Vestibular Disease in Cats
Can have severe impacts of your cat’s spinal cord and head areas

Vestibular disease in cats in most all cases has no actual known cause which is what makes it so mysterious.

In about fifty percent of the cases, it will resolve itself over a period of a couple of weeks.

In the other fifty percent, it may leave your cat with a permanent head tilt.

Although the tilt is concerning, it by itself is not dangerous and most cats will adjust to it over time.

The vestibular system in your cat is responsible for keeping your pets head as well as their body in the proper balance as it relates to gravity.

If everything is operating properly, this system alerts your cat’s brain when they are about to sit, standing back up, or when they are going to lie down.


It is also the same system that operates in pure precision when cats fall from a height and automatically straightens them upright; and has developed the reputation that cats will always land on their feet.

The system itself is comprised of nerves that start in your cat brain and continue in their body where they end in their inner ears.

There are sensors that are located in your cat’s inner ear that have the responsibility of alerting the brain to movement.

When it does malfunction, it is referred to as vestibular disease or syndrome.

This disease is divided into two forms; central and peripheral.


Vestibular disease in cats has two different forms, central and peripheral.

As a rule it is very difficult to differentiate the two.

However, there are some signs that you can initially watch for and identify.

Once identified, it will help your veterinarians make the proper diagnosis of which forms of treatment are required.


Vestibular disease in cats can be one of the most frightening situations that a cat as well as owners can go through.

It can cause your cat to start falling down for no known reason, or begin to stumble appearing that they are literally in a drunken state.

With Vestibular disease in cats, they may also start to tilt their heads and then circle or roll on the floor in the same direction of the tilt.

However, it is the eye movements that will literally scare you to death.

Deep blue eyes in catsVestibular disease in cats can be controlled

If this disease does affect your cat’s eyes, it can cause them to drift from side to side, up or down, or even circular in some situations.

It can become so drastic that it appears your cat is possessed by something.

With the peripheral form of the vestibular disease in cats, your pet will show no real body weakness and as a result they will seldom roll or fall down.

They will also keep all of the senses of where their feet are located, which aids in the balance of gravity.

But there are two very troubling symptoms this form shows that the central form does not show.

If it is peripheral, your cats face will become partially paralyzed and when this happens, it droops to one side.

It appears that your cat is having a stroke, but in most all cases this is just temporary.

The other sign is that your cat’s eye movements will be horizontal or they will rotate in circular motions, but the movement will never be vertical, or up and down.

This, as well as the drooping, is the two most important signs to watch for.


Vestibular disease in cats demonstrates a lot more symptoms with the central form that it does with the peripheral form.

With this form, your cats face will not droop, but instead they will develop head tremors which are very frightening for both your cat as well as you.

Their jaws will also suddenly become very weak as well, as the commutation from the ears is functioning very poorly, if at all.

With this form, your cat literally loses the control of their feet, as they will at times have absolutely no idea where they are located.

As a result of this, they will begin to walk like a drunken sailor as they cannot place one foot in front of the other.

This will naturally cause your cat to begin to repeatedly fall down and roll.

But the major difference will be with your cat’s eyes.

With this form, your cats eyes may go in all three directions; horizontal, vertical, as well as rotate.

If you ever witness this, it will be something that you will never forget. When this occurs, your cat will become extremely disorientated.

But there is one test that you can do to confirm it is the central form as well as to confirm that your cat is not having something much more serious happening.

Lay them flat on their back and hold them down if you have to, and then watch their eyes.

When your cat’s eyes move like this, it is referred to as nystagmus, and if it is the central form, your cats eyes will constantly change in all three directions.

If it is the peripheral form, the direction does not change; it will stay in the same direction.

If they are rolling, they will continue to roll, and if they are horizontal, they will remain going back and forth.

This confirms that they have the peripheral form and that it is definitely vestibular disease, but it is not the serious form.


Vestibular disease in cats is basically causing motion sickness and this is causing the loss of balance and communications.

As such, the treatments are usually geared towards reducing both the loss of balance as well as the nausea that comes with it.

If your cat is still able to eat and drink, they may require no medication.

However, if they cannot eat, they will usually be given Diphenhydramine or Meclizine. Both are very effective at reducing the motion sickness and the nausea associated with it.

If it is the central form of this disease, your cat will have to undergo several tests, as the underlying cause may be a brain tumor.


Most forms of vestibular disease in cats are the peripheral form, and this is why it is so important to do the back test.

It will reassure you of what it is, and that it is not the much more serious central form.

This disease can and does affect middle aged cats, but it is much more common in cats once they reach the age of 11 to 12 years.

The actual cause of peripheral form may never be fully diagnosed and it usually goes away on its own, but it is still a very frightening experience for both you and your cat.

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