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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 32717
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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Hello my cat is only 2yrs old, we noticed a week ago today

Customer Question

Hello my cat is only 2yrs old, we noticed a week ago today when he jumped down to greet us, that his back end was weak and when he walked towards us, he looked almost drunk. We waited until the Monday to contact the vet and have him checked over, because on that very evening and on the Sunday he seemed to be comfortable and showed no pain. The vets didn't seem to think anything was wrong and told us to head home and watch him, I was not happy and requested a full bloods and x-Rays... Results were completely normal! He's still unsteady when he jumps up and tends to tilt his head more! Very puzzled? Do you have any suggestions, do you think he may have a deep ear infection or could have had a stroke?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
Not a stroke or deep ear infection but, instead, the idiopathic (unknown cause) vestibular syndrome is most likely in such a young cat with normal diagnostics. Head tilt and ataxia ("drunken sailor") are pathognomonic (specifically indicative) of vestibular (balance) disorders and the idiopathic vestibular syndrome is most commonly found accounting for 43% of cases of peripheral vestibular disease in one report.

Clinical signs can be severe with rolling and rapid nystagmus (eyes flicking back and forth) quite evident. The average age of affected cats is 4 years although it may be seen in any age. Prevalence is higher in certain regions of the United States, especially the Northeast. Although usually acute and nonprogressive in nature, there have been some reports of clinical signs progressing for up to 3 weeks. Signs usually resolve rapidly without definitive treatment, usually in the first week, although some patients may have a persistent head tilt. Diagnosis is by excluding other known causes of peripheral vestibular disease (such as inner/middle ear inflammation and inflammatory polyps in the middle ear); there's no definitive diagnostic testing nor is there definitive treatment. Some cats may require fluid and antiemetic therapy if vomiting doesn't resolve the first day. That doesn't seem to be the case with Angus, however.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.