What is myasthenia gravis? Myasthenia gravis is a rare, neuromuscular feline disorder that worsens with activity and improves with rest. Inside a cat’s body, a signal interruption occurs between the body’s muscles and nerves. As a result, nerve impulses don’t properly transmit information to the muscles and they cannot contract and become weak.
How does my cat get myasthenia gravis? There are two forms of feline myasthenia gravis. The first is an inherited congenital defect and the second is acquired, often as a consequence of a defective immune system. The body mistakenly produces antibodies that attack the body’s muscle receptors. In other instances, myasthenia gravis happens as a secondary condition related to a tumor of the thymus gland.
How do I know if my cat has myasthenia gravis? This rare disease is hard to identify. However, you may notice that your cat seems to have difficulty swallowing or eating or seems to be weak and lethargic. The esophagus is often targeted. In some cases, pneumonia is a common complication of this disorder and hyperthyroidism may be present. Many conventional blood and lab tests do not readily pinpoint this condition. In order to accurately identify this disease, your veterinarian will need to perform a special blood test called an anti-acetylcholine receptor antibody test. This test reveals an abnormally high level of antibodies in the bloodstream, indicative of myasthenia gravis.
What can I do about myasthenia gravis? There is no effective treatment for the congenital type of myasthenia gravis. There are medications and immunosuppressive agents available to improve the communication between nerves. Treatment is supportive and palliative.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting myasthenia gravis? You can reduce the likelihood of getting a purebred kitten with this disease if you work with a responsible breeder who has identified and removed any breeding cats
Are there certain breeds that get more often? Yes. Abyssinian, Domestic shorthair, Siamese and Somali breeds have a greater chance of inheriting this disease. However, myasthenia gravis can strike any cat of any gender or age or breed.