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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

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Short hair cat

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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15 found helpful

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

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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15 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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6 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Walking In Circles Head Tilted
Walking In Circles

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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Vestibular Disease Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,200

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