Vestibular Disease in Cats: A Quick Guide Understand the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Feline Vestibular Disease

BY | January 04 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
Vestibular Disease in Cats: A Quick Guide

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Feline vestibular disease can cause a wide array of symptoms, including dizziness, vertigo, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Learn more about its diagnosis and treatment.

Feline vestibular disease, also known as Vestibular Syndrome, is a condition that affects the vestibular system in cats. This system is responsible for controlling balance and spatial orientation and is located in the inner ear. 

In this article, we will provide a quick guide to vestibular disease in cats, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. We will also discuss ways to prevent vestibular disease and how to care for a cat with this condition.

Symptoms

Symptoms of vestibular disease in cats can vary depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. Some common symptoms include:

  • Dizziness: Cats with vestibular disease may seem unsteady on their feet, walk in circles, or have difficulty standing or walking.

  • Vertigo: Cats may experience a sensation of spinning or tilting.

  • Abnormal eye movements: Cats may have nystagmus, a condition in which the eyes move rapidly back and forth or up and down.

  • Head tilt: Cats may tilt their head to one side due to abnormal eye movements or to try to compensate for dizziness.

  • Loss of appetite: Cats may lose their appetite due to dizziness or vertigo.

  • Vomiting: Some cats may vomit due to dizziness or vertigo.

These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it is important to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Causes 

There are several potential causes of vestibular disease in cats, including:

  • Inner ear infections: Bacteria like Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pasteurella, Proteus, Escherichia coli, Enterococcus, Pseudomonas, or some anaerobic organisms or viruses can cause infections in the inner ear, leading to vestibular disease.

  • Tumors: Tumors in the inner ear or brain can cause vestibular disease.

  • Toxins: Exposure to certain toxins, such as lead or pesticides, can cause vestibular disease.

  • Trauma: Head trauma or injury can damage the vestibular system and cause vestibular disease.

  • Age-related changes: Vestibular disease can occur as a result of age-related changes in the vestibular system.

It is also possible for cats to develop vestibular disease without a clear cause, in which case it is referred to as idiopathic vestibular disease.

Diagnosis

To diagnose vestibular disease in a cat, a veterinarian will typically perform a physical examination and take a thorough medical history. During the physical examination, the veterinarian will look for signs of vestibular diseases, such as abnormal eye movements, head tilt, and dizziness. They may also perform a neurological examination to assess the function of the vestibular system and other parts of the nervous system.

In addition to the physical examination, the veterinarian may recommend one or more of the following diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis and identify the cause of vestibular disease:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests can help to identify infections, tumors, and other conditions that may be causing vestibular disease.

  • Skull X-rays: X-rays can help to detect abnormalities in the inner ear or other parts of the head and neck.

  • Cytology: This test examines the fluids present in the cat’s ear canal to determine the presence of the disease. 

  • MRI: An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can provide detailed images of the inner ear and brain, allowing the veterinarian to identify any abnormalities that may be causing vestibular disease.

  • Other specialized tests: Depending on the suspected cause of vestibular disease, the veterinarian may recommend additional tests, such as a CT scan or auditory brainstem response (ABR) test.

It is worth noting that when your cat is unwell, it might resist visiting the vet and undergoing the tests listed above. You can give your pet calming treats for cats or even use a calming collar to help them calm down.

Treatment 

The treatment for vestibular disease in cats will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Some common treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics: If an inner ear infection is causing vestibular disease, the veterinarian may prescribe feline antibiotics, such as Clavamox, or anti-fungal medicines to clear the infection.

  • Surgery: If a tumor is causing vestibular disease, the veterinarian may recommend surgery to remove the tumor.

  • Supportive care: Cats with vestibular disease may need extra support and care to help them cope with the dizziness and vertigo. This may include providing a safe and stable environment, helping the cat to eat and drink, and administering medications to control nausea and vomiting.

  • Physical therapy: In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended to help improve balance and coordination.

In most cases, cats with vestibular disease will make a full recovery, although it may take some time for the symptoms to resolve completely. The treatment of idiopathic vestibular disease, where the cause of the disease is unknown, involves cat medications that reduce motion sickness and nausea. Pet parents would be required to keep the cat safe and comfortable while it recovers slowly. 

Prognosis

The prognosis for vestibular disease in cats depends on the underlying cause of the condition and the severity of the symptoms. In many cases, cats with vestibular disease will make a full recovery, although it may take some time for the symptoms to resolve completely.

If the underlying cause of vestibular disease is identified and treated promptly, the prognosis is usually good. For example, if the condition is caused by an inner ear infection and is treated with feline antibiotics, the prognosis is generally favorable. However, if the cause of vestibular disease is not identified or cannot be treated, the prognosis may be less favorable.

In cases where the vestibular disease is caused by a tumor or other serious condition, the prognosis may depend on the extent of the damage and the effectiveness of treatment. In these cases, the veterinarian will be able to provide a more accurate prognosis based on the specific circumstances.

Helping Your Cat While They Recover from Vestibular Disease

If your cat is recovering from vestibular disease, there are several steps you can take to help them during the recovery process. Cats with vestibular disease may have difficulty standing or walking, so it is important to create a safe and stable environment for them. This may involve removing tripping hazards and providing a soft bed or blanket for the cat to rest on. 

Cats with vestibular disease may have difficulty eating and drinking due to dizziness or vertigo. You may need to hand-feed your cat or provide small, frequent meals to help them get the nutrition they need. You can also try offering water in a shallow dish or using a water fountain to make it easier for your cat to drink.

If your cat is having difficulty standing or walking, you may need to provide physical support to help them move around. This may involve holding the cat's back end or helping them balance as they walk. You may also need to carry your cat to and from its bed or crate.

Recovery from vestibular disease can take time, and your cat may need extra care and support for several weeks or months. It is important to be patient and to follow the veterinarian's treatment plan to help your cat make a full recovery. Do not scold or punish your cat if it topples over or bumps into something due to the symptoms.

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