What are Brain Disorders?
Veterinarians classify brain disorders in cats as neurological conditions. When a neurological problem exists, your cat may have difficulty sensing the environment around him. These conditions can be acquired from traumatic injury, infections, or they can be present from birth.
Brain disorders in cats are neurological conditions that can have a variety of causes. Your cat’s nervous system is complex, consisting of the brain and spinal cord as well as the peripheral nervous system. There are a variety of neurological disorders that can affect your cat’s brain. While some disorders cause minor symptoms, others can have serious consequences to your cat’s health.
Symptoms of Brain Disorders in Cats
The symptoms experienced depend on the cause of the condition. The most common symptoms of brain disorders include:
- Loss of balance
- Lack of coordination
- Hyperactive reflexes
- Walking in circles
- Loss of sense of smell
There are several different types of neurological disorders that can occur in cats. Below are some of the most common that affect domestic cats:
- Infections caused by viruses or bacteria
- Metabolic disorders
- Tumors in the brain or nervous system
- Injury from chemical poisoning
- Effects of insect bites, snake venom, and ticks
- Traumatic injuries such as being struck by a car
Causes of Brain Disorders in Cats
The causes of neurological disorders can vary. Here are some of the most common:
- Inflammation in the brain caused by infectious diseases such as meningitis or encephalitis
- Viral infections such as rabies, a condition that is fatal
- Birth Defects
- Neoplastic disease causing tumors or growths in the brain
- Progressive degenerative disorders caused by advancing age
Diagnosis of Brain Disorders in Cats
In order to diagnose your cat’s brain disorder, your veterinarian may run a battery of tests. During the visit, it is important to relay as much information regarding your cat’s behavior to your doctor. After taking a brief history, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination. He will look at your cat’s gait, behavior, posture, and motor function. In addition, a neurological examination may be performed which examines your cat’s motor functions in detail. Nerve function, characteristics of your cat’s walk and tail motions are part of this exam.
The cranial nerves are also examined to determine the extent of your cat’s issues. Some things looked at during this examination are eye movements, control of facial muscles, balance, chewing, hearing and vocal sounds.
Blood tests are typically ordered when a brain disorder is suspected. After a blood draw, your veterinarian will send the sample to a laboratory for evaluation. He is looking for signs of metabolic conditions, infections or autoimmune diseases.
X-rays are usually the next step in the quest for a diagnosis. These can give the veterinarian a good look at the structure of the brain. He will be looking for tumors, fractures or signs of infection in the brain. Doctors may also order more detailed imaging tests such as a CT scan or an MRI. These provide a more in-depth view of your cat’s brain. A CT scan may be performed with contrast dye, which makes abnormalities easier to see.
Tests to examine the fluid around the spine are not the first to be performed, but they may be done if a diagnosis proves elusive. The fluid is collected during a needle puncture of the spine, known as a spinal tap. The extracted fluid is tested for cancer, infection, tumors, fungal infections and brain abscesses.
Electroencephalograms are not commonly used to diagnose brain disorders in cats. However, they may be used to record the electrical output of your cat’s brain. It can also reveal any damage done from seizures.
Treatment of Brain Disorders in Cats
The treatment of brain disorders depends largely on the cause of symptoms. Here are some of the most common treatments used in veterinary medicine today:
Antibiotics are often given to cats suspected of having infections such as meningitis or MRSA. These drugs work to eliminate the source of the infection to relieve symptoms. Anticonvulsants are often used in cats with seizure disorders. These medications can greatly reduce the amount of seizure activity in some cats.
If your cat has a tumor, your veterinarian may perform surgery to remove it. Some veterinarians refer these cases to a specialty clinic for treatment.
In some cases, cats have conditions that are potentially fatal and untreatable. In these instances, doctors administer IV fluids and medications to keep the cat comfortable. Severe cases may require euthanasia.
Recovery of Brain Disorders in Cats
The recovery of cats being treated for brain disorders depends on the cause and severity of symptoms. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions to the letter. Report any changes in behavior as soon as possible. This is especially important if your cat stops eating or urinating, or becomes lethargic.