Restless Tail Syndrome
Updated: Feb 22
Dr. Rory Evans was petting a large gray cat, a spayed female standing nervously on the table top in front of him.
"It says here you need an exam for Yoyo to start a script for gabapentin, Mrs. Smith," Rory began, reading from Honey's intake notes. "I'm surprised because I use gabapentin as a pain killer for dogs. What makes you feel Yoyo needs this?"
"To calm her restless tail problem, Doctor Evans."
"What do you mean restless tail? Cats swish their tails a lot," Rory explained.
"But Yoyo's tail moves all the time. It's keeping her from getting a full night's sleep. Dr. Abernathy put me on gabapentin because of the memory loss episode last year. What surprised me the most was that the drug allowed me to get a real good night sleep, something I haven’t felt for years. Then when the gabapentin ran out I realized I couldn’t sleep because my legs kept moving, they were driving me crazy. Only then did it occur to me Yoyo was having the same problem!"
"What problem are you referring to?" Rory asked.
"My Restless Legs Syndrome, Doctor Evans," she remarked irritated that the educated fellow hadn't made the proper mental connections."I haven't had any RLS symptoms since I started taking gabapentin. I made a significant discovery; this is the only drug that has ever touched my RLS. And that's why I know gabapentin will help Yoyo."
"I'm unclear, Mrs. Smith. What condition are you referring to, regarding Yoyo?"
"Restless Tail Syndrome, Doctor Evans," Mrs. Smith replied."I see her tail go this way and that for hours at a time. I look in her eyes, and beneath those half closed lids, I understand her pain. She would be sleeping so much better if we could figure out a gabapentin dose. I've brought my research paper with me."
The concerned client pushed a sheet of notes at Rory. He scanned them, chuckling. "When did you do this?" He asked.
"I just finished the paper. It's a lot of research mixed in with my understanding of the drug. I take gabapentin myself, remember?"
"Oh yes, I remember," he chuckled as he began reading Mrs. Smith's notes aloud. "But this tail problem is new to me. Here, let's see what you've discovered. You wrote this?"
She nodded proudly.
He cleared his throat.
"Restless tail syndrome (RTS) causes unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the tail and an irresistible urge to move it. Symptoms commonly occur in the late afternoon or evening hours, and are often most severe at night when a cat is resting, such as sitting or lying in bed. Since symptoms can increase in severity during the evening, it becomes difficult to fall asleep. It is best characterized as a neurological sensory disorder; the symptoms come from the brain itself."
"That's why I know gabapentin will work on this, it's neurological," she insisted.
Rory continued reading out loud. "It is estimated 7-10 percent of the cat population may have RTS. RTS occurs in both toms and queens, although females are more likely to have it than males. It may begin at any age. Many individuals who are severely affected are middle-aged or older, and the symptoms typically become more frequent and last longer with age, now is that true?"
"In people it is. I just erased people and put cat in, and it sounds good," the faux scientist finally admitted.
"That's quite a statement, although unproven, do you realize?"
"It's top notch research combined with my intimate understanding of Yoyo and gabapentin," she proclaimed proudly. "Here, I've documented the behavoir on my phone."
"Does she stop purring when her tail moves? Do you think it hurts?"
"I'm not sure, she's not nearby all the time, but yes, she does purr when she lays on my lap. I think she's asking for help."
"I think she's relaxed, if you hear purring."
"No, this is a strained kind of purr, Doctor Evans, you would understand if you were there. Anyway, can you set her up with a prescription, please?"
That put Rory in a dilemma. He had no previous experience giving cats gabapentin, much less figuring out whether the cat really needed it for her restless tail problem.
"Give me a minute. I need to check this out. I use a veterinary website to see if other veterinarians have experienced this."
Seeing the drug was okay in cats and was a fine calming agent Rory saw no real problem with dispensing the medication. Chuckling he returned to Yoyo and Mrs. Smith.
"Sure, I can set you up with this, but you need to let me know if it helps. I haven't tried it on cats."
"Oh, thank you, Dr. Evans. I know this is best for Yoyo."
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