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Published: Dec 29, 2011

Cats are known for always landing on their feet and being able to walk, run and jump with ease. So if a feline is suddenly falling or swaying to one side, an owner should bring the cat to their veterinarian for an examination. VCA Animal Hospitals reports one condition that causes this odd behavior is feline vestibular disease. This is an illness that usually occurs suddenly and affects the vestibular apparatus, which is located in the inner ear and helps to maintain balance and a sense of direction. The most common signs of vestibular disease include dizziness, head tilting, falling over, walking in circles and abnormal rapid eye movements.

According to VCA, anytime the vestibular apparatus is damaged or diseased, a cat’s balance and coordination are immediately affected. While infections or tumors of the middle or inner ear, or exposure to certain drugs or toxins can result in damage to the vestibular system, often no definitive cause is found.

Most veterinarians diagnose the condition from the classic clinical signs, however, often tests such as blood and urine tests, and even more advanced tests such as blood pressure, skull x-rays, and possibly even CT scans or MRIs will be necessary to ensure there is not a more serious underlying cause. If no such culprit is found, the diagnosis is Idiopathic Feline Vestibular Disease.

Sick cats with this issue are commonly prescribed antibiotics or other medications if it is suspected or determined they have an inner or middle ear infection.  Anti-nausea medicine or other supportive treatments may also be prescribed if the cat is feeling sick from the lack of balance.

In cats without underlying disease, the condition is usually short-lived and will typically resolve after a brief period of time. In most cases, the uncontrollable eye movement will stop in a matter of days. Sometimes the signs do not resolve completely and some cats are left with a slight tilt of the head but otherwise regain most normal functions.

If your cat is exhibiting unusual balance or signs of dizziness, see your veterinarian for an examination.

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