have no known cure. It is impossible to know just how long your cat will take to worsen. It may be months or even years before symptoms cause a serious loss of function. Many cats live to be 18 or 20 years old and only have symptoms for a short period of time.