Note for Pet Owners:

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

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The emergence of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or "Mad Cow Disease") in cattle in the UK prompted a search for similar diseases in other species. A similar disease (FSE) was discovered in cats. Like BSE and other scrapie-like infections (scrapie affects sheep) the disease can take many years to develop .

e cause of FSE is an infectious agent called a prion, and prion protein accumulates in the brain tissue as a substance called amyloid. It is probable - though not proven - that affected cats contract the disease by eating contaminated bovine meat.

Breed Occurrence
There is no breed predisposition. The disease appears in adult cats with most appearing at about 5 years of age. 


The signs of FSE progress over a long period (months to years), depend upon the site of brain involvement, and include :

  • Behavioural changes
  • An abnormal gait
  • Death

The disease needs to be differentiated from other causes of brain disease which may respond to treatment

Unfortunately a specific diagnosis can only be confirmed at post-mortem. Suspicious cases based upon clinical signs should always be submitted for examination.

Typical pathological changes include :

  • Bilaterally symmetrical vacuolation of the neuropil
  • Vacuolation in neurones

These lesions are most often found in the following areas of the brain  :

  • Basal ganglia
  • Cerebral cortex
  • Thalamus

There is no specific treatment for the disease and it is a terminal condition



A new form of  Creutzfeld-Jacob disease (a  prion-related disease that affects humans) has been linked to the prion in BSE. No such link has been made to FSE, but nevertheless, because of human health considerations all suspect cases should undergo post-mortem examination and positive cases should be reported 


Updated October 2013