Any change in your pet’s ability to sense its immediate surroundings may occur due to disease in the central nervous system or the peripheral nervous system, said Thomas Schubert, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP, of MSD Veterinary Manual, a trusted source of animal health information for students and practicing veterinarians. Your cat’s brain may be the size of a golf ball, but it is a supercomputer that processes complex functions like the human brain, noted Cornell University: College of Veterinary Medicine, whose objective is to advance the health and well-being of animals and people through research, education, and more. Akin to a human’s nervous system, your feline friend’s nervous system can also be compromised with a number of disorders and diseases— and some of them could be fatal.
Feline Neurological Diseases In A Veterinary Neurology Referral Hospital Population In Japan (2019)
The study population consisted of 308 cases, excluding 32 cases, according to Yuya Nakamoto and colleagues of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC. The remaining 276 cases were composed of 17 different cat breeds that met the study’s inclusion criteria. The lesions were localized in the brain region (63% of cases), in the cervical cord region (5.1%), in the thoracolumbar cord region (12.3%), and in the peripheral neuromuscular region (19.6%). Diseases localized in the brain region comprised of neoplastic cases (31.4%), idiopathic cases (29.1%), inflammatory cases (13%), degenerative cases (7.3%), anomalous cases (6.7%), vascular cases (6.7%), metabolic cases (3.4%), and cases of traumatic diseases (2.2%).
Idiopathic epilepsy was the most diagnosed condition, representing 29.1% of cases followed by intracranial tumor (20.1%), extracranial tumor (8%), and intracranial influence of otitis media/interna (7.4%). Diseases localized in the cervical cord region comprised of vascular cases (57.4%), neoplastic cases (14.2%), and one case each of degenerative, anomalous, inflammatory, and traumatic diseases (7.1%). Disease localized in the thoracumbular cord region consisted of neoplastic cases (26.6%), vascular cases (26.6%), diseases (17.6%), degenerative cases (14.6%), traumatic diseases changes (11.7%), and one case of anomalous disease (2.9%).
Diseases localized in the peripheral neuromuscular region had cases of head-related peripheral nerve diseases (64.8%), limb-related peripheral nerve diseases (18.5%), and muscle diseases (16.7%). Head-related peripheral nerve diseases consisted of inflammatory cases (82.9%) and idiopathic diseases (17.1%). Cases of head-related peripheral nerve diseases include inflammatory cases (82.9%) and cases of idiopathic diseases (17.1%). Muscle cases included cases of inflammatory diseases (33.3%) and one case of a metabolic disease. Five cases were difficult to identify (55.6%), the authors acknowledged.
Facial/vestibular nerve disorder resulting from otitis media/interna and Horner’s syndrome (53.7%) were diagnosed most commonly in this region. The results only documented Japanese data so disease trends and other trends may have a regional and/or national bias. Moreover, bias might also be present since the study was conducted in one facility. Therefore, the authors recommended other researchers to conduct a larger-scale survey involving multiple facilities.
The Components of the Feline Nervous System
The feline nervous system is composed of the central system and the peripheral nervous system. The former includes the brain and spinal cord while the latter consists of the cranial, spinal, and other nerves and muscles. In a healthy cat, the nervous system functions normally to enable and control daily functioning, helping the animal thrive in its environment. These processes are enabled by the transmission of electrical signals that happen in a split second, via the peripheral nervous system, passing through the tissues and all the way to the spinal cord and brain.
The brain interprets the signals and sends “instructions” through the brain stem and spinal cord to the appropriate destination by passing through the peripheral nerves. Many functions are conscious and voluntary such as moving the limps or closing or opening the mouth. Meanwhile, some functions are involuntary and controlled by the automatic nervous system such as regulating the muscles in the digestive tract, lungs, and heart, as well as hormone secretion.
Common Feline Neurological Disorders/Disease
1. Neoplastic Disease
One of the most frequently diagnosed neoplastic disease is meningioma. Meningioma is a type of tumor that manifests in the thin protective tissue or the minges that surrounds the brain. These tumors often affect older cats and are usually benign and well-defined. The expansion of tumors in the brain will put pressure on the brain, resulting in damage. Meningioma can be surgically treated but glioma— another type of brain tumor— may not be possible since it develops in a deeper and occasionally an inaccessible part of the brain.
2. Feline Diabetic Neuropathy
It occurs in cats vulnerable to diabetes and suffers from nerve damage and chronic nerve degeneration due to high blood glucose levels for a long period, stated Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital, a hospital that has been serving the community since 1979. Cats with diabetic neuropathy can exhibit weakness of the hind limbs, difficulty walking and walking on the toes. Diabetic neuropathy can be regulated with medication prescribed to manage diabetes. Blood glucose levels should also be monitored.
Cats with hyperthyroidism may develop certain neurological imbalances, including muscle tremors, fatigue, muscle pain, and ventral neck flexion. Diagnostic tests are performed to rule out underlying complications. Corticosteroids or potassium supplements may be prescribed to address the primary cause.
4. Congenital Disorders
It is a condition affecting the cerebellum— a part of the brain that aids in muscle coordination. Some kittens that are born with feline distemper virus will exhibit poor coordination. There is no cure for congenital disorders, but cats that are afflicted with this condition can live long. Hydrocephalus is another congenital disorder, said Curtis Dewey, DVM, an associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Hydrocephalus causes an abnormal build up of fluid, causing the skull to enlarge and compress the brain. In some cases, the disorder can be successfully treated with surgery to drain the excess fluid from the cat’s brain to the belly. From there, the fluid could be secreted.
Cats with epilepsy suffer from bouts of seizures, albeit in varying intensities. Abnormal nerve function in the brain leads to seizures so cats may collapse, stare blankly, or have uncontrolled movement. Epilepsy is usually manageable when a cat is administrated with anticonvulsant medications each day to prevent seizures from occurring.
The nervous system plays a critical role in maintaining the optimal functioning of vital processes such as muscle coordination. However, aging and trauma can also result in the deterioration of the nervous system.