What are Hyperkinesis?
Cases of hyperkinesis will result in an increase in muscular activity and increased abnormal movements. This will manifest as brief bouts of odd behavior usually only lasting a few minutes. Twitching skin or muscles on the back are characteristic of both hyperkinesia and hyperesthesia. Your veterinarian will be able to clarify the condition based on cause and specific symptoms.
Hyperkinesis, hyperesthesia, rolling skin syndrome and twitchy cat disease are terms used interchangeably to describe similar conditions in cats characterized by abnormal movements and odd behavior. Hyperkinesis specifically describes a condition in which erratic muscle activity occurs. Hyperesthesia, however, describes a condition in which abnormal sensitivity is present, which may result in abnormal muscle movements (hyperkinesis).
Symptoms of Hyperkinesis in Cats
Hyperkinesia in cats is characterized by:
- Increase in muscle activity
- Muscle twitching
- Increased heart rate
- Increased respiration
- Dilated pupils
Other symptoms of hyperkinesia/ hyperesthesia (increased muscle movement/increased sensitivity) include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Personality change
- Biting of tail, back and hind limbs
- Uncontrolled urination
- Excessive grooming
- Skin ripples or rolling skin (on back)
Causes of Hyperkinesis in Cats
True hyperkinesis (not also characterized by hyperesthesia) in cats is likely caused by a neurological or seizure disorder.
Hyperkinesia/ hyperesthesia symptoms can also be caused by:
- Behavioral problems
- Neurosis/nervous disorder
- Skin conditions, fleas, allergies, dermatitis, skin infections
- Environmental stress
- Food allergies
Cats of all ages are affected, although onset usually occurs in mature cats. Purebred cats, especially Siamese, tend to be more susceptible to exhibiting symptoms of hyperkinesia or hyperesthesia.
Other diseases that cause increased muscle activity and bizarre activity include poisoning (mercury) and rabies.
Diagnosis of Hyperkinesis in Cats
A diagnosis of hyperkinesis in your cat will depend heavily on your description of the episodes to your veterinarian. If possible, take a video of your cat during one of their hyperkinesis episodes to show your veterinarian.
Diagnosing hyperkinesis will also be largely based on elimination of other causes of muscle activity such as poisoning, hyperthyroidism, nutritional deficiency or allergy, pain from trauma or arthritis, nervous system trauma, or brain tumor. Blood and urine tests may be ordered to rule out other conditions and check your pet's general health and functioning.
Hyperkinesis that appears largely due to hyperesthesia may be associated with a skin disease. Possible causes such as skin allergy, fleas, fungal infections, or mites that would result in increased sensitivity and movement should be ruled out.
A muscle biopsy to pinpoint muscle disease may be performed.
An MRI may be ordered by your veterinarian to identify neurological problems such as a seizure disorder. If a veterinary neurologist is available, your cat may be referred to them for diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment of Hyperkinesis in Cats
Treatment for hyperkinesis in cats depends on the primary cause and symptoms. Anti-seizure medication will be prescribed for hyperkinesis caused primarily by a seizure disorder.
Anti-anxiety medication may be used for neurotic or anxious cats with hyperkinesia/ hyperesthesia.
Neurological or muscle disease should be treated as appropriate.
Any secondary conditions such as bite wounds or scratches from hyperkinetic episodes should be treated as necessary.
Behavior modification, exercise or diet may also be recommended to improve this condition.
Recovery of Hyperkinesis in Cats
Your cat may be required to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent self-biting until successful treatment is achieved. Complication from infections due to scratching may occur and your pet should be monitored for this and treated as necessary.
Continue anti-seizure or anti-anxiety medication as prescribed by your veterinarian.
Prognosis is usually good for hyperkinesia/hyperesthesia if your pet responds to treatment.
You should also eliminate environmental stressors and provide rest, good diet and exercise for your pet. Maintaining a schedule and feeding at regular intervals may be important. If boredom or lack of exercise were factors in your cat's condition, providing stimulation with cat trees, access to non-adversarial cats and playing with your cat may prove helpful.
Hyperkinesis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
We recently got a Siamese Rescue cat. She has been diagnosed with Hyperkinesis Syndrome. Her first episode was extreme and lasted for 20 hours.Our veterinarian has never worked with this condition before, and is seeking outside help for her treatment. My question is this, is this a lifelong condition? Will she be needing medication the rest of her life? We are on fixed income and are unable to afford life long medication for this cat. We feel terrible. She is a very friendly and sweet girl. Any help you can give us is appreciated. Thank you!
Hyperkinesis may be treatable or manageable depending on the underlying cause; some types caused by neurological injury may not be cured and others may respond well to treatment. Determining the cause will help to determine if there are additional treatments required (one treatment for the hyperkinesis and one treatment for the underlying cause). Dextroamphetamine is usually administered to see if there is a reduction in symptoms as a diagnostic test and may be administered as and when needed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Thank you for your response. We will work with the veterinarian for a short time and we will also give her some time to see if she adjusts to her new home. I did speak with her previous owner and it had been a problem before we adopted her. Had we known, we would never have accepted her. Thank you again.
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