VCA Animal Hospitals

What's causing my cat to lose balance?

Published: Dec 29, 2011

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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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General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.

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