Vestibular Syndrome refers to a disease group that affect the vestibular system which affects the balance system. This disease can be caused by many things like nerve or brain tumours, infection, inflammation, underactive Thyroid gland or it may be that even with extensive investigation no cause if found. Where no cause is found, this is called idiopathic vestibular syndrome.
Vestibular Syndrome can happen in dogs and cats and the common signs are loss of balance, falling over, a flickering of the eyes and they are generally unsteady on their feet. Vestibular Syndrome can be very upsetting for the pet and owners, but it is usually something that will get better over time.
The Vestibular system controls balance in pets and keeps them balanced in different situations. The vestibular system has sensors deep in the inner ear and a control centre at the back of the brain. These sensors ensure the body and position of the head are in the right place whether they are standing or moving by sending messages to the brain and other parts of the body. Messages are also sent to the muscles controlling movement in the eyes according to where the head is positioned.
The signs of Vestibular syndrome are the same in dogs and cats and include, falling, tilting of the head with one ear lower than the other, a rapid flickering of the eyes from side to side or up and down, they will not be able to walk in a straight line and they will drift off to one side and they will act in an abnormal manner.
The balance centre also is close to the part of the brain that controls vomiting so they may feel or be sick, they may also have a hearing loss and the face may be drooping. Other signs may be seizures, weakness, loss of vision and difficulty eating or drinking.
If you suspect vestibular system you need to go to the vet as soon as possible and they will look at what tests and treatment are necessary, or they may not give any treatment. They may need to carry out CT or MRI brain scans and carry our further investigations including taking a sample of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. Drugs will vary and may include antibiotics, steroids, anti-nausea drugs, all depending on how the animal is affected.
Depending on the underlying cause, the prognosis will vary. Some animals are left with a permanent head tilt and others may need no treatment and make a full recovery. The cause may be an ongoing condition that needs treatment, but this will vary depending on the individual animal.
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