What is the Idiopathic vestibular disease in cats?

Idiopathic vestibular disease in cats

Idiopathic vestibular disease in cats

It is a dysfunction of the vestibular system of cats. The vestibular system is responsible for equilibrium and balance of the cat. It consists of the inner ear, nerves, and brain. All ages are susceptible to vestibular disease but rarely observed in cats less than one year of age.

What are the Types of vestibular system?

The vestibular system divided into two main parts:

  1. A peripheral vestibular system which located in the inner ear.
  2. A central vestibular system which located in the brain stem.

When the cat becomes affected with vestibular disease, the veterinarian must remember the anatomical distinction because the cause, treatment, and also prognosis differ depending on whether the vestibular disease is peripheral or central.

What are the Clinical signs of vestibular disease in cats

The possible findings in cat with vestibular disease are:

  • Lack of coordination.
  • Sudden loss of balance in cats
  • Head tilt.
  • Affected cat continually roll out and unable to walk.
  • Sudden loss of balance in cats
  • Falling of cat to one side.
  • Alteration of eye movement.
  • Nystagmus (back and forth, up and down movements).
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Falling of the cat on the ground.

Other signs may be associated with vestibular disease.

In case of vestibular disease, other neural structures located in the peripheral and central vestibular system may be affected, so some signs may be detected not directly vestibular symptoms as:

  • Vomiting: It occurs due to vestibular connection with the vomiting center in the brain.
  • Horners syndrome: It is some ocular signs occur as a result of the loss of sympathetic innervation as:
    1. Miosis.
    2. Protrusion of the third eye lid.
    3. Ptosis of the upper eye lid and decrease to the lower eye lid.

What is the cause of the vestibular disease in cats?

In case of idiopathic vestibular disease in cat, the term idiopathic means that the cause of vestibular disease is unknown. So common causes of vestibular dysfunction must be ruled out to call it idiopathic.

Common conditions affecting the vestibular system include:

  • Idiopathic vestibular disease: It causes peripheral vestibular disease characterized by sudden onset of signs.
  • Otitis media-interna: It is one of the common causative conditions for peripheral vestibular disease. It is a result of descending the infection from the external ear canal, spread of the organism from the pharynx through the auditory tube or haematogenous spread.
  • Trauma.
  • Toxins.
  • Neoplasia.
  • Inherited congenital peripheral vestibular diseases.
  • Vascular diseases ischemic or hemorrhagic disorders.
  • Inflammatory or infectious diseases as brain abscess and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
  • Metabolic diseases (thiamine deficiency).
  • Degenerative diseases.

How long does idiopathic vestibular disease still in cats?

Idiopathic vestibular disease is one of the short term diseases as the clinical signs appear within 24-48 hours. Idiopathic vestibular disease recovery within several days even without treatment.

Diagnosis of vestibular disease in cats

Diagnosis of vestibular disease depends on ruling out other diseases that may cause similar symptoms.
The veterinarian will determine the needed tests for diagnosis depending on:

  • Athorough case history which taken from the owner.
  • Physical and neurological examination: Examination of the external ear and any secretions in the ear canal (cytology and ear culture are performed).

Tests used in diagnosis are one or more of the following:

  1. Full hematology and biochemistry profile.
  2. Urine analysis.
  3. Chest radiography and abdominal ultrasound.
  4. BAER (brain auditory response test).
  5. Advanced imaging (MRI, CT) and biopsy in case of suspecting brain tumor.

Due to the unknown cause of the idiopathic vestibular disease in cat, diagnosis depends on the clinical signs, physical examination and excluding other causative diseases.

Idiopathic vestibular disease in cats treatment

The treatment of vestibular disease differ according to the causative condition.

  • In case of infectious diseases as middle ear infection course of antibiotics are given to the cat.
  • Using Symptomatic treatment are for motion sickness and nausea.
  • Surgery may be recommended in case of brain lesion.
  • Also good nursing care at home is essential until the animal can walk normally
  • In case of idiopathic vestibular disease there is no specific treatment.

Can vestibular disease kill a cat?

Vestibular disease in cats not a fetal disease. Prognosis of vestibular disease is related to the underlying conditions as in case of infectious diseases which can be treated and have a good prognosis. If the central vestibular disease is found (brain lesion) prognosis is poor. Idiopathic vestibular disease has a good prognosis as a diseased cat show improvement in the clinical signs with in several days. In some cases with neurological signs as head tilt may remains.

How can the owner help his cat to recover quickly?

  1. The owner must give the cat enough time for self recovery, as in case of idiopathic vestibular disease symptoms can improved without treatment.
  2. Eliminating of any stress factors affecting on the cat.
  3. Providing the with a comfortable and save environment.
  4. If the cat can’t walk or eat, the owner must help it for walking and eating.
  5. Keeping the cat in area which is a stress free, quiet with least activity especially from people and children.
  6. Keeping the cat clean and comfort are very important factors in treatment.
  7. Help the animal to walk instead of carrying helping to regain animal motion.


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