What is it?
• Vestibular Disease occurs in both dogs and cats.
• The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining balance.
• If the vestibular system is damaged or infected, your pet will suffer from imbalance or incoordination.
• Animals with idiopathic peripheral vestibular disease have a head tilt, tendency to walk in circles, loss of balance, and irregular jerking eye movements.
What causes it?
• Causes of vestibular disease include middle or inner ear infection, drugs that are toxic to the ear, trauma or injury, tumors, and hypothyroidism.
• When no specific diagnosis is found, the condition will be called idopathic vestibular syndrome.
• These cases are distinguished by the sudden onset of clinical signs and the subsequent rapid eye improvement with little if any, medical intervention.
• Other cases (such as stroke, autoimmune inflammation, or tumors) must be ruled out in order to classify the vestibular dysfunction as “idiopathic.”
What tests are needed?
• The veterinarian will diagnose your animal based on the history of clinical signs and exclusion of any other conditions.
• A neurologic examination will help to rule out any other causes, and identify which part of the vestibular system are affected.
• Careful inspection of the animals ears is typically performed.
• MRI or CT scan are other typical tests that may be needed.
How is it treated?
• Animals typically show improvement within a few days without treatment.
• Treatment is directed at the underlying cause, if one can be identified.
• Initially, animals that are severely affected may require hospitalization for intravenous fluid and anti-nausea drugs.
• Affected animals will need to be closely monitored at home, and possibly handfed.
What follow up care is needed?
• Animals who are hospitalized will require repeated neurologic exams until improvements are seen.
• Those who are not hospitalized will need to be re-evaluated to ensure that conditions are resolved.
• Recovery may take several weeks, and few animals will have a permanent head tilt.