Feline Vestibular Disease Symptoms

The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining a normal position and orientation in relation to gravity. The vestibular system will let the brain know when the cat changes his position and maintains the body balanced. A cat with vestibular disease will lack balance and will be confused.

The Vestibular System in Cats

The vestibular system communicates with the brain and will inform it when the cat is moving, spinning, resting or standing up.

The vestibular system is made up of numerous nerves that originate in the brain and are continued to the inner ear. The nerves in the inner ear will alert the brain about movement, so that the brain will be able to respond accordingly.

Vestibular disease will affect the cat’s capacity to sense movement, so the brain will not be able to provide a suitable response when the cat is moving.

Types of Vestibular Disease

Vestibular disease can be of 2 types: central vestibular disease and peripheral vestibular disease.

The central vestibular disease is caused by the abnormal function in the brain nerves of the vestibular system, while the peripheral disease is caused by the abnormal function of the inner ear nerves.

Causes of Vestibular Disease

The vestibular disease may be caused by brain damage, tumors, inner ear infections, ear tumors, toxicity or inflammation in the inner ear area or brain.

The vestibular disease may also be an idiopathic disease, so there are no determined causes.

Common Symptoms

The disease is more common in senior cats over the age of 10. A cat with the disease will experience sudden dizziness and may present alarming symptoms such as:

  • Sudden collapse
  • Lack of coordination
  • Tilted head
  • Spinning in circles
  • Rolling
  • The eyes may move rapidly from one side to the other or up and down
  • Stumbling on things
  • Irregular walking
  • Vomiting and seizure (in rare cases)

Some of these symptoms may point to a shock, a stroke or other diseases including ear mite infection, so a proper diagnosis is required.

When you notice that your cat lacks balance, ensure that he won’t get injured, so place some pillows and don’t allow him near stairs or sharp objects. Keep him inside and plan a visit to the vet.

Diagnosing Feline Vestibular Disease

The disease’s onset is typically sudden. As soon as you notice some of the above mentioned symptoms, you should consult a vet.

The diagnosing process will first rule out the possible diseases that may display similar symptoms. The vet will then perform a neurological exam and will check the ear canal.

Blood tests and urinalysis are also needed and possibly some x-rays, a CT scan or an MRI.

Treatment for Vestibular Disease

The treatment of the vestibular disease will focus on treating the underlying cause.

If the disease is idiopathic, the cat may receive motion sickness drugs such as meclizine or diphenhydramine, to manage the frequent dizziness. However, when idiopathic, the vestibular disease should improve in a few weeks without treatment.