The most common form of muscular dystrophy seen in the cat is ‘hypertrophic muscular dystrophy’. This disease is most commonly reported in the domestic shorthair cat. Although rare, it is a sex-linked inherited disease that affects predominantly male cats (it is an X-linked autosomal recessive condition).
In this disease, muscles are deficient in a protein called dystrophin. This makes the muscles very weak and excessive muscling (big muscles) is seen as a compensatory response. Weakness, stiffness, and a ‘bunny-hopping’ gait are common features.
Affected cats may have difficulties swallowing because their tongues can become very large and their oesophagus may be dysfunctional. Treatment is symptomatic, and the disease is very similar to ‘Duchenne’ muscular dystrophy in humans. The prognosis is guarded as complications usually arise that are life-threatening (such as dysphagia, dyspnoea, secondary renal failure renal failure, rhabdomyolysis etc).