Vestibular Disease in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Vestibular Disease in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Witnessing a cat suddenly lose its' ability to maintain balance, orientation and a sense of direction can be upsetting.  Today our Rock-Hill vets share about the causes, symptoms and treatment of Feline Vestibular Disease.

What is vestibular disease in cats?

Feline Vestibular Disease is a disorder that affects a cat’s balance and coordination. This happens when the vestibular apparatus located in the inner is ear diseased or damaged, resulting in symptoms involving equilibrium (balance). 

What causes vestibular disease in cats?  

Most cases of vestubular disease in cats are caused by middle- or inner-ear infections. In less common cases, a tumor within the vestibular system has been identified in older cats. However, there are many cases that are diagnosed as idiopathic, meaning the exact cause is unknown.  

There are some breeds that have been associated with an inherited or congenital form of the disease, including Siamese and Burmese. 

What are the symptoms of Feline Vestibular Disease? 

The sudden onset symptoms of vestibular disease in cats can be concerning for pet parents to witness. Your cat could appear to be perfectly normal and then suddenly unable to maintain their balance, often walking in circles or falling over to one side.  

Additional symptoms include:

  • Rolling around on the floor
  • Head tilt to one side
  • Involuntary eye movements 
  • Leaning against walls or furniture 
  • Vomiting
  • Appearing disoriented and confused
  • Anguished vocalizations

The symptoms will likely be most severe during the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours, with possible improvement within seventy-two hours of the condition starting.

What is the treatment for vestibular disease in cats? 

In cases of middle- or inner- ear infection, your vet will prescribe antibiotics or anti-fungal medications to treat your cat of the infection. 

Your vet will likely do a physical and assess your cat's ears, diagnostic testing may be recommended in order to rule out more serious conditions with symptoms that mimic vestibular disease. 

If the exact cause is unknown, idiopathic vestibular disease, your vet may prescribe medications aimed at reducing the motion sickness and nausea. It is important that you do not give your cat medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Human anti-nausea medications can make your cat very sick, and can be fatal.   

Can cats recover from vestibular disease? 

Idiopathic vestibular disease is usually a short-term condition that will self resolve in a few days. It is rare that cats have residual or permanent damage from vestibular disease.  

Vestibular disease caused by an inner ear infection and treated with antibiotics or anti-fungal medication will usually clear in a few days.  

If however, the symptoms are of a more serious condition such as infections of the brain (encephalitis), spinal cord disease or trauma, drug toxicity your cat could require more aggressive supportive care such as sedation, intravenous fluid or injectable medications.  

How can I help my cat while they recover from vestibular disease?

You can support your cat while they are experiencing symptoms by providing your cat with a safe and comfortable environment. 

  • Ensure that your cat has a clean and comfortable place to relax, ideally on the floor so that there is no need for jumping.
  • Restrict your cat to one room located away from stairs, with food, water, and a litter box within easy reach. 
  • If your cat is unable to stand you can help your cat to change positions every hour or two to help prevent sores from developing.
  • You may also need to carry your cat to the litter box and back. Be sure not to scold your cat for any accidents. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat displaying symptoms of Feline Vestibular Disease? Contact your vet or visit our emergency animal hospital at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Rock Hill for urgent care.

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