As a board-certified small animal veterinarian, Dr. Joel Todd Leroy Prince treats both common and rare disorders in dogs and cats. Dr. Joel Todd Leroy Prince has a special interest in neurological disorders, such as feline hyperesthesia.
Also known as twitch-skin syndrome or twitchy-cat syndrome, feline hyperesthesia is an unusual disorder in which a cat’s back twitches from the shoulders to the tail. The phenomenon is visible in some cats, but others show it only through the behavior they exhibit in trying to stop the strange sensation.
The twitches of feline hyperesthesia typically happen episodically and can last from several seconds to a few minutes. An episode may first become apparent to an owner when the cat turns to look at his or her tail as though something has just bitten it.
Some cats bite at their backs or hiss at a perceived invisible attacker. Cats with severe cases may chew at their fur until they develop skin lesions and bald patches.
Veterinary science has not yet identified the source of feline hyperesthesia. Suspected causes include seizure disorders and behavioral issues. Cats that are particularly high-strung or subject to environmental stressors may be at a higher risk.
Stress reduction is a key component of treatment for this condition. Experts recommend feeding the cat a balanced diet rich in protein, but seeing a veterinarian for a specific treatment plan is the important first step.
At Elmhurst Animal Care Center, Dr. Joel Todd Leroy Prince and his team maintain a cat-friendly environment. Dr. Joel Todd Leroy Prince and his fellow veterinarians uphold a commitment to reducing the anxiety that cats often feel during veterinarian visits.
For many cats and their owners, a visit to the veterinarian is synonymous with stress. Part of cats’ fear stems from the negative associations that they develop with key parts of the visit, such as the carrier and the car ride. Owners often find that if they incorporate these experiences more into the cat’s everyday life, the cat becomes less likely to associate them with a stressful vet visit and thus less likely to find them anxiety provoking.
Once the cat actually arrives at the vet, the key to reduced stress comes via an understanding of what the animal finds comforting. Cats generally feel safest when they can hide from perceived threats, so a towel over the cat’s carrier can often help. This also ensures that the cat cannot see other pets in the waiting room.
Waiting rooms can also be stressful because they are filled with loud noises and unpleasant smells. Cats’ heightened sense of smell means that they can become highly anxious if faced with such common veterinary office smells as blood, disinfectants, and deodorizers. Similarly, because cats are particularly perceptive, they can pick up on the stress of other pets or humans in the waiting room.
Cat-friendly practices often strive to eliminate these types of stimuli. If such an office is not available, the owner may wish to advocate for his or her cat’s needs by asking to wait in the hallway or car. Another strategy is the use of feline facial pheromone (FFP), which many practices spray in cat care areas and which is available commercially.
Dr. Joel Todd Leroy Prince earned his veterinary degree in 1984 from the University of Illinois. Certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners as a canine and feline specialist, he serves as a partner at the Elmhurst Animal Care Center outside of Chicago. Many of the disorders for which Dr. Todd Prince treats dogs and cats are similar or even identical to human ailments, including, among others, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, hypertension, and diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus is a hormonal disorder related to insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that cells use to convert glucose in the blood to energy. Type I diabetes is characterized by the body’s insufficient production of insulin, including an inability to produce the hormone at all. Type II diabetes occurs when the body does produce insulin but the cells don’t use it properly.
Type II diabetes among humans is a major public health concern in the U.S. It’s also becoming more common among dogs and cats. In 1970, about 1 in 1,250 cats was diagnosed with diabetes, and about 1 in 500 dogs had the disease. By the turn of the century, the incidence of diabetes had increased to about 1 in 81 in cats and about 1 in 166 in dogs.
Typical symptoms of diabetes in dogs and cats include an increase in hunger, thirst, and urination, irritability, vision problems, increased fatigue, and unexplained loss of weight. Pet owners who observe these symptoms in their dogs or cats should have them examined by their veterinarian, who has several tests available to diagnose the disease.
Diabetes in dogs and cats is treated much the same as it is in humans, first by modifying the diet to one low in carbohydrates and high in fiber and protein, and instituting an exercise and weight program. Other treatment options include oral medications and injected insulin.