Can Vestibular Disease Kill a Cat?

by Dr Ian Paulo Panol
Can Vestibular Disease Kill a Cat

As the world’s most popular household pet, cats are beloved by millions worldwide. However, they are not immune to illnesses and diseases that can threaten their health and well-being. One such condition is a vestibular disease, which affects the cat’s inner ear and can cause a range of symptoms, such as dizziness, loss of balance, and difficulty walking.

Treatment of Vestibular Disease in Cats

What Is Vestibular Disease?

Vestibular disease, also known as a vestibular syndrome, is a condition that affects a person’s sense of balance and equilibrium. It is caused by an issue in the vestibular system, which provides the brain with information about the body’s orientation in space.

When this system is not functioning correctly, it can result in symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and difficulty walking or standing. Various factors, including infections, head trauma, tumors, and autoimmune disorders, can cause vestibular disease.

While the symptoms of vestibular disease can be distressing, many cases can be treated with medication or physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the underlying issue.

Can Vestibular Disease Kill a Cat?

No. Vestibular disease is a condition that affects a cat’s balance and coordination. While it can be distressing to the cat and its owner, it is not usually life-threatening.

However, in some rare cases, the underlying cause of vestibular disease may be a more severe condition, such as a tumor or infection, that can be fatal if left untreated.

It is essential to have your cat examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms of vestibular diseases, such as sudden loss of balance, head tilting, or circling. Early diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate symptoms and prevent potential complications.

Leading Causes of Vestibular Disease?

Various factors can contribute to vestibular disease development, including infections, head injuries, medication side effects, and underlying medical conditions.


Cats can contract various infections, including bacterial, viral, and fungal infections that affect the nervous system and can result in vestibular symptoms such as loss of balance, head tilting, and disorientation.

Common cat infections that can cause vestibular disease include ear infections, feline herpesvirus, toxoplasmosis, and bacterial meningitis. If you notice any unusual behavior or symptoms in your cat, it’s essential to seek veterinary care to diagnose and treat any underlying infections causing vestibular disease.


While the vestibular disease is commonly associated with dogs, it can also occur in cats. Trauma is one of the leading causes of vestibular disease in felines. Cats are agile and curious creatures that can quickly get into accidents, resulting in head trauma.

A hard fall from a high place or being hit by a car can cause injury to the brain or inner ear, leading to vestibular disease. Cats that suffer from trauma may exhibit symptoms such as head tilt, uncoordinated movements, and difficulty walking.

If you suspect your cat has suffered from trauma and is displaying signs of vestibular disease, it is essential to seek immediate veterinary care. Early treatment can help reduce the severity of symptoms and improve your cat’s chances of full recovery.


The genetics of cats play a crucial role in developing the vestibular disease, a condition that affects a cat’s balance and coordination.

Some cat breeds, such as Siamese, Burmese, and Abyssinian, are predisposed to vestibular disease due to genetic factors. In these breeds, the condition may develop earlier and be more severe than in other breeds.

In addition, some genetic disorders, such as polycystic kidney disease, can also contribute to vestibular disease in cats. Understanding the genetic factors contributing to vestibular disease can help veterinarians diagnose and treat the condition more effectively.

It is important for cat owners to be aware of their cat’s breed and any potential genetic predispositions to ensure early detection and treatment of vestibular disease.

Age-related Changes

As cats age, they undergo several physical and behavioral changes. Age-related changes can affect a cat’s vestibular system, leading to vestibular disease.

Vestibular disease is more common in senior cats, and it is caused by a dysfunction of the vestibular system, which is responsible for maintaining balance and spatial orientation. Age-related changes can affect the inner ear’s sensitivity to motion, leading to balance issues and disorientation.

Senior cats may also experience degenerative changes in the brain and nervous system, leading to decreased cognitive function and coordination. As a result, they may have difficulty walking, standing, or maintaining their balance.

Additionally, older cats are more susceptible to infections and diseases, such as ear infections and tumors, which can also affect the vestibular system. It is crucial to monitor senior cats for any signs of vestibular disease and seek veterinary care promptly to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Treatment of Vestibular Disease in Cats

Treatment for vestibular disease in cats typically involves addressing the underlying cause, if possible, such as treating an ear infection or a brain tumor. Vets may prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and swelling in the inner ear and alleviate symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

Supportive care, including providing a safe and comfortable environment for the cat, may also be recommended. While the recovery time for vestibular disease can vary, many cats recover with appropriate treatment and supportive care.

Home Care for Cats With Vestibular Disease

After a veterinarian has made a diagnosis, creating a comfortable and safe environment for the affected cat is essential. This may involve limiting their access to high places or providing soft bedding to prevent injuries from falls.

Feeding and watering stations should also be easily accessible, as some cats may struggle with balance and coordination. In addition, medication prescribed by the veterinarian should be administered as directed, and you should report any side effects promptly.

Providing plenty of love and support can also help the cat cope with vestibular disease’s physical and emotional challenges.

Prevention of Vestibular Disease in Cats

One way to prevent vestibular disease is to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your cat by providing them with a balanced diet and regular exercise. Keeping your cat’s environment clean and free of potential hazards is also essential.

Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify underlying health issues that could lead to vestibular disease. Additionally, avoiding certain medications and chemicals that can cause vestibular dysfunction in cats is crucial.

By following these preventive measures, you can help ensure your cat’s overall well-being and reduce its risk of developing vestibular disease.

Read also: My Cat Has Never Been Vaccinated! Should I Worry?


Vestibular disease can be a severe and concerning health issue for cats, but it is rarely life-threatening. While the symptoms of the disease can be distressing to the cat and its owner, with proper veterinary care and treatment, most cats can recover fully from vestibular disease.

However, cat owners must be vigilant and seek veterinary attention if their cat shows signs of vestibular disease, as underlying conditions that could potentially be life-threatening may present with similar symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment ensure the best possible outcome for a cat with vestibular disease.

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