A closer look: Manx Syndrome (Sacrocaudal Dysgenesis) in Cats
Manx syndrome is common in the Manx breed, in which lack of a tail is part of the breed standard. Mixed breed cats without tails are also affected. Manx syndrome is not a fatal condition, but it is life-long, there is no cure, and it can have a severe impact on quality of life.
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Symptoms vary depending on how severe the developmental abnormality is. Cats with completely absent tails are more likely to be affected than cats with short tail stumps.
The syndrome may result in mobility challenges, such as reduced balance resulting from the lack of tail, or paralysis of the hind legs.
Urinary and fecal incontinence are common, and more difficult to manage. An incontinent cat is susceptible to skin conditions and infections, and there is no reliable way to prevent or manage these.
Cats with urinary incontinence are also predisposed to urinary tract infections.
Euthanasia is common for kittens presenting with these symptoms, due to the difficulty of management.
Manx syndrome is a developmental condition inherited from a parent, which causes abnormal development of the tail-end of the spine. The abnormal development results in a tailless cat, but can also have secondary effects such as improper development of the nerves in the area. In some cases, cats with Manx syndrome have additional spinal development abnormalities such as spina bifida.
The most obvious symptom of the syndrome is a lack of tail, and other symptoms typically present within the first few weeks of life.
In some cases a cat may be tailless, but otherwise be asymptomatic and live a healthy life.
Testing and diagnosis
A tailless cat is self-evident, however further work-up is needed to identify the underlying developmental issue leading to symptoms. Diagnostic tests include:
- Physical examination
- Diagnostic imaging, including X-rays, ultrasound, CT or MRI
- Myelography to examine the spinal cord
- Neurologic exam
Steps to Recovery
There is no treatment available which can reduce or reverse symptoms of Manx syndrome. Instead, treatment is supportive, and primarily focused on managing hygiene. Strategies include
- Daily grooming to avoid infections or dermatitis
- Bladder massage, to assist with passing urine
- Feline diapers
- Laxatives to reduce constipation
- Antibiotics if urinary tract infections develop
Manx syndrome is life-long, and incurable. It is common to consider euthanasia in a kitten presenting with symptoms, as lack of mobility and incontinence have a dramatic effect on quality of life and are difficult to manage.
The gene responsible for Manx syndrome has been identified. Cats with no tail can be tested to determine whether they have the gene, and selective breeding prevents it from passing on to subsequent generations.
Is Manx Syndrome (Sacrocaudal Dysgenesis) in Cats common?
This condition is most common among the Manx breed of cats, but is otherwise rare.
Supportive treatments include: