Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy


or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

PetMD Seal

Nerve/Muscle Disorder in Cats

Myasthenia Gravis in Cats

 

A disorder of signal transmission between the nerves and muscles (known as neuromuscular transmission), and characterized by muscular weakness and excessive fatigue, is clinically known as myasthenia gravis. The disorder is congenital (present at birth) and familial (runs in families or lines).

 

It can also be acquired (not inherited, but present later in life/after birth), but as with other autoimmune diseases, it requires the appropriate genetic background for the disease to occur. Multiple factors are involved, including environmental, infectious, and hormonal influences. Acquired forms are known to affect Abyssinian and Somali breeds.

 

The congenital form becomes apparent at 6-8 weeks of age. The acquired form has a bimodal age of onset. Either at 1-4 years of age, or 9-13 years of age. There may be a slight susceptibility for females in the young age group, but none in the old age group.

 

Symptoms and Types

 

The acquired form may have several clinical presentations, ranging from localized involvement of the esophagus' muscles, the muscles of the throat, the muscles adjacent to the eye, and acute generalized collapse.

 

Any cat with acquired enlargement of the esophagus, loss of normal reflexes, or a mass in the front central area of the chest should be evaluated for myasthenia gravis. Regurgitation is common, but it is important to first differentiate it from vomiting.

 

Physical findings

  • Voice change
  • Exercise-related weakness
  • Progressive weakness
  • Fatigue or cramping with mild exercise
  • Acute collapse
  • Loss of muscle mass usually not found
  • Sleeps with eyes open
  • May look normal when at rest
  • Excessive drooling, repeated attempts at swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing with aspiration pneumonia
  • Abnormal position of the neck

 

Subtle nervous system findings

  • Decreased or absent blink reflex
  • May note a poor or absent gag reflex
  • Spinal reflexes are usually normal but may fatigue

 

Risk Factors

  • Appropriate genetic background.
  • Tumor or cancer - particularly thymus tumor
  • Vaccination can exacerbate active myasthenia gravis
  • Methimazole (antithyroid drug) treatment may result in reversible disease
  • Intact (non-neutered) female

 

Causes

 

  • Congenital (present at birth)
  • Immune-mediated disease
  • Secondary to cancer

 

 

 

Diagnosis

 

There are other disorders of neuromuscular transmission, such as tick paralysis, that may have the same symptoms, so your veterinarian will want to rule them out before coming to a conclusion about the diagnosis. To do that, he will need a careful history, thorough physical and neurologic examinations, and specialized laboratory testing.

 

A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Your veterinarian may also check for such things as thyroid functioning. Diagnostic imaging will include chest X-rays to look for an enlarged esophagus and aspiration pneumonia, and an ultrasound-guided exploration of the chest, to look for a mass. If a mass is found, a biopsy will need to be performed to confirm whether the growth is cancerous.

 

Treatment

 

Your cat will be hospitalized until adequate dosages of drugs achieve the desired effect. If your cat has aspiration pneumonia, it may require intensive care in a hospital setting. Nutritional maintenance with a feeding tube and multiple feedings of a high-caloric diet will be necessary if the cat is unable to eat or drink without significant regurgitation. Oxygen therapy, intensive antibiotic therapy, intravenous fluid therapy, and supportive care are generally required for aspiration pneumonia. If a tumor is found during exploration, surgery will be required.

 

Living and Management

 

You should see a return of muscle strength once the appropriate treatment has been found. Your veterinarian will want to perform chest X-rays every 4-6 weeks for resolution of the enlarged esophagus. Your doctor will also do follow-up blood tests every 6-8 weeks until your cat’s antibodies have decreased to normal ranges.

 

 

Related Articles

Narcolepsy and Cataplexy in Cats
Narcolepsy and cataplexy, disorders that affect the way an animal is able to physically...
READ MORE
Brain Tissue Undervelopment in Cats
Cerebellar hypoplasia occurs when parts of the cerebellum - a large portion of the...
READ MORE
Narrowing of Vertebral Canal in Cats
Cauda Equina Syndrome involves narrowing of vertebral canal which results in compression...
READ MORE
  • Lifetime Credits:
  • Today's Credits:
Hurry Before All Seats are Taken!
Enroll
Be an A++ Pet Parent! Take fun & free courses to earn badges & certifications. Choose a course»
Search cat Articles

 

 

PETMD POLL

What do you use to prevent ticks from feeding on your pet?

Around the Web
MORE FROM PETMD.COM