What is Loss of Balance?
The condition takes place when a disease or injury disrupts the vestibular apparatus in the inner ear. The vestibular apparatus is the area that controls the balance and coordination in your cat. There are several causes of vestibular disease, but the disease is usually considered idiopathic because the cause is not always known.
A loss of balance commonly occurs when a cat is suffering from vestibular disease. Your cat may experience issues with standing on all four legs, and you may even notice your cat leaning or falling over at times, which can be a frightening sight.
Symptoms of Loss of Balance in Cats
Once you notice your cat is having trouble standing up, it is important to watch for the other signs of vestibular disease. A cat who is suffering from loss of balance may also display the following symptoms:
- Trouble standing
- Falling down
- Stumbling when walking
- Head tilting to one side
- Moving in circles
- Rolling on floor
- Weakness of limbs
- Continual eye movements
- Painful vocalizations
- Difficulty hearing
- Vomiting or lack of appetite
Causes of Loss of Balance in Cats
There is not always a known cause to vestibular disease, but the following problems can play a part in this condition:
- Middle-ear or inner ear infections
- Disease or injury of the spinal cord
- Damage or disease of the central nervous system
- Neurological disorders
- Tumors in ear canal, especially in aging cats
- Exposure to specific drugs or toxins
Diagnosis of Loss of Balance in Cats
The symptoms of vestibular disease may be related to another condition, such as an inner ear infection or head trauma. A physical exam is usually performed to check the overall health of your cat. This includes a neurologic exam and an otoscopic (ear) exam. You should also expect to answer questions about the cat's medical history and current symptoms.
Your veterinarian may run a number of tests to check for an underlying cause of your cat's loss of balance or to rule out other conditions. Your veterinarian may order a blood test, urine test, and ear cultures to check for diseases that may cause a loss of balance. Your cat may have to undergo an MRI, spinal tap, and head x-rays to check for injuries or infections that may have caused the condition. The tests also allow your veterinarian to ensure the loss of balance has not caused a more serious condition, such as injury from falling down.
Treatment of Loss of Balance in Cats
Treatment options depend on whether or not the loss of balance is idiopathic. Your veterinarian will treat the underlying cause if it is known, and they will focus on relieving the symptoms if there is not a known cause.
Treating the Underlying Cause
The loss of balance may be caused by an ear infection, tumor or exposure to toxins. When this is the case, your veterinarian will treat the underlying cause of the condition. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics for an infection or induce vomiting for drug toxicity. The type of treatment depends on the underlying cause itself.
Treating Idiopathic Vestibular Disease
If the loss of balance or vestibular disease is considered to be idiopathic, your veterinarian will focus on treating the symptoms and bringing comfort to your cat.
Dizziness can cause your cat to lose its appetite or vomit, so your cat may prescribe medication to treat the vomiting, nausea and motion sickness. Your cat may require help with feedings, fluid administration, and changing position during recovery from this condition. Your cat may be restricted to cage rest in a well-padded area to avoid injury when trying to stand up or walk. The good news is the symptoms usually disappear in about two weeks and rarely reappear.
Recovery of Loss of Balance in Cats
Your veterinarian can treat the underlying cause or symptoms of the loss of balance, but it is still important to schedule a follow-up appointment after the treatment. A follow-up appointment allows your veterinarian to make sure the underlying cause has been treated or eliminated. Your veterinarian will also make sure your cat has not become sick or injured due to the loss of balance.
It is important to follow the instructions given by your veterinarian, from assisting with feedings to administering medication. You may need to continue to restrict your cat to cage rest until the symptoms have completely disappeared. Your veterinarian will tell you when to discontinue the treatment.
The underlying cause may be treatable if it is caught early, and idiopathic vestibular disease usually disappears over a short period of time.
Loss of Balance Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat recently went missing for 24 hours and since coming back can't seem to walk for more than 3 seconds, or stand for longer than 40 seconds without falling over. It seems like it is his back legs that are giving way. He doesn't seem to be in any pain as he is purring still and hasn't made any unusual noises. He also doesn't seem to be put off of his food. I have also felt his back legs and he doesn't pull away / show any signs of being in pain. Is this something we should get checked out immediately, or should we wait and see if he improves over the next couple of days?
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What could be a reason as to why my cat is losing her balance? She is an older cat, around 10 or 11, she can also not stand or walk for more than 5 seconds before she falls. When she walks freely around the house, she will meow constantly.Her weight has dropped to where you are now able to feel her spine and ribs easily. She also has a loss of appetite and only eats a few bites then walks away from the food.
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Hi my cat is 14 years old. recently I have noticed that he has lost a lot of weight and doesn't want to eat wet or dry food. Today I noticed he was having trouble walking. He has trouble standing, walking, any moving is very unbalanced. Im not sure what to do, I know he is old, but I just wanted to know if it was most likely because of his age and I should let him pass freely or bring him to a vet. He doesn't cry just seems like he has a loss of energy, appetite, balance, and his eyes are beginning to get cloudy.
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