On some occasion you may have seen a cat that loses its balance when walking, with a strange gait, hesitant, unstable, that wobbles and falls, with a gait like a “drunk” . This can happen because you have something known as ataxia .
This condition can be defined as the lack of coordination and precision in an animal’s movements . It affects the sense of movement and balance, the position of the body, especially the limbs and head, and the stability of the cat that suffers it.
Ataxia is normally reserved to describe problems in cats with neurological damage , to differentiate them from other deficiencies in gait in cats due to non-neurological disorders.
What is ataxia in cats?
Ataxia itself is a symptom of an underlying disorder that adversely affects the cat’s movement. There are a large number of possible disorders that can lead to unbalanced walking. Both the duration of the loss of control and the severity of the instability can vary, depending on what is causing the problem.
Ataxia can be a symptom of something harmless or of a life-threatening illness. When a cat experiences a period of limited or no muscle coordination, the condition is called “ataxia.”
Ataxia is the most common neurological problem found in cats.
Symptoms of Ataxia in Cats
Symptoms of ataxia can be:
- Head tilted, or head spasms.
- Continuous stumbling.
- Weak hind legs of the cat.
- Hearing problems
- Lethargy or excessive stupor.
- Loss of appetite
- Abnormal eye movements
- Changes in your usual behavior.
Types of feline ataxia
- Cerebellar ataxia
Cerebellar ataxia affects the part of the brain responsible for balance and coordination. This lack of control often appears from birth, but can also be caused by brain damage or inflammation.
- Vestibular ataxia
It is related to the function of the inner ear. The nerves that surround the inner ear send information to the brain to maintain balance. Endolymphatic fluid (the fluid in the membranes of the inner ear) is believed to become abnormal and irritate the receptors causing inflammation.
- Sensitive ataxia
This condition often involves damaged nerves or compression of the spinal cord. This inhibits the cat’s proprioception (spatial self-awareness).
Causes of ataxia in cats
A large number of diseases or events can cause the development of ataxia in cats. The causes are different depending on the type of ataxia:
- Causes in the Cerebellar type
- Brain bleeding from stroke or blunt trauma.
- Decreased blood supply to the brain.
- Hydrocephalus (water on the brain).
- Parasitic infection (toxoplasmosis).
- Viral infection.
- Vitamin E deficiency.
- Genetic defects
- Exposure to toxins before birth.
- Causes in the vestibular type
- Exposure to toxins.
- Bacterial or fungal ear infection.
- Congenital disorders.
- Polyps in the nasal cavity or soft palate.
- Bone cancer near the vestibular nerves.
- Causes in the sensitive type
- Spinal trauma
- Tumor in the spine.
- Spinal stroke.
- Bacterial infection.
- Metabolic disorders
Diagnosis of ataxia in cats
You will need to provide the vet with your cat’s complete medical history to aid in the diagnosis. You will inform him about the medications your cat takes and possible exposure to toxins, and the diet that you provide. If there is severe trauma, the most threatening injuries will be addressed and treated first.
The vet will note all the symptoms and try to link them to the closest adjustment disorder. A blood test will be necessary, including a complete blood count, a biochemical profile, and a urinalysis.
An otoscopic examination of the middle ear may be performed to detect the presence of polyps, infections, or foreign objects. A cerebrospinal puncture may also be done. A middle ear CT scan can provide information about the parts that are not visible. X-rays or ultrasounds may be needed to look for brain or spinal tumors or abnormal fluid deposits. Parasites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses must also be tested.
How ataxia is treated in cats
The treatment of ataxia depends on the diagnosis and underlying cause of the problem. Then I indicate you.
Many injuries and infections require supportive care to restore stability to the cat. This often involves the administration of intravenous fluids, feeding tubes, and maintaining the cat’s general comfort.
If there is a bacterial infection or wounds, an antibiotic may be prescribed. The antibiotic is usually needed for one to four weeks.
If tumors or polyps are found to be the cause of ataxia, they must be surgically removed. This procedure requires the use of a general anesthetic.
Certain conditions such as diabetes and mild cases of hydrocephalus can improve with medication. These generally do not cure the condition, but they do provide symptom relief and a better quality of life for the cat.
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