Horner's syndrome in cats can result from ear infection | A Cat Clinic, Germantown, MD Posted January 25, 2019 by Dr. Dale Rubenstein.

In the fall of 2015, we started Aurora’s Angels Fund to honor our late hospital cat, Aurora.   This fund allows us to provide medical care for some of our patients who might otherwise be unable to receive it.  Often the fund provides just enough help for an owner to afford an expensive diagnostic test, or assists with getting started on optimal treatment.  Aurora’s Angels Fund receives money from donations from many of our wonderful, generous clients. In 2019 alone we spent over $2000 from the fund to provide care for cats in our community.  The need is great, but every little bit helps!

Periodically we try to provide updates on how we are using your donations. Here is one of the more complicated cases we have been able to help.

Joey’s Story

Horner's syndrome in cats can result from ear infection | A Cat Clinic, Germantown, MDJoey is a handsome 5 year old brown tabby, very confident and friendly.  He likes to head-butt when you meet him, and he’s generally a very happy cat. In ways that only cats can humble us, Joey has this wonderful personality in spite of suffering some very serious injuries to his front paws.  His right front leg is amputated at the elbow, but he uses this partial leg and his tail for balance. The left front leg does not bend at the elbow, but the leg exists down to his carpus (the equivalent of our wrist) for him to use when walking or playing. I think he got his name because he likes to sit up on his haunches like a kangaroo.

When Pat adopted Joey as a foster, he had pressure sores on the bottom of his “good” left front leg. He was going to his previous veterinarian for weekly bandage changes to help those sores heal and protect the leg. The veterinarian also recommended amputation to the shoulder for his right leg, as this is the usual protocol, rather than at the elbow as had been done. I knew that going every week for a bandage change on his left leg was not a good long-term solution. I also wasn’t sure that surgery on a stable and non-painful right leg that Joey used for balance was necessary either.

So I recommended a consultation exam with a board-certified veterinary surgeon who specializes in orthopedics, Dr. Owen Fink of Skylos Sports Medicine in Frederick, MD. Dr. Fink, similarly smitten with Joey’s amazing personality, consulted with many colleagues to figure out the best course of action for Joey’s remaining “good” leg. He also agreed that Joey did not need additional surgery on the stable right (partial) leg.

Horner’s syndrome, a slight hiccup…

In the middle of getting the pressure sore wound on the left front leg to heal, Joey suddenly became painful in one of his ears and not at all his normal self. Dr. De Bernardis diagnosed Horner’s syndrome. This is a neurological condition affecting the eye and eyelids.  The signs are usually a droopy eyelid on one side with a constricted (smaller than normal) pupil. The “third eyelid” (a membrane that usually sits in the corner of the eye but helps spread tears across the eye to protect it) also covers part of the eye, which is abnormal.

There are a variety of causes of Horner’s Syndrome in cats, but Joey’s was due to an ear polyp causing a severe ear infection!  Ear polyps are not uncommon in cats, but poor Joey, he can’t seem to catch a break. Fortunately, Dr. De Bernardis performed surgery to remove the polyp and treat the ear infection. Once the surrounding ear infection resolves, we plan to get back to focusing on his primary orthopedic problem!

The future for Joey

Horner's syndrome in cats can result from ear infection | A Cat Clinic, Germantown, MD

Aurora’s Angels Fund was able to help pay for some of the care required to treat the polyp and ear infection, and the foster group is working on raising money for Joey’s leg surgery once Joey has healed.  His orthopedic issues are complicated and will not be easy to fix.  Dr. Fink thinks he will try to fuse the bones in the carpus to provide stability to his leg.  This should enable Joey to walk on the leg without pain or pressure sores.  We know Dr. Fink will do his best to make Joey a happy, healthy, active kitty.

Joey still has a long way to go, but he is such a sweet guy.  He doesn’t know he has any handicaps, and he is a very lucky guy to have landed with such a wonderful foster family willing to go all out for him.  Stay tuned for future updates!