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Movement Disorders in Sphynx Cats

04th February 2021

  •   News
Movement Disorders in Sphynx Cats

When we breed pedigree cats there are a limited number of animals which can be bred together within that breed – what we call a small gene pool.

If a problem occurs within that gene pool it can be inherited by many cats; the severity of the problem and how many cats it affects can vary depending on the complexity of the inheritance and how the genes affect cat’s life – this can be visible (eg movement or body shape, lack of hair etc) or may hidden if it is a gene which affects internal functions.  So breeders must be on the lookout for such problems which affect cat welfare within their breeds, act quickly to understand why it is happening and work with experts to find solutions to prevent it affecting more cats.  Sometimes we only realise there is a bigger problem when we get to hear about a number of individual cats which are showing problems and bring the cases together.  Vets may notice, or owners and breeders may notice, but they need to work together to collect information and cases to understand what, how, and why it is happening.

One such problem which is coming to light and is being noticed by vets interested in neurology (concerning the nervous system) is a movement disorder in Sphynx cats (these are a breed of cat with little visible hair).  These vets are asking for help from vets in practice and from owners and breeders to gather cases to study it more. It is called ‘paroxysmal dyskinesia’ (or ‘movement disorder’) and the video shows an example of a Sphynx cat with paroxysmal dyskinesia.

Matthew Green from Dovecote Veterinary Hospital, who is collecting the information, says,

 ‘Paroxysmal dyskinesia is an uncontrollable episode of abnormal movement that may involve muscle spasms or cramps, twisting of the body, twitching or tremoring of the head or limbs leading to difficulty walking normally. These movements could be mistaken for seizures but, unlike many epileptic seizures, cats do not lose consciousness during the episodes. The frequency and duration of the episodes can vary considerably between affected cats, from seconds to minutes or hours.

The underlying cause of paroxysmal dyskinesia is often unknown, however it is thought to result from a dysfunction in an area of the brain called the basal nuclei and the cerebellum. In the majority of cases it is presumed to relate to abnormal signalling in an otherwise normal brain, although very rarely it can be associated with underlying brain disease.

Paroxysmal dyskinesia is becoming increasingly recognised in veterinary medicine and has been described and studied in many breeds of dog such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Border Terriers and Scottish Terriers. We are seeing increasing numbers of Sphynx cats affected by paroxysmal dyskinesia, however little is known about the condition in this breed. Therefore, with the support of International Cat Care, we are looking to find owners of Sphynx cats with suspected paroxysmal dyskinesia. We would ask you to complete a short online questionnaire about your cat’s disorder to further study this condition. It is hoped that we can better understand the ways in which Sphynx cats are affected, which may then lead to improved recognition and management of the condition.’

International Cat Care is working with neurology specialists Matthew Green and Mark Lowrie from Dovecote Veterinary Hospital, and Laurent Garosi from Vet Oracle Teleradiology, to help find cases which can contribute to our understanding of the problem, help owners whose cats are experiencing the problems and  to help breeders to prevent them.

If you think your Sphynx cat may be affected by paroxysmal dyskinesia, or you would like further information, please contact Matthew Green at the email address below and he will send you a questionnaire. [email protected]

Thank you for your help

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