I wanted to provide a follow up on my previous post regarding my cat as there may be some hope and direction for other pet owners out there. Since my original post, we spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what was wrong with our cat.
Our pet would cycle up and down. He'd seem to be improving for about a week or two and then he'd crash hard and revert back to some of his bad symptoms. Specifically he was extremely weak, had tremors, stiff limbs, and weird body twitching, was defecating on the mat in front of the litter box, refused to roll onto his back either for play or attention (which had previously been his favorite), was very withdrawn and often could not climb the stairs without stopping to rest. His weirdest symptom was that he felt like he didn't really have muscle in his limbs, but instead just had floating bones. He could be maneuvered into weird body positions without any sort of natural resistance. He cycled up and down several times over the course of two months and we'd exhausted the resources of the vet we use for primary care.
After a particularly bad cycle, we decided to "call in the big guns" and take him to the local veterinary teaching hospital in the last week of October. We're lucky enough to live next to one of the top 2-3 in the US so we felt like we'd at least isolate something. We went in with the full expectation that they'd want to do a MRI to look into the neurological symptoms. Both our primary vet and another vet whom we're friends with both suggested a neurological issue that would probably require a MRI to isolate.
We brought him in and spent about 5 hours with their neurology department. I believe that every vet in the neurology department who was present that day looked at him. They spent the majority of the examination (that we saw) testing his physical abilities.
They decided that no MRI was needed due to his specific combination of symptoms (saving us serious $$$). They felt that he either had a disease of the nerves or a disease related to where the nerves interacted with the muscles. They could definitively state there was no spinal cord injury, brain injury, neck or back injury, breaks, etc.. They could isolate which one by doing a biopsy of his nerves and muscle tissue if we wanted to.
Isolating the exact one would have been great, but would have cost considerable money and would have required anesthesia. We instead opted to try the long term treatments which would have been prescribed for many of them. Should they not work, we were going to take him in for the biopsy, another bloodwork analysis, etc..
Our cat's bloodwork that our original vet took did not show low levels of potassium, but did show elevated white blood cell counts. All the symptoms that our pet had seemed to point to hypokalemic myopathy, except for the one blood test which should have correlated with a the low potassium level. Our cat is a young Burmese (currently 1 year old) and this is a disease that rarely shows in young Burmese.
To make a long story short, the vet prescribed Vitamin E supplements as a treatment any nerve issues and potassium supplements in case he had hypokalemic myopathy. We give him a small scoop of potassium (your vet will typically prescribe it for liver failure so most vets should have it) in the morning and evening paired with a tiny dab of baby food (make sure that it's one that does not contain a toxin to cats). We have small 100u gel caps (orderable through CVS) that we cut open and take the contents out of. We do that in the evening and mix it with the potassium supplement and baby food.
It's since been six weeks and I'm cautiously, optimistically, able to say that this seems to have cured him. His personality has returned to his kitten levels. He's getting stronger each day. Today he completed a jump up to a bar stool that he'd never even completed before his first incident. He no longer twitches, has no tremors or stiff legs, sprints up the stairs like a track star and no longer feels "weird" to the touch. He's in the process of re-estabilishing himself as the "Alpha" cat in our house.
We're happy to have our cat back and are tickled about the low cost options (vitamin E pills are around $3 US for a 2 month supply and the potassium is $16 us for a month's supply). This seems like a very manageable, low cost solution long term.
One last thing to note -- I'd be very cautious if you're feeding your cat Wellness Brand Seafood dried cat food. Before the first incident started, we'd switched from Science Diet Kitten to Wellness Brand Seafood. We'd picked up one bag of the seafood and one bag of the chicken and were feeding our cats the seafood. Naturally when the first incident happened, we'd felt that it was probably linked to the food change. We tried reverting back to the old food, but could never stabilize him with the diet alone. We've since switched to a mix of the Science Diet Light and the Wellness brand Chicken to go along with the supplements mentioned above. One day we tried mixing in the Seafood again and he had his worst day on his recovery. We noticed a slight stiffening of his back left leg (which was his initial symptom). We pulled all the seafood pellets back out of the mix and he's not shown this again.
I was going to wait until the end of January to post this as I did not want to lead other pet owners astray. At the same time, I saw recent activity on this thread and feel like this might help people out. I'll check back on this thread in late January and provide a 3 month update.