Cause of ataxia/stumbling/staggering in senior cat?

justplainheidi

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My girl Winnie is 17 now and has been in really good health for quite some time. We noticed some weight loss and an unusual amount of friendless but it wasn't too concerning until the day she started staggering around like a drunken sailor. We immediately took her to our vet where she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and placed on Methimazole 2.5 mg/2x per day. Her symptoms seemed to improve rather quickly and all was well until we finished the first round of pills and delayed in refilling them. She behaved normally for a couple of weeks and then suddenly, she was walking funny so we got her pills refilled that day. Once again, symptoms disappeared quickly and she seemed better again. This morning my husband noticed she was moving slower than usual and avoiding some jumps she usually makes pretty easily. It occurred to me that I got distracted last night and forgot to pill her before bed. I gave her today's dose about the usual time but her crab walking got worse throughout the day. We called our vet but they had no availability and with tomorrow being Thanksgiving, recommended we visit an emergency vet. After 4.5 hours and hundreds of dollars, we still don't have any idea what's wrong.

The only number they were concerned with tonight was her TH4. Normal range is .8 - 4.7 and hers was 7.8 (after getting both doses of her med today). They determined the TH4 wasn't causing the ataxia so they proceeded to check for clotting issues, and found none. At this point they think it may be something structural in her spine, maybe a cancer, but whatever it is can't be diagnosed without advanced imaging.

My question:
Is a TH4 of 7.8 enough to cause ataxia/stumbling/lack of coordination in an elderly cat or should I believe the ER docs that something else is it play? It seems awfully convenient that she's stumbled around twice now when her levels were elevated and that today she is staggering around while her numbers are elevated. We'll obviously be calling our normal vet on Friday and I'm hopeful they will agree to up the dose of Methimazole but I'm really not sure what to think about the cause of these mobility issues. The emergency vet *is* sending our kitty home with some steroids but no real diagnosis.
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moxiewild

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I’ve had so many hyperT cats and fosters, and I’ve hinestly never seen this.

But it IS odd that if not related to the HyperT, that Methimazole appears to resolve it.

Can you get a video of the “crab walking” next time it happens, though? Because that sounds like it might just be what cats do when they don’t feel well, but it’s hard to know without actually seeing it.

Join this group and ask them -

https://m.facebook.com/groups/42301610484?group_view_referrer=profile_browser
 
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justplainheidi

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In my brief internet researching, I've found a few medical articles that tie hyperthyroidism to vestibular disease/ataxia. One of the journals printed a study where 8% of the feline participants showed signs of ataxia but most sites don't even mention it is a possible symptom (which is confusing). My girl is currently resting, but her mobility was pretty bad this morning when I first checked on her. I'll try to get a video, but for now, this one looks pretty similar to what we're seeing: Log In or Sign Up to View She usually is able to catch herself and rarely falls (unlike the cat in this video) but the rear hind leg disorganization definitely looks familiar. She is eating well, drinking, happily purring in response to petting. Her attitude is her usual and her spunk is on full display as she attempts to go about her business, it's just a matter of an uncooperative rear end slowing her down :p.

Thanks for the FB group recommendation. I've sent a request to join :)

~Heidi
 

FeebysOwner

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Hi. Feeby was just recently diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism and has been on 1.25 mg Methimazole twice a day for about a month. I read a lot of 'stuff' about H-T and never saw anything about what your cat is doing - although, the documents all say muscle weakness is a common symptom. Once H-T is diagnosed and meds are determined to the treatment of choice, it is a life long endeavor to keep the H-T symptoms at bay (although, it doesn't cure the disease nor does it stop the growth of the associated thyroid tumors). So, the roller coaster effect of missing doses or stopping the meds might play a role in exacerbating related symptoms (just a guess).

In addition to the FB connection you were given, another great group who offered me a lot of support is: [email protected] | Home. They refer a lot to Dr. Mark Peterson, who is an endocrine specialist. His web site is also a great resource for information as well. Animal Endocrine Clinic | Where science and compassion cure. I strongly suggest you post your issue to this group and see what they say. You can also read through tons of information on the endocrine web site as well.

Please keep us posted.
 
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justplainheidi

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After a nice nap in the window, Winnie headed out to the living room for a drink and I was able to catch her on video. She seems to be much steadier than she was yesterday but obviously has a ways to go to get back to normal. This has been a pretty typical pattern of motion for her the 3 times we've seen her experience this problem since September.
Still waiting to get added to the hyperthyroid groups, so I'll post there once I'm approved, but thought I'd try again here in case anyone has ideas?
 

FeebysOwner

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Poor baby! :sniffle: H-T can mask kidney issues, in that it allows for a better blood supply to the kidneys so that they can function better. A lot of times, a cat that is on H-T meds for a while will exhibit elevated signs of kidney issues, because the abnormal blood supply is returned to more normal levels. With the limited education I have acquired with Feeby's H-T, I am only suspecting as a layperson that the staggering has more to do with the condition of her kidneys than anything to do with her H-T.

Keep her food/water/litter box - and anything else she loves nearby - to avoid accidents and to keep her eating and hydrated. I know with Feeby when she has had some health issues that caused her to go outside of her litter box, it distressed her because she knows she shouldn't be doing that. I think that comes with the territory of older cats who have long-established 'good' practices that they can't maintain when they are ill. :hugs::hearthrob::redheartpump:
 

fionasmom

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Fiona herself was hyperthyridic and never exhibited that behavior but that certainly does not make me an expert. While this is no answer, I would continue to investigate the ataxia.
 

Rowen

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Has her heart been checked? My cat Gem had this happen to her once- at first we thought she was running but she was stumbling sideways. No hypertension- they had always diagnosed her with Lymphoma without biopsy- she had only lost weight. I question it because she ended up with failing kidneys and heart failure- pleural effusion. She had a heart murmur that had gotten worse but they kept saying it doesnt always mean something. I would get an xray if possible.
 
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