What is Nerve Disorder?
Nerve disorders are disruptions in the function of a feline’s nervous system that can lead to physical and cognitive disorders in cats and can display themselves in different ways. This disruption can manifest itself via malfunctioning motor skills, delayed cognitive ability, and diminished reflexes.
The feline nervous system, which consists of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, transmits electric signals that are essential for the animal to function efficiently in its environment.
Symptoms of Nerve Disorder in Cats
Since the feline's nervous system controls all of its coordinated, conscious, automatic, and digestive responses, the symptoms presented by nerve disorders are varied and may include all of or some of the following:
- Leg paralysis or weakness
- Slow or no reflexes
- Loss of muscle tone/muscle atrophy
- Muscle tremors
Nerve disorders can also affect a feline's sensory capabilities. Symptoms of this would include:
- Poor spatial orientation
- Frequent loss of consciousness
Disorders resulting from a failing autonomic nervous system would present symptoms such as:
- Dry nose and mouth
- Low tear production
- Lower than normal heart rate
- Poor or no anal reflex
Nerve disorders caused by an underactive thyroid gland may present symptoms including:
- Facial paralysis
- Paralysis of the voice box, throat, and esophagus
While there are other symptoms that might be an indication of a feline nerve disorder, the above-mentioned are some of the most common and would merit a visit to the veterinarian for a complete checkup.
Causes of Nerve Disorder in Cats
As uniquely designed as the feline nervous system is, there are factors that can lead to disorders. Four common factors are congenital abnormalities, trauma, tumors, and ear infections.
Most common among these is hydrocephalus, also referred to as water on the brain. Spinal fluid will pool in certain parts of the brain, leading to abnormal physical appearance, abnormal behaviors, as well as seizures. A second congenital abnormality is malformation of nerves and spinal cord segments. This can lead to fecal and urinary incontinence.
If the feline is struck by an automobile or receives trauma, the spinal cord can be damaged and nerves can be torn. Signs of this type of trauma will include paralysis, urination and defecation issues, as well as a limp tail.
Lymphosarcoma is one of the most common forms of cancer that affects a feline's nervous system. This will cause tumors on the brain, spinal cord, and other organs. The prognosis varies based on the type of the tumor, its location, and the health of the cat.
Whether the infection affects the inner ear or the middle ear, it can lead to a ruptured eardrum, spreading infection through the blood.
Diagnosis of Nerve Disorder in Cats
The first step your veterinarian will take is to get an accurate medical history of your feline, as well as do a general physical exam. They will perform a neurological exam designed to examine the cranial nerves and then will also examine your cat's reflexes and entire body.
During the examination of the cranial nerves, the veterinarian may test the mental activity, coordination, and reflexes of the head.
During the evaluation of your feline's gait, they will watch your cat as it runs, moves from side to side, and turns. Weakness, paralysis, stumbling, and loss of coordination will be monitored.
When examining the neck and front legs, the veterinarian may lift the cat's back legs to evaluate its ability to support its weight on the front legs. They may also position the front legs in an abnormal stance to determine how quickly the cat can correct its stance.
During the evaluation of the hind limbs and tail, the veterinarian will check abnormal posture, loss of feeling, hypersensitivity, as well as muscle loss around the torso and hind legs.
Additional tests may include analyzing the cerebrospinal fluid, blood tests, CT scan, and x-rays.
Treatment of Nerve Disorder in Cats
Once a diagnosis has been made, the appropriate therapy can be considered. Most care is given on an outpatient basis. Pharmaceutical options may include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Medication to relieve muscle spasms
Medication may be provided intravenously or orally, depending on the type of injury.
Felines that have brain tumors or head injuries may require cranial surgery. Medications may be used to reduce swelling in these instances.
Nursing care may be provided for paraplegic or quadriplegic animals. This would include manual feeding and manual flexing and massaging of the joints.
Recovery of Nerve Disorder in Cats
It is important to understand that while veterinarians will do everything in their power to help a cat suffering with a nerve disorder to return to a full quality of life, there are some instances in which nerves will continue to deteriorate and the cat’s disease will worsen. Your veterinarian will determine what follow-up care you will need to provide on a case-by-case basis.
It is important that felines diagnosed with congenital nerve disorders not breed. It is advisable to neuter or spay a cat with these types of conditions to prevent accidental breeding.