Q: My senior cat just turned 15years old, and he has been healthy all these years with a good appetite and a mind of his own. However, he recently developed a head tilt, moves in circles to the right, and isn’t able to walk properly. There’s also been a drop in his appetite, and he seems to be in distress. What could be wrong?

A: The symptoms that your cat is exhibiting are similar to what humans experience when afflicted with a stroke. The causes may be due to an ischemic event secondary to high blood pressure, a blood clot, vestibular disease, or a brain tumour. In older cats, high blood pressure may be a result of chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or heart disease. To determine the underlying cause, a CT or MRI scan may be necessary (in addition to simpler tests) to check the thyroid glands, kidneys and blood pressure.

From a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, a stroke may be caused by excessive liver energy surging up into the head or insufficient kidney energy nourishing the brain. Patients who tend to be more dominant and have a hot temper are more prone to excessive liver energy. This tends to be seen in cats that are temperamental, impatient,or that bite and hiss at their owner for no reason.

Insufficient kidney energy is seen in older patients as the kidney essence depletes with age. When the kidney function is weak, it means that the brain is more likely to experience the attacks of excessive liver energy. Strokes are most likely to occur in the wee hours of the morning when the liver is most powerful and when the kidney is weakest. Another factor that may also result in strokes is weakened lung function, as the lungs play an important role in helping to restrain the liver.

TCM treatment will be directed at acupuncture points for cooling the liver, nourishing the kidney and also treating the specific problem areas, such as the head tilt, the imbalance, and uncoordinated mobility. The use of herbs will also enhance your pet’s recovery.


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