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What is Muscle Contraction Disease?

Muscle contraction disease in cats is known to the veterinary world as “myoclonus”, a neurological disease of the muscles, causing repetitive and rhythmic muscular contractions of one or more groups of muscles. Myoclonus is thought to be caused by abnormal pacemaker activity in the neurons due to infections such as coronavirus meningoencephalitis. Myoclonus can also be congenital, present at the time of birth, causing hypertonicity (spasms) at an early age. The prognosis for congenital myoclonus is rather poor and veterinary consultation is advised for felines suspected of having myoclonus.

Muscle contraction disease in cats is a condition that causes the muscles to contract suddenly without the animal intending to move said muscle. You may notice this involuntary movement in your cat’s legs, abdomen, neck or head. The muscles may contract lengthwise or vertically on the cat’s body. If the disease is affecting the jaw, you may notice what is called a “chewing gum fit” where the rhythmic movements of the jaw resemble that of a person chewing a stick of gum. Certain medications and infections can cause muscle contraction disease, whereas other felines are simply born with the condition.

Muscle Contraction Disease Average Cost

From 480 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Muscle Contraction Disease in Cats

Symptoms of muscle contraction disease in cats are very clear. Cat owners will be able to visibly see the disease causing the muscles of their feline’s legs, abdomen, head, neck or jaw to contract. The muscle contractions of myoclonus are usually short-lived, lasting just a few seconds from the time they started. The involuntary, rhythmic contractions can cause the feline to become unsteady and she may stumble upon walking. It is not uncommon for muscle contraction disease to affect cats while they sleep, abruptly waking the feline. 

Types

  • Nocturnal Myoclonus: Sleep induced involuntary muscle contractions.
  • Congenital Myoclonus: The cat is born with involuntary muscle contractions and the spasms occur for no known reason. 
  • Active Myoclonus: Involuntary muscle contractions are triggered by a cat’s movement or wanting to move. 
  • Stimulus-sensitive myoclonus: Muscles contract due to light, noise, or touch. 
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Causes of Muscle Contraction Disease in Cats

There is no one cause of muscle contraction disease, but rather a group of conditions believed to cause this disease. Viral infections, such as distemper, and bacterial infections affecting the brain, like meningitis, are thought to be the most common causes of myoclonus. Metabolic abnormalities, intoxications, cofactor deficiency, and lesions of the central nervous system have been known to cause muscle contraction disease. Chemotherapy drugs, such as chlorambucil, used to treat leukemia are also believed to cause myoclonus in cats. Lastly, muscle contraction disease can also be congenital, a disease the feline was born with.

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Diagnosis of Muscle Contraction Disease in Cats

Your veterinarian will need to go over any past illnesses, injuries and surgical procedures your cat has had over the course of her entire lifetime. Reviewing her medical history will also help to pinpoint any medications that have been used on your feline that could have caused the muscle contractions. A physical examination, a blood test, and urinalysis will likely be a part of your cat’s diagnostic procedure, as these tests aid in pinpointing abnormalities. An MRI or CT scan is not uncommon in diagnosing muscle contraction disease cases, as the veterinarian will likely want to evaluate the brain. Your veterinarian may also want to evaluate the spinal fluid using a fine aspiration needle, also called a spinal tap. Infection of the spinal cord, such as meningitis, can be detected through evaluation of the spinal fluid.

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Treatment of Muscle Contraction Disease in Cats

The treatment plan for a cat with myoclonus varies from one case to another, as this disease can be caused by underlying health problems or for idiopathic reasons. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to patients with bacterial infections causing the feline to display involuntary contractions, whereas viral infections are treated with fluid therapy and other medications. Inflammatory medications may also be prescribed to those felines experiencing swelling on the brain or spinal column. The most appropriate form of treatment cannot officially be established without the examination of a licensed veterinarian.

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Recovery of Muscle Contraction Disease in Cats

The prognosis for muscle contraction disease caused by an underlying infection or medication use is relatively good. The muscle contractions usually seize or become less frequent after a cat has received veterinary treatment. Felines born with the condition do not have the best long-term prognosis, as there is no definitive treatment or cure for the disease by itself. Your veterinarian may alter your cat’s diet and perhaps suggest supplementation. He or she may also recommend keeping your cat’s stress levels down to reduce the chance of active myoclonus from occurring.

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Muscle Contraction Disease Average Cost

From 480 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$800

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Muscle Contraction Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Fluffy

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Cat

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Tightening

I have a 13 year old female feline. I took her to the vet and they noted her from k-nine was missing, blood work came back looking great and she was over all healthy. I took her in because I feared she had seizures, he ruled those out and gave seizure medicine to try if I wanted and an antibiotic for her. I have noticed the only time she has any issues is when she is cleaning herself. Her muscles almost seize up for 5-10 seconds and she is fine. Tonight it took a few seconds for her back leg to unlock. But she is not dazed out, no drooling or confusion. She is an indoor/outdoor cat, not exposed to anything new, no other cats around, one dog who’s been in home for around 3 years. The only time it happens is when she is bathing herself, across the back side.

Aug. 26, 2018

Fluffy's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Generally I don’t like the use of daily seizure medication unless and animal has a history of regular seizures; the symptoms you’re describing may be just from old age and muscles being stiff or spasming when stretched. I would keep an eye on Fluffy and follow up with your Veterinarian if there is no improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 26, 2018

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Missy

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TORTOISE shell

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Back Problems

My cats back moves when you rub it like the muscles move in like a wave affect from her head to her tail it doesn't seem to bother her and when you pet her he shoulders will twitch

Aug. 21, 2018

Missy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Cats have many nerve endings in their skin, and that may be normal for Missy. If it is something that you have noticed is a new behavior, it would be a good idea to have her examined by a veterinarian, but otherwise it may be quite normal.

Aug. 21, 2018

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Miss Kitty

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Ragdoll

dog-age-icon

19 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Severe Muscle Contractions

My cat started displaying severe muscle contractions two years ago. Sometimes she falls over or off furniture while sleeping, sometimes it occurs when she is walking. It’s as if she suddenly seizes up, contorts, and falls over. I always begin to pet her, gently, massaging her from head to tail, which seems to help her recover more quickly, and calms her. She is now 19 years old. Is this something she will have to live with, and is she suffering?

July 24, 2018

Miss Kitty's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

If these contractions have been going on for two years, it seems that it is not going to get better, and she seems to be living with the condition. Without seeing her, I'm not sure if she is suffering, but if she is eating and drinking and otherwise seems to be acting quite normally, she may be fine with this problem. If you aren't sure, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, and video the episodes for them so they can see her when she does it.

July 24, 2018

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Tyson

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Domestic shorthair

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11 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Tremors
Hiding

Tyson is an 11 month old DSH who up until 4 weeks ago was a perfectly healthy very active kitten. He took a fall off his cat tree 4 weeks ago and since he has been having severe, what looks like, muscle contractions that even throw him backwards sometimes. Our regular vet took xrays and sees nothing obvious that is wrong there. He prescribed Metacam for 3 days. There was a little improvement for a few days but he relapsed and seemed to get worse. More Metacam was prescribed and there was really no improvement this time. We opted to try some accupuncture and there was a small response after the first treatment but he just had a second treatment and there doesn't seem to be any changes. She did also put Tyson on a Homeopathic Remedy mix. Could this be myoclonus and is there any suggestion on what the next step should be. Tyson is a part of the family and we want to do whatever we can to make him comfortable and happy. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you

June 21, 2018

Tyson's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

It might be a good idea to have a referral to an internal medicine specialist, since standard care doesn't seem to be improving Tyson, and he doesn't seem to be improving. They may be able to determine more what is going on, and recommend any therapy that he may need if this is the result of a trauma.

June 21, 2018

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Ophelia

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domestic medium hair

dog-age-icon

4 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Repetitive Chewing Behaviour
Muscle Contractions

My foster kitty has muscle contractions when she lies down to rest or sleep. If I am holding her when this happens it feels as though her muscles are tightening briefly similar to a shiver muscle contraction in humans. She also frequently rhythmically chews with her jaw when there is nothing in her mouth. She will chew for awhile. Pause. Start chewing again. Pause. The blood work said her globulins (sp?) were high but the vets aren’t sure what it is. They suggested focal seizure but it appears to be triggered by movement of the mouth (yawning, starting to eat, rubbing up against something with her cheek). I want to know what it is so we can treat it but also so her new forever family will know what they are dealing with.

May 12, 2018

Ophelia's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

If Ophelia is having focal seizures, she may have a brain abnormality that is causing those signs, or she may have mild epilepsy. Without an MRI, there really isn't any way to determine the cause, and if it is something that is not worsening, it may not be something that needs treatment. Since I cannot examine her, I can't say for sure, but this would be a good question to ask of your veterinarian, as they have examined her and can give you a better idea as to whether it needs treatment.

May 13, 2018

My cat has leg spasms a lot, since she was born. Now she is having bad ones along her spine, she is screaming in pain when it happens. It comes and goes. I’m freaking out

July 22, 2018

Dana

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Whiskers

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Cat

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Abdominal Spasm

My cat went into surgery to have mammary tumors removed. About a month after the surgery she started having muscle spasm in her abdominal area. Vet says maybe nerve damage from the surgery. Anyone have any advise or experience with this?

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Oliver

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Long hair domestic

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Cramps

My cat is 8yrs old and has hyperthyroidism. He bagan having these muscle cramps. His legs will draw up and seem to get stuck. He falls over when this happens as he tries to walk. This happen to his front and back legs. Usually one leg at a time. I've only seem his front legs cramp once together. Sometimes i can rub them out and he is back to normal. These cramps seem to last a few mins. It makes me sad to see this tho.

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Bunny Sunshine

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Maine Coon

dog-age-icon

15 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Strange Jaw Movements After Eating

My 15 yr old pussycat( who isn't very healthy) has recently started having very Weird & Painful- was reading about congenital Myotonia 7 this looking problems with his jaw after eating... our vet said his muscles are all weakening..yes, we know he doesn't walk well at all. We were told to give him Meloxidyl...Which has terrible side effects & is very dangerous for cats...so we are discontinuing it...Help!!! What can we give him??? I was reading about Congenital Myotonia...This sounded like what he has. I also read that maybe he has a lack of potassium...I'm so confused & I LOVE my Bunny Boy sooo much. Searching for any help...Thank You, Lisa

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Oppie

dog-breed-icon

Sphynx

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Balance
Contraction
Paw Stiffness
Paw Paddling

My sphynx is 4 years old and beginning of May 2019 he started having these episodes of muscle contractions where he starts to lose balance then lowers himself to the floor in a stiff motion his paws get contracted, sometimes he paddles his front paws , minutes later it passes and he sits for a while and then back to normal, I have taken him to the vet I even recorded a video, blood work was done, full cardiac workup, the last thing I did was MRI of the brain, and everything was negative. I’m scared to have spinal tap for there are severe side effects. If anyone can recommend where i can share a video would appreciate any answers

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Seongin

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Puspin

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Body Spasm

Whenever my cat rest or sleep, his body twitches. Tonight I tried to put my hand hand under his belly. It's like his muscles contracted for a brief moment like on us humans when we feel cold. However, It wasn't a cold night yet he still experienced body spasm. He has a kidney disease and is due for a blood test tomorrow.Can this be a possible reason for his spasm?

Muscle Contraction Disease Average Cost

From 480 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$800

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