October 08, 2015

Living with Feline Hyperesthesia

My cat was recently diagnosed with feline hyperesthesia and I wanted to share our experience. Oz is currently trying out a drug combination of liquid gabapentin (anti-seizure) and fluoxetine (prozac). We'll know within the next few weeks whether or not the drugs are working. Some cats respond to medication, and others don't.

"Feline hyperesthesia syndrome, also known as rolling skin disease, is a rare illness in domestic cats that causes episodes of agitation, self-mutilation, and a characteristic rippling of the skin when touched. It is often described as a seizure disorder but the cause is unknown." (Wikipedia)



Oz's ordeal started after an application of topical flea treatment. He seemed to be pawing at his neck more and may have injested some of the medicine. (Our new vet reported the issue to Bayer - the makers of Advantage Multi. The doctor on staff said they'd had no other issues with the lot Oz's medicine came from though and didn't think it was related.) After an hour or so Oz was watching his tail like he didn't know what it was with contempt in his eyes. I saw him nip at it and kept him next to me for the rest of the night to keep an eye on him and calm him down. He woke me up that night by making a crazy primal growling noise and hissing. I found him with a very bloody tail and a wild look in his eyes.

The vet (his old vet) ended up removing the tip of his tail because he had two exposed vertebrae. He'd bitten himself down to the bone! They dismissed my questions about the flea medicine and told me Oz had probably hurt his tail, even though I was pretty certain he hadn't. I brought him home with a stitched up tail, cone, antibiotics, and pain meds. Just days later, he managed to get the cone off and caused more damage. After a 5 day stay at the vet's office for monitoring, they decided amputating his tail would be best. There were more hurdles along the way, but his tail slowly started to heal and we began to try taking the cone off.

Every time it was removed, Oz would groom for awhile and then remember the enemy - his tail. Luckily I never let him out of my sight when his cone was off, so he never hurt it, but it meant he couldn't be cone-free for long either. He began to adapt to living in it and has been doing really well. He can use the litter box, eat, jump on and off the furniture...everything he could do without the cone, he can do with it. He was still looking at his tail through the cone with the same pissed off expression though and even started swatting at it with his paws. I have to keep his nails clipped short so he doesn't hurt himself.

Now, in October, he's still wearing the cone. After lots of reading, I had a strong feeling Oz had hyperesthesia. I decided to not revisit my old vet and went to a new, highly recommended animal hospital. They immediately told me they believed I was right about the hyperesthesia and that Oz had all of the classic symptoms. I felt a rush of relief, just knowing that this office was listening to me and clearly wanted to help. We did some x-rays, a blood panel, and lots of note comparisons. Our new doctor chose a drug pairing for Oz (gabapentin and fluoxetine) that we recently started. It could be a few weeks before we see a difference, but my fingers are crossed that we do.

Hyperesthesia is a weird disease that we don't know much about. I hate seeing Oz go through his episodes and do my best to distract him out of them. I never really know what each day will hold, but I'm hoping we can begin the process of getting him well again. Poor kiddo has been through a lot and he's been a trooper through it all. He's a good kitty and I want him to live out the rest of his life as happily as he can.

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