Ataxia in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Ataxia in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Ataxia in cats is not a pathology but a condition characterized by a loss of balance and coordination disorders. Ataxia can be more or less severe. It considerably harms the well-being of the cat. This disorder can have several origins and can sometimes even be treated. How to identify ataxia? What are the causes ? How to treat loss of balance in cats? Here is everything you need to know about ataxia thanks to our file.

What is ataxia in cats?

Whether it affects humans, dogs or cats, ataxia is a coordination disorder that manifests itself in a loss of balance and sometimes falls. In the vast majority of cases, ataxia is a symptom of a neurological pathology. It is caused by a failure in:

    • of the brain,
    • spinal cord,
    • of the inner ear.

The severity of ataxia is highly variable. Sometimes coordination problems disappear after a few days. In other cases, a visit to the veterinarian is necessary to obtain drug treatment or to schedule a surgical intervention. Sometimes ataxia cannot be treated. In this case, your cat will have to learn to live with it.

The different types of ataxia in cats

There is not one ataxia but several. All have different origins. Here are the 3 types of ataxia that can be found in cats.

vestibular ataxia

Vestibular ataxia is caused by a failure in the vestibular system. The latter consists of several organs including the inner ear and the vestibular nucleus which is placed in the brainstem. Vestibular ataxia can be peripheral. This is the case when the dysfunction is located in the inner ear, which plays a major role in balance. Vestibular ataxia can also be idiopathic. This means that the inner ear has simply stopped working. Finally, when vestibular ataxia is central, the inner ear sends the correct information to the brain, but the vestibular nucleus is unable to process it correctly.

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spinal ataxia

Spinal cord ataxia is caused by damage to the spinal cord. The transmission of information between the brain and the nervous system is no longer done correctly. The cat has a staggering gait and a more or less significant weakness in the legs.

Cerebellar ataxia

Cerebellar ataxia is the third and last type of ataxia. It is caused by a failure of the cerebellum. In this case, the synchronization and coordination of movements are impacted. The causes of cerebellar ataxia are multiple. It can be a tumour, trauma or infection.

The causes of ataxia in cats

There are different forms of ataxia but also different causes. As we saw earlier, ataxia can be caused by dysfunction of the brain, spinal cord, or inner ear.

Among the causes of ataxia are:

    • idiopathic ataxia which occurs when the inner ear stops working
    • trauma (accidents, falls, etc.) that damage the nervous system,
    • cerebrovascular accident (CVA) which occurs when blood circulation stops in an area of ​​the brain,
    • infections that can affect the nervous system,
    • otitis which when poorly treated can lead to ataxia,
    • the tumor which can lead to ataxia if it is located in the brain or spinal cord.
    • metabolic disorders that lead to spinal ataxia,
    • poisoning which can cause neurological disorders and therefore ataxia.

Among the causes of ataxia there are also congenital diseases. These are rarer but should not be overlooked. Central axonopathy is one of these pathologies. It is characterized by coordination disorders. Some breeds are more affected than others. This is particularly the case of the Sacred of Burma. If you have one, the vet will tell you how to identify ataxia.

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Symptoms of ataxia

Ataxia results in a loss of balance. The symptoms are many! They should alert you. Here is a non-exhaustive list of signs to look out for.

    • Gait different, unsteady and shaky
    • Imbalance
    • Clumsiness (walking and jumping)
    • Loss of balance
    • Falls
    • Weakness in the front or back legs
    • Sedentary lifestyle
    • Afraid to move
    • tilting head
    • Tremors
    • Vomiting
    • Meow
    • Stress
    • Aggressiveness

In case of ataxia, the malaise in cats is generalized. Your pet is not feeling well and it shows. It is important to quickly make an appointment with your veterinarian to identify the cause of the ataxia and measure its severity.

The causes of ataxia are diverse and the diagnosis can be difficult to make. The veterinarian will observe the cat and ask you about the signs noticed as well as the general attitude of the cat.

He can then do some tests including:

    • a blood test to detect a viral or bacterial infection,
    • an imaging examination (X-ray, MRI or scanner) to locate a possible tumour,
    • collection of cerebrospinal fluid.

How to treat ataxia in cats?

Each type of ataxia has its treatment. The goal is to relieve the cat. Also, depending on the symptoms and causes of ataxia, the veterinarian will suggest:

    • anti-emetics so that the cat feels better and can eat and drink as it wishes,
    • antibiotics to fight an infection,
    • surgery to remove a tumour.

The veterinarian will take into account the state of health of the feline to propose a treatment. Sometimes, if the animal is too old, anesthesia is not advised. The cat must therefore learn to live with it. In any case, we recommend that you react quickly!

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How to help a cat in case of ataxia?

Whether temporary or not, ataxia is detrimental to the daily well-being of cats. But you can relieve it. To do this, you must ensure that the environment in which the cat evolves is secure. Do not hesitate to help your cat to move. Regularly, you can take him near his bowls so that he can feed and hydrate himself. In the event of ataxia, uncleanliness may be present. Choose open litter boxes and be patient. Reassure your cat and cuddle it! He is going through a difficult time, you must try to relieve him.

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