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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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Rose

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Black longhair

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5 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Clouding
Loss Of Appetite
Wobbly Gait
Eye Flickering/Circling

My roughly 5 month old kitten had had a growth inside of her eye for a month or so now (The vets we've talked to says it looks like scar tissue) and today it became visible that she was uncoordinated and her good eye was flicking/circling. She hasnt eaten or drank anything for hours now, and she seems pretty lethargic, and she doesen't hold her head up when she sits, is there anything we should test for her condition? (The vets think it might be an ear infection or fluid buildup behind her bad eye, so we're treating her for the ear infection first) (Also, she's allergic to pennecillin)

Sept. 2, 2018

Rose's Owner

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Cheezit

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DOMESTIC

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Four Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Staggering And Vom

My cat started throwing up whole food yesterday and soon after he was staggering when he tried to walk. An hour later he seemed fine. Today he threw up in the morning, but was walking fine. Then tonight he threw up again and was staggering.

Aug. 25, 2018

Cheezit's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Cheezit I cannot say for certain what the specific cause is, you should think about visiting your Veterinarian for an examination if this is becoming a frequent occurrence. A few conditions may result in similar symptoms and it is always best to try and catch some conditions early. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 25, 2018

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Tux

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Black and white

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Uncoordinated

Tux has been ‘kind of’ Diagnosised with vestibular disease a few days ago. The vet told me he could have got into something or it could be because of an ear infection he has when he was a few months old. He does seem to be improving eating using the litter box purring and being very lovey. They told me I couldn’t get a better answer unless I had a head x ray done. Would it be worth going through that just to know for sure what caused it? Also I had started giving him lysine for his sneezing that he had had since he was little. Could that have cause his vestibular disease?

Aug. 14, 2018

Tux's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Vestibular symptoms can be difficult to diagnose an underlying cause, even with a head x-ray it is unlikely to really shed any real light on the cause; infection, trauma, poisoning or idiopathic (most common cause and it means we don’t know why) among others may be the cause. Keep an eye on him and monitor for improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 14, 2018

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Loki

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Not sure

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2 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Trouble Walking
Inactivity
Not Using Litter Box

We rescued a kitten almost a week ago and he was fine for a few days, then he began limping in pain. We took him to the vet and they perscribed him pain meds for his limp and tested him for AIDS and leukemia, dewormed him, and vaccinated him. We’ve been giving him his perscribed meds as directed since his vet visit, but he has gotten worse. He’s still limping, is barely using his back legs, hasn’t used the litter box in a while, is swaying/tilting when he tries to walk although he can barely stand let alone walk. We’re taking him back to the vet first thing in the morning but we just need some type of help or hope. We’re all so scared for our kitten. Please help us please

Aug. 11, 2018

Loki's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is difficult to say what is happening without examining Loki myself; infections, trauma, cerebellar disorders among other causes may lead to similar symptoms. You should try to limit Loki’s movements and return to your Veterinarian in the morning as planned for a thorough examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 11, 2018

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Oliver

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domestic medium hair

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Fever
Head Tilt
Panting
Third Eye

My cat was exhibiting signs of feline vestibular disease including the head tiltand loss of motion. His third eye was present and he was panting which I didn’t notice as a sign of FVD. We brought him to the ER where they said he had a fever and and took him home with some antibiotics. We couldn’t afford to do MRIs or overnight stay as it was over $5,000 for the MRI alone. He seems more alert today, but still not eating or drinking.

July 29, 2018

Oliver's Owner

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0 Recommendations

There are many causes for a head tilt and loss of motion which may be attributable to head trauma, ear infections, tumours, neurological disorders, poisoning among others; an MRI would rule out head trauma, tumours and other issues but I understand that it is cost prohibitive if there is no insurance. Administer the antibiotics as prescribed and monitor for improvement, follow up with your general Veterinarian if required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 30, 2018

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Juanita

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Common European long hair

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12 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Balance

Well Juanita got an idiopathic vestibular syndrome for the very first time in September. Nistagmus, tilted head, l’osso of balance. In like five weeks she was back to her normal life. 90 days ago she had another attack. Idiopathic again. After three months she is still walking losing a bit her balance and she doesn’t want to climb the stairs or climb onto sofas and beds..... last time was different, quicker recovery. This is because somebody says it doesn’t occour more than once and it’s usually lighter than the first time. 😢 Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/vestibular-disease

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Carlotta

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Domestic shorthair

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6 Years

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

Moderate severity

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilts
Dizziness Walking
Paws At Food And Water
Leaning To One Side

Help! My cat has vestibular disease as she is head tilting and walking drunkenly. I don’t know if she’s taking in any water or food but someone I live with saw her pawing at her food and water bowls as if unsure. Will I have to and how can I manually be sure she’s eating and drinking?

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Goshi

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shiraz

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Dizzy
Can Not Eat
Walk An Hit Things
Eye Become All Black

Hi.. my cat's right eye become all black and the other eye started to do the same and she is dezzey and walking without control she can not eat nor going to her bathtub without supporting. it is all started after i feed her new cat treat which she likes it and aet it all " named fancy seast ".. i went to a clinic they could not diagnose her please any one can help! Someone said she had diabetes and they gave her insulin but she did not responded , i went to another clinic they said she might has truoma and they gave her eye drops but it dosnt work,, what i think she dose not see as she walks and hit things any one has this situation or know about it please

dog-name-icon

Goshi

dog-breed-icon

shiraz

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Cant Get Up

Hi.. my cat's right eye become all black and the other eye started to do the same and she is dezzey and walking without control she can not eat nor going to her bathtub without supporting. it is all started after i feed her new cat treat which she likes it and aet it all " named fancy seast ".. i went to a clinic they could not diagnose her please any one can help! Someone said she had diabetes and they gave her insulin but she did not responded , i went to another clinic they said she might has truoma and they gave her eye drops but it dosnt work,, what i think she dose not see as she walks and hit things any one has this situation or know about it please.. thanks

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Stevens

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Tuxedo

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Head Shaking
Nystagmus
Falling Over
Head Rolling

Our kitty Stevens is a 6yo, tiny 5 lb cat, who has always been extremely energetic and sweet. She never meows, but rather squeaks, and we knew something was wrong 2 days ago when she never came downstairs for food in the morning. We searched for her before work, couldn't find her, and chalked it up to maybe she was hiding behind the washing machine or something. When we got home, she was meowing loudly (which she never does), like she was in a lot of pain, and she had nystagmus (eyes darting back and forth), head tilting, and was falling to the right. Took her immediately to the emergency vet where we were terrified of hearing that it would be a brain tumor / brain bleed, but eventually they found blood in her ear. We took her to a vet specialist who then realized her little eardrum had ruptured due to a polyp growing in her right ear, which we were unaware of. Of course, compared to the neurological possibilities, we're pretty happy with this, even though I can't imagine how painful it must be for her. Only in hindsight did I realize that she's been rubbing her head on furniture the last 4-5 months or so, to the point where she has a bald spot above her right eye. I wonder now if she was in pain from the polyp and was trying to rub her head to alleviate some of the pain. So now it's only been 48 hours, but she is walking around (albeit very wobbly / continuing to fall over) constantly, so we're monitoring her as we have a lot of stairs in our house and just trying to keep her comfortable. Does anyone know if this will subside in a kitty when the cause is trauma? I am really hoping she isn't deaf or have these symptoms permanently.

Vestibular Disease Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,200

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