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Cerebellar hypoplasia?

Species: Cat
Breed: senegalese feral
Age: Less than 3 mon
Hello Dr Marie,

I recently found an abandoned feral kitten in the street who was very close to death. He was extremely dehydrated and starving, and in spite of being I would estimate 5-6 weeks old, couldn't seem to stand up on his own because his back legs were too weak. I took him in and after a week of constant care and about 4 vet visits later he's doing much better (eating / drinking normally, playing a lot, no fever) aside from a bad case of the runs, which is a switch from the severe constipation that he had when i found him. However, he does this strange thing that has me a bit concerned which is that his head shakes whenever he's excited, like at meal time or when we're playing, and it also shakes sometimes, although less so, when he's sitting calmly. He seems to be getting more steady on his feet and has regained enough strength in his back legs to run and pounce, but he does fall over frequently and seems a bit clumsier than any other kitten his age that I have experienced. I started wondering if it could be Cerebellar Hypoplasia, but having watched several videos of cats with CH I would say his affliction is much less obvious, and less severe. He seems much more coordinated than the CH cats I watched. Could this just be a symptom of weakness, or should I worry that it's something more serious? I should note that we are currently located in Senegal in West Africa (which is where I found him) and don't plan to move back to the United States for at least another couple years as my husband's job is here. The vet care in Senegal is adequate, although no where near as sophisticated as it is back home and thorough diagnostic testing is not something I will most likely have access to. In the short week that he's been with us we've grown absolutely inseparable. He is such a joy in our lives (even my 2 year old cat whom I rescued in Guinea is a big fan), and I want to make sure to keep him as happy and healthy as I can.

Thanks very much for your time and response.

Amy


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Amy. Thanks for asking a question! Your little guy sounds very cute.

I'll give you some ideas as to what can be going on, but keep in mind that I can't give you an official diagnosis over the internet.

My first guess is that this is indeed cerebellar hypoplasia. There can be different degrees of CH so some cats are worse off than others. What you described with the neurological signs happening when he is focusing on something is typical of something called "intention tremors" and these are really common with CH. If this is CH then he will have these symptoms his whole life but they shouldn't get any worse and they shouldn't cause him any health problems.

If you find that the symptoms are getting worse then I'd be concerned about something more serious affecting the brain. It's possible he has a virus called FIP, or possibly feline leukemia virus. Hopefully he doesn't because we don't have cures for these diseases.

Sometimes we can see weakness in cats that have something called a liver shunt. However, this doesn't usually cause the intention tremors that you described.

It sounds to me like this is probably cerebellar hypoplasia. But, if you find that the symptoms are getting worse then you may need to see if the vets in your area can do some viral testing on him. However, FIP can be hard to diagnose.

Hope he continues to do well!

Dr. Marie


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.