Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy



or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

Loss of Balance (Unbalanced Gait) in Cats

ADVERTISEMENT

Ataxia, Vestibular Disease in Cats

 

There are three clinical types of ataxia: sensory (proprioceptive), vestibular, and cerebellar. All three types produce changes in limb coordination, but vestibular and cerebellar ataxia also produce changes in head and neck movement. Ataxia, in general, is a condition relating to a sensory dysfunction that produces loss of coordination of the limbs, head, and/or trunk.

 

Sensory (proprioceptive) ataxia occurs when the spinal cord is slowly compressed. A typical outward symptom of sensory ataxia is misplacing the feet, accompanied by a progressive weakness as the disease advances. Sensory ataxia can occur with spinal cord, brain stem (the lower part of the brain near the neck), and cerebral locations of lesions.

 

The vestibulocochlear nerve carries information concerning balance from the inner ear to the brain. Damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve can cause changes in head and neck position, as the affected animal may feel a false sense of movement, or may be having problems with hearing. Outward symptoms include leaning, tipping, falling, or even rolling over. Central vestibular signs usually have changing types of eye movements, sensory deficits, weakness in the legs (all or one sided), multiple cranial nerve signs, and drowsiness, stupor, or coma. Peripheral vestibular signs do not include changes in mental status, vertical eye movements, sensory deficits, or weakness in the legs.

 

Cerebellar ataxia is reflected in uncoordinated motor activity of the limbs, head and neck, taking large steps, stepping oddly, head tremors, body tremors and swaying of the torso. There is an inadequacy in the performance of motor activity and in strength preservation.

 

Symptoms and Types

 

  • Weakness of the limbs
    • May affect one, two, or all of the limbs
    • May affect only the hind legs, or the legs on one side of the body
  • Tilting head to one side
  • Trouble hearing – non-responsive to being called to at normal voice pitch
  • Stumbling, tipping over, swaying
  • Excessive drowsiness or stupor
  • Changes in behavior
  • Abnormal eye movements – may be due to false feeling of movement, vertigo
  • Lack of appetite due to nausea (symptom of motion sickness from loss of internal equilibrium [balance])

 

Causes

 

  • Neurologic
    • Cerebellar
    • Degenerative:
      • Abiotrophy (prematurely the cerebellum loses function)
    • Anomalous:
      • Underdevelopment secondary to perinatal infection with panleukopenia virus in cats
      • A cyst located near fourth ventricle
    • Cancer
    • Infectious – feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
    • Inflammatory, unknown causes, immune-mediated
    • Toxic
  • Vestibular – central nervous system (CNS)
    • Infectious:
      • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), rickettsial diseases
    • Inflammatory, unknown causes, immune-mediated
    • Toxic
  • Vestibular—Peripheral nervous system
    • Infectious:
      • Middle ear
      • Fungal
    • Diseases of unknown cause
    • Metabolic
    • Cancer
    • Traumatic
  • Spinal Cord
    • Degeneration of the nerve roots and spinal cords
    • Vascular:
      • Loss of blood to nervous system due to blockage of blood vessels by a blood clot
    • Anomalous:
      • Spinal cord and vertebral malformation
      • spinal cyst
    • Cancer
    • Infectious
    • Traumatic
  • Metabolic
    • Anemia
    • Electrolyte disturbances – low potassium and low blood sugar

 

Diagnosis

 

You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition. Your veterinarian will order standard tests, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel.

 

Imaging is crucial for determining whether the disease is localized to the peripheral vestibular system, the spinal cord, or the cerebellum. Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), myelography and spinal X-rays can all be useful diagnostic tools for non-invasive internal examinations. Chest and abdominal X-rays are also important for determining if cancer or systemic fungal infection is present. An abdominal ultrasound should be done to check liver, kidney, adrenal or pancreatic functions.

 

If the source of the disease is suspected to be in the nervous system, a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) will be taken for laboratory analysis.

 

 

Comments  0

Leave Comment

Sign up for the Cat Care Journal

Monthly expert tips and stage-by-stage advice to help care for your cat.

By subscribing you agree to receive special offers from Pet360 Inc and Church & Dwight Co., Inc., the makers of ARM & HAMMERTM.

Cat Care Questions
Answered By

Q. Why do kittens meow?

A. The truth of the matter is there isn't one clear answer. However, many experts agree...

Read More
Q. Why do kittens purr?

A. A kitten's purr is another complex emotional signal that is designed to communicate...

Read More
Q. Should I speak to my kitten?

A. Yes, by all means, please do. The happiest kittens are those that feel like part...

Read More
View All the Questions

Featured Breed

Alya

Savannah Cat

Featuring Alya
The Savannah is an unusual, exotic breed of domestic cat that looks much like its ancestor, the African Serval, but is smaller in size. One of the features that make this breed so unique...

LEARN MORE