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C2008-30

Dear Christopher Cat

I thought my cat had a stroke last week. She suddenly lost her coordination and staggered in circles, and her eyes moved rhythmically from side to side.

The veterinarian diagnosed feline vestibular syndrome and said not to worry about it. Sure enough, she’s fine now. What can you tell me about this disorder?

Christopher Responds

Feline vestibular syndrome can strike cats of any age, most often during the summer and early fall. In one study, 80 percent of cases were diagnosed in July and August.

The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining balance. When it fails, clinical signs include those you saw as well as head tilt, disorientation, poor appetite and sometimes vomiting.

The rhythmic eye movement, called nystagmus, usually disappears within a few days. Poor balance and head tilt may persist for a few weeks or longer.

The cause is unknown, and no treatment has been shown to speed recovery.

However, some veterinarians treat affected cats with medication to calm their motion sickness.

Others reason that since part of the vestibular system resides in the middle and inner parts of the ears, where it’s difficult to rule out infection, an antibiotic might help.

Fortunately, vestibular syndrome rarely recurs, so you and your cat can relax and enjoy the reminder of the summer.

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