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HYPERESTHESIA SYNDROME IN CATS
Hyperesthesia Syndrome (HS) is a poorly understood problem. It is characterized by intermittent episodes of extreme sensitivity.
- Start suddenly
- Do not have identifiable triggers
- Continue for a few minutes or less
- Become more frequent and/or prolonged over an extended period of time
The signs of HS vary from cat to cat and episode to episode, and include one or more of the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Hissing, growling
- Licking or biting at the legs, sides or tail
- Suddenly running, sometimes defecating or urinating while running
- Rippling and twitching of skin over the sides of chest and abdomen
- Spasms of lower back muscles
- Redirected agression (towards other pets or people)
Potential causes include:
- Idiopathic (unknown cause; this is the most common situation)
- Muscle or skeletal pain (eg arthritis)
- Neurologic pain (eg intervertebral disk disease)
- Skin disease (fleas need to be seriously considered, even when the cat never goes outdoors)
- Stomach or intestinal disorders
- Some combination of more than one of the above
It is important to make an attempt to discover the cause of the signs. The diagnostic process starts with a comprehensive physical exam. This exam might or might not provide enough information for us to make a relatively certain diagnosis of idiopathic HS. Sometimes diagnostic testing in addition to the exam is warranted.
(Trial therapy with flea control should be considered, even when no evidence of fleas can be found, and even when it seems impossible for there to be fleas in the pet’s environment.)
Specific treatment is given for any cause identified or strongly suspected.
When the problem is severe enough that it is significantly negatively impacting the cat’s and/or the owners quality of life, trial therapy with various behavior-modifying or other medications should be undertaken.
When a specific cause can be identified, the chance of successful treatment is high.
When the problem is idiopathic, the chance of resolution is disappointingly low. Idiopathic HS in cats is most often a life-long problem.
Yarmouth Veterinary Center
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