Loss of Gait in Cats

By June 22 | See Comments

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There are three types of clinical ataxia – vestibular, sensory and cerebellar. All three of them could lead to limb incoordination, but cerebellar and vestibular ataxia can also produce changes in neck and head movement. Ataxia is related to sensory dysfunction and produces a loss of coordination of the head, limbs and trunk.Sensory ataxia results from the compression of the spinal cord. One of the most common outward symptoms of the condition includes misplacing of the feet, accompanied by progressive weakness. It can occur with brain stem, spinal cord and cerebral locations of the lesions.The vestibulocochlear nerve is responsible for carrying information about balance from the inner ear all the way to the brain. If it is damaged, it can cause changes in the neck and head position and your cat might feel a false sense of movement and will even show signs of hearing trouble.The outward symptoms include tipping, leaning, rolling over or falling. Main vestibular signs include changing eye movements, weakness in the legs, sensory deficits, cranial nerve signs, stupor, drowsiness and coma. Peripheral signs do not include any change in the mental status, sensory deficits, vertical movements of the eye or weakness in the legs.Cerebellar ataxia is often accompanied by uncoordinated limb, neck and head activity, taking uneven steps, head and body tremors and swaying of the torso. The motor activity and strength preservation are inadequate.

Symptoms
  • Limb weakness
  • Tilting of the head to one side
  • Hearing troubles
  • Tipping over, stumbling, swaying
  • Stupor or excessive drowsiness
  • Behavioral changes
  • Peculiar eye movements – might be due to vertigo or a false sense of movement
  • Appetite loss
Causes
  1. Neurologicalo Degenerative (abiotrophy – premature loss of cerebellum function)o Cerebellaro Anomalous – secondary development to the panleukopenia virus, cyst near the fourth ventricleo Cancero Inflammatory, immune mediated, unknown causeso Infectiouso Toxic
  2. Vestibular – CNS (Central Nervous System)o Infectious – ricketssial disease, feline infectious peritonitiso Inflammatory or immune mediatedo Toxic
  3. Vestibular – peripheral systemo Infectious – Middle ear or fungalo Unknown diseaseso Cancero Metabolico Traumatic
  4. Spinal cordo Degeneration of the spinal cord and nerve rootso Vascular (loss of blood to the cat’s nervous system due to a clot)o Anomalous – spinal cyst or malformationo Infectiouso Cancero Traumatic
  5. Metabolico Electrolyte disturbanceo Anemia
Diagnosis

Your vet will need a thorough history of your cat’s health, symptoms and possible incidents that could have preceded the condition. Your vet will order all the standard tests, including a CBC, a blood chemical profile, an electrolyte panel and urinalysis. Imaging might be needed to determine if the disease has affected the cerebellum, spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. Abdominal and chest X-rays might be needed to determine if there is a systemic infection or cancer.

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