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What is Vestibular Disease?

Vestibular disease may be the result of trauma or disease in the vestibular apparatus inside of a cat’s ear. This apparatus aids a cat’s coordination and balance. Vestibular syndrome may also be caused by a number of primary conditions affecting the vestibular system, ranging from infection to cancer.

Feline vestibular syndrome is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes a lack of coordination in cats. The condition often manifests suddenly. Cats affected by vestibular disease tend to fall to one side, tilt their heads, and experience unintentional eye movement. Cats with vestibular disease may experience other symptoms based on the underlying cause. Siamese and Burmese breeds have a higher risk of developing this disorder at birth.

Vestibular Disease Average Cost

From 485 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$1,200

Symptoms of Vestibular Disease in Cats

While vestibular disease is not a life-threatening condition in itself, it may be indicative of a more serious condition. Seek immediate veterinary attention as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of control over movement
  • Head tilting
  • Vomiting
  • Involuntary eye movement
  • Drooping of the face (usually associated with tumors or an inflamed inner ear)
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Causes of Vestibular Disease in Cats

The causes of vestibular disease in cats include, but are not limited to:

 

  • Bacterial and fungal infection
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Tumors
  • Nasopharyngeal polyps
  • Cancer
  • Head trauma
  • Allergic reactions to medication

 

Typically, the cause of vestibular disease on an individual basis is never identified; these cases are considered idiopathic. However, many cats that develop vestibular syndrome are deaf. It is important to note that exposure to certain drugs may cause similar symptoms to appear in cats. Any cat has a chance of developing vestibular syndrome, although certain breeds have a higher risk of developing it congenitally.

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Diagnosis of Vestibular Disease in Cats

Your vet will be able to make a tentative diagnosis based on a thorough physical examination and presentation of symptoms. Be sure to inform your vet of the extent and duration of your cat’s symptoms, as well as any relevant trauma, infections, or exposure to toxins or drugs that you know of. Your vet will likely ask for your cat’s complete medical history, so be prepared to provide this information as well.

While there are currently no tests for detecting vestibular disease, your vet will make a definitive diagnosis by conducting neurological and ear examinations. If a specific underlying cause is suspected, your vet may utilize other tests, including blood and urine analysis, CT scan, MRI, and cultures of the ear.

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Treatment of Vestibular Disease in Cats

Treatment may vary depending on the underlying cause, symptoms present, and the severity of the condition. Your vet will be able to advise you on a treatment plan based on your cat’s specific needs.

Treating vestibular disease with no known cause is typically straightforward and involves treating the symptoms rather than the condition itself. Anti-nausea medication and nutritional therapy may be prescribed if the cat is vomiting or refusing to eat. Most cats with idiopathic vestibular disease recover quickly.

Bacterial and fungal infections are typically treated with an antibiotic or antifungal regimen. Surgical treatment may be required for chronic ear infections. Tumors may be treated with laser surgery. Radiation and chemotherapy can treat malignant tumors, which typically affect middle-aged and older cats.

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Recovery of Vestibular Disease in Cats

Recovery and prognosis are typically excellent in cases of idiopathic vestibular disease. Cats typically make a full recovery within three weeks. Symptoms, as well as the disease itself, do not generally recur. Prognosis for vestibular disease associated with a more serious condition will vary based on the severity of the condition and the success of treatment.

Always follow your vet’s post-treatment and/or post-operative instructions carefully. Always administer any prescribed medications, particularly antibiotics, exactly as directed for the full duration of the treatment period. Failure to do so could result in aggressive recurrence of infection.

Upon the return home, you may need to make adjustments as needed to ensure that your cat cannot injure himself. You may want to limit your cat’s outdoor activity during the recovery period, as malfunctions in the vestibular system have the potential to cause severe injury. Your cat may also need help eating and drinking during the recovery period.

If your cat has had surgery, do not allow it to irritate the surgery site. Ensure it has a warm, secure place to rest for the duration of the recovery period.

For cases of idiopathic vestibular disease, follow-up appointments are usually not required. For vestibular disease with a more serious underlying cause, your vet will schedule follow-up appointments as needed to monitor the underlying condition. If the disease recurs or does not seem to be improving despite treatment, consult your vet immediately.

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Vestibular Disease Average Cost

From 485 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$1,200

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Vestibular Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Short hair cat

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Walking In Circles, Head Tilted

Hi, My cat suddenly appeared with a head tilt and was walking in circles. From looking online it looks like she has vestibular disease. She is eating, drinking and using the litter box no problem. She also has not thrown up or seemed too distressed. My question is should I take her to the vet ASAP or wait a couple days to see if will resolve itself?

July 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your cat. Vestibular disease can be caused by an inner ear infection or a polyp in your cat's ear. This would need to see a vet. Old age vestibular diseases are seen in really old animals and will resolve sometimes on its own. Since your cat is younger, I would suspect that these signs are caused by an ear infection or polyps in your cat's ear. It would be best to see a vet. I hope your cat starts to feel better soon.

July 30, 2020

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Grace

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Himalayan

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Walking In Circles
Walking In Circles Head Tilted

My dog walker called today and said that my cat grace was not feeling well. She said her head was tilted off to the side and she was in a room with the dog that she typically isn’t in. Also she was growling. We went home as soon as possible and when we got there her head was tilted to the side as my dog walker had said plus she was walking in circles repeatedly. We took her to the emergency vet right away and they did a full panel of blood work. Everything came back ok and we are waiting for the results of her thyroid test and fiv. They want us to come back tomorrow to speak to the neurologist and get a MRI. We love our cat enormously however the cost for the test alone is $2400 without any treatment. Everything that was done today was nearly $800. Is there anything else we can do or try before the mri? We want to give her the best we possibly can but this is severely out of our price range. We would have to take loans out to cover the cost. If in the end this will save her and give her quality of life we will do it of course but if there was another route or options that would be so helpful. I hate seeing our little baby like this. She’s finally sleeping right now but it took awhile. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much

Sept. 13, 2018

Grace's Owner

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Stella

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Calico

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18 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Falling Over Walking Drunk

Cat got up this morning and was kind of acting drunk I'm playing with her and she's falling over cuz she's a kitten so she's really got major you know running and playing going on and all the sudden she just Falls over she's just acting real North RG she wants to play but she doesn't jump anymore she was jumping yesterday it's just worrying me what should I do

Sept. 10, 2018

Stella's Owner

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Missy

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Persian I think

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

On Sept. 1, 2018 we had left to go away for the day about 4pm. Our cat Missy was just fine but when we got home that night about 10p. she looked like she had a stroke because she was couldn't walk straight, she would fall down, loose her balance,head tilted to the right side and her pupils will get either small or big. She is always scratching her right ear, so I looked it up and I believe she has Vestibular Disease. I have been internet searching and this is what I found. She has had this before back in June but for only couple of days and she came out of it and this time it has been almost a week Saturday. I have no money to take her to the vet and I don't know what to do for her.Will she eventually come out of this or will she get worse?

Sept. 7, 2018

Missy's Owner

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Gus

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Russian Blue

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Circling, Disoriented

Gus was circling 3 days ago. Went to the Vet twice and the Vet stated that they did not see nystagmus and that it could be a lesion or tumor due to clean bill of health. Eventhough we did see it. It's the 3rd day, nystagmus has stopped and circling only when moving around a lot. Besides that, Gus walks straight. Never has stopped eating, drinking and going to the bathroom. I DO believe it is vestibular disease. When should I see full recovery? Also it has been 1 full day without circling, but he has a bad spell tonight with circling. Should we keep him in one room? He gets ancy and wants to walk around but goes into a spell once tired. Also, hes been scratching his right ear, sneezing and shaking his ears. Is that also normal since they said no ear infection???? Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thank you!!!

Sept. 6, 2018

Gus' Owner

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Mocha

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Siamese

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22 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My almost 23 year old cat has this disease. My son is the town vet and diagnosed him. Mocha has thrown up 6 times today. He is resting on the chair beside me, as he has been doing for many years, right now, though. I think he will soon cross the rainbow bridge. I hope my son can help him pass over as comfortably as possible.

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Bear Cat

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tabby

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Strange Eye Movement, Head Tilt, Falling While Wal Falling While Walking

We seem to live in a perfect area where people drop off stray dogs and cats. I have been dealing with various ailments with the Stray animals for many years now. I have had several cats that have been stricken by this disease that makes them look downright drunk. They have trouble walking sometimes just standing is very difficult. And when they have to go up and down a staircase oh, well it's easier just to pick them up and carry them. I have tried various veterinary clinics in my area. It seems that it's pretty much guesswork. Since there is no outright test for this vestibular disease it's pretty much hit and miss at best. I am caring for an older stray cat right now whose eyes are really messed up. He Squints and his eyes move in a strange way. His head is cocked to the left side and he falls often. He continues to eat really well however. I have noticed that he seems to be better once you let him wander around and walk in the yard for a while. He seems much worse after he's been resting or has been immobile. The worst part for me right now is that due to medical issues I am not working. So I can't afford to Simply take these animals in and have the different clinics through techniques at them. I feel a great deal of guilt seeing the poor little animal falling down. My Hope Is that he will get over this problem as the literature suggests in about three weeks time. It's been my experience that no matter what you do you will always second guess yourself and think or wish that you had gone a different route.

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Oliver

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Cat

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Nauseous

My Cat, Oliver (a tuxedo cat), has episodes of vestibular disease on an idiopathic bases. When an episode comes on, it’s usually 2am in the morning. He can go 9 months without an episode, or 1 month. His bedroom is in my bathroom, so occasionally I don’t know it has happened if the smell doesn’t wake me. I found him on his bed this morning with poop and pee under him, and vomit on and by his face. His symptoms are dizziness, vomiting, urinating, defecating, and darting eyes. I use two waterproof queen pillow covers and beneath that I put a quilted sham over 2 inches of foam padding for his bed. It makes clean-up easier. I remove him from his bed to the floor beside him. I discard the poop and vomit in the toilet and put the pillow cases and sham in the wash. I use a little mild liquid soap in a pan of warm water, and with his washcloth I first clean his face of vomit and then his butt and tail. I keep rinsing the cloth and change the water as necessary. I find that any kind of blinking or flashing lights bring on his attacks. This includes flash lights and Christmas tree lights. Inner ear infections also cause his episodes. Excessive excitement can bring them on. My family and I recently watched the World Series baseball games and would scream with excitement when our team won. Oliver had an episode that morning after the final game. I believe the last two episodes were due to a small Christmas tree I have up in my room not far from his cat tower that he stays on. The lights are not blinking but they are bright and directly in his sight. His episodes are severe at first and subside gradually in 6 to 8 hours. I would recommend not giving food or water until 4 to 5 hours later. I would also recommend keeping his/her ears clean and infection free (When his ears get warm, it’s usually an indication of something not right inside. I put antibiotics in them for a week); Keeping him calm; and keeping any type of bright or blinking lights away from him/her. It’s always best to have a doctor evaluate his/her condition first to rule out infection, tumors, or cancer.

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Stix

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TORTOISE shell

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6 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Ear Itching
Vomiting
Wobbly
Darting Eyes
Sleepiness

A woman at my work found a 5 week old kitten that I adopted, she was very tiny but seemed ok. A few days later I heard her scratching against the box she sleeps in and when I went to check on her she was on her back having a seizure. She was shaking uncontrollably and spit was all around her mouth and chin, this lasted for about 30 seconds. 4 hours later the same thing happened and again 6 hours after that. I took her to the vet and that day and they saw nothing wrong with her besides being slightly unbalanced. The next day when I got her up for breakfast her eyes were darting back and forth and when I would talk to her she would seem to focus and snap out of it but she couldn't walk because she seemed so dizzy. She would try to take steps but would just fall over to the side or lay down. I took her back to the vet and again they didn't see much wrong. Now today was thre 3rd day and she ate a little breakfast but laid on her stomach and put her paws on the side of her head and rocked side to side for about 15 seconds. She seemed fine after that small episode. The vet flushed her ears and put her on Clyndamiacin and don't think it's vestibular disease but I feel like it is, she seems to be getting a little better on this 3rd day. She's really playful when she's not sleeping or having issues. Any thoughts?

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Marmalade

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Persian

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Falling Over
Loss Of Appetite
Not Drinking
Vestibular
Not Using Liter Box
Eye Rolling
Not Moving
Loss Of Balance
Body Tilt
Head Tilt

I woke up two days ago to my cat Marmalade's right eye not dilating. She is a doll-face Persian so is prone to upper respiratory infections and eye and nose issues. So, when I noticed this I cleaned it out thinking it was related to that and would recheck it out at lunch. I got home for lunch and noticed her shaking her head back and forth and panting on the floor. I quickly called my vet and they told me to take her into the Emergency Hospital. So, I did. They held her over night and released her to me yesterday, with the hope that she would start eating for me in her normal environment. They told me she had a middle ear infection and this was affecting her neurologically and causing the vestibular side effects. She was showing literally no symptoms the day before the eye issue. She was snuggling with my nine year old niece and everything. Now she can barely stand on her own. She cannot walk without falling to the right, she wont eat, she wont drink except what I give her through a syringe, as far as I can tell she has used the bathroom once, her right eye can focus but still seems to not dilate as big as the left, she seems dizzy (my boyfriend says she looks high) and I am worried about her. I just want to know how to get her to eat. She was only 5 pounds to begin with and I am scared she wont make it if she does not start eating. She is on Prednisone, which personally I would not take for myself because it makes me nauseous, and three other medications I cannot remember for her ears. I could use a second opinion on what to do to make her eat.

Vestibular Disease Average Cost

From 485 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$1,200

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