What is Pain From the Nervous System?
When neuropathic pain occurs, it can affect the body in a variety of ways. Cats often try to hide pain signals, making it likely that the pain has reached a severe level before symptoms become apparent. Any cat exhibiting signs of nerve or other unknown pain should be seen by a veterinary professional.
Pain from the nervous system occurs when one or more portion of the nervous system experiences pain or transmits pain signals to the brain. The condition is also referred to as neuropathic pain or nerve pain. The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, spinal nerves, and numerous nerve endings and receptors throughout the body. It controls all bodily functions.
Symptoms of Pain From the Nervous System in Cats
When a cat experiences nervous system pain, it can result in a wide range of symptoms. Cats may experience behavioral, cognitive, mobility, and other issues. The location, type, and cause of the pain from the nervous system can also result in variations in the observable symptoms.
- Limping or lameness
- Lack of reflex
- Muscle weakness
- Total or partial paralysis
- Shaking, tremors, or skin twitching
- Chewing, pawing, or rubbing a specific area
- Pain-related vocalizations
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Muscle wasting
- Behavior changes
- Dizziness or confusion
- Inability to control bladder
- Urinating or defecating outside of litter box
- Dry nose, mouth, or eyes
- Heart rate changes or irregularities
- Lack of coordination
- Fainting or collapse
There are two types of nervous system pain that can affect cats. The type is determined by which nerves in the body are experiencing pain. The types include:
- Central nervous system pain
- Peripheral nervous system pain
Causes of Pain From the Nervous System in Cats
Pain from the nervous system can be caused by several conditions. Any issue, disease, or condition in the body that impacts the nervous system, brain or spinal cord can result in neuropathic pain. Nerve pain can also be caused by toxins, diseases, and infections. Some common causes of pain from the nervous system in cats include:
- Brain injury or trauma
- Spinal cord compression or injury
- Nerve damage
- Post-amputation or phantom nerve pain
- Certain parasites
- Birth defects or congenital disorders
- Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections
- Poisoning or toxicity
- Metabolic disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Degenerative diseases
- Liver disease
- Kidney failure
- Thyroid issues
Diagnosis of Pain From the Nervous System in Cats
Diagnosing pain from the nervous system can be a difficult task and will require numerous diagnostic techniques. It may be challenging to identify if the pain is from the nervous system or another issue. It can also be difficult to determine the underlying cause of neuropathic pain. Many of the diagnostic techniques will be used to rule out or identify specific potential causes. Your veterinarian will begin with standard diagnostic procedures, including discussing your pet’s medical history, conducting a full physical and neurological examination, and reviewing the cat’s symptoms. Blood and urine samples will also likely be collected and submitted for laboratory analysis, including a complete blood count, biochemistry and electrolyte panels, and urinalysis. Blood and urine cultures for infection and glucose testing to confirm or rule out diabetes will also be conducted on your pet’s samples.
If blood and urine testing do not identify an obvious cause of the cat’s nerve pain, additional methods may be used. X-rays or other imaging techniques are able to look at the animal’s brain, spine, and any areas of the body where pain is present. This can identify internal injuries or growths that are resulting in nervous system pain. Electromyography is another common diagnostic technique when neuropathic pain is involved. It measures the flow of electrical signals in the body and can aid in identifying nerve issues. In some cases, a spinal tap or tissue biopsy may also be needed.
Treatment of Pain From the Nervous System in Cats
The treatment or therapies prescribed by your veterinarian will depend greatly on the underlying cause of your pet’s symptoms. In many cases, treatment will focus primarily on the management of symptoms as it can be difficult to diagnose the exact cause of nerve pain. Common treatments for pain from the nervous system in cats include:
NSAID or Analgesic Pain Relievers
Medication to reduce pain can help reduce the cat’s discomfort and may be all that is necessary to treat your pet if the cause is a temporary condition. There is a low to moderate risk associated with pain medications. It is important to ensure proper dosing to reduce the risk.
If swelling, inflammation, or an inflammatory condition is contributing to nerve pain, an anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed. Similar to pain relievers, risk is reduced by ensuring a proper dosage for your cat’s size.
To reduce the effects of seizures, tremors, and uncontrolled trembling, an anti-seizure medication may be prescribed. If a seizure condition is causing the animal’s nerve pain, this treatment may continue on a long-term basis. Again, proper dosing is important.
Fluid or Oxygen Therapy
Intravenous fluids or oxygen are other common therapies that may be used during your pet’s treatment. This is especially important with symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, or paralysis.
Recovery of Pain From the Nervous System in Cats
Your cat’s prognosis will depend on the underlying cause of neuropathic pain and the success of the prescribed treatments. If pain is very severe or difficult to treat, the prognosis may be poor. Even with a fair to good prognosis, long-term treatments may be prescribed. This could include continued use of medications and temporary or permanent dietary changes. Be sure to follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions, including proper dosing of medications, changes to diet or lifestyle, and returning for any requested follow-up appointments.