Birman Health Problems

Birman cat
Birman cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick
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Birman health problems are listed on this page. This cat breed is generally healthy.

Hind Legs

In certain lines (breeding lines) “weak hind legs” may occur.


Breathing through the mouth can occur because (a) lower and upper jaw not fitting together properly (poor occlusion) and (b) nasal obstruction (Small Animal Care and Management By Dean Marvin Warren).

Distal Polyneuropathy

Reported by Hotpoint’s Sacred Birmans (breeder) on their website as a Birman health problem. This disease causes a malfunctioning of many nerves in the body.  “Distal” in medical language means the farthest away, not in the center. This appears not to be a general Birman cat health problem as the site referred to says that it occurred in several litters from the same parents. Symptoms include ataxia and falling over.

Epibulbar Dermoids

Reported in a “line of British Birman cats” (Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Aspects of Purebred Cats, edited by Ross D Clark DVM – ref1). Incidence of the disease is one cat in 150 (0.66%). Mode of transmission is possibly an autosomal dominant gene with incomplete inheritance. “Epibulbar” means on the eyeball and dermoids are pieces of skin sometimes with hair attached. They rub the cornea of the eye and cause irritation. They can be removed by “superficial keratectomy”, which is excision (removal by cutting) of a portion of the cornea.

Eosinophilic Granules

Fine eosinophilic granules were found in the cytoplasm of neutrophils of inbred Birmans. Breaking that down: eosinophilic granules are granules that are stained by an acid dye. Cytoplasm is the protoplasm outside the nucleus of a cell and neutrophils are a type of white blood cell. This is an autosomal recessive trait. The presence of the granules do not seem to be “detrimental to the health of affected cats” (ref1).

Hip Dysplasia

Occurs “occasionally” in Birman cats in association with patellar luxions. Symptoms include: lameness and abnormal walking (gait). Problems may develop so further assessments are required. Joints can degenerate. Surgery may be required.

Hip dysplasia is a congenitally deformed hip socket or misalignment of the hip joint. Although one of the Birman health problems, hip dysplasia is not uncommonly encountered in the cat fancy.

Neonatal Erythrolysis

This disease occurs when the mother’s blood is type B and the father’s is type A. All type B cats will have antibodies against type A at aged 3-4 months. Kittens born with type A blood may be affected by neonatal erythrolysis as they are exposed to the antibodies in mother’s milk. It causes kitten anemia. A cat’s blood type is sometimes dependent on geographical area. Six percent of cats in North America are type B. Most cats (95%) are type A. Birmans can be the quite rare type AB. 10% – 25% of Birmans are type B.

This can be fatal to the kitten and is a major cause of fading kitten syndrome. It can be difficult to spot and it may be too late to save the kitten (Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook 3rd ed.).

Dr Clark DVM in Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Aspects of Purebred Cats gives us the clue (book ISBN: 0-9634124-0-X). This is a major source for Birman health problems.

See Genetic diseases in purebred cats.

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