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GenB
GenB, Retired Veterinary Technician
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 2227
Experience:  Kitten, Adult, Geriatric Cat Care Specialist/ B.A. Neurophysiology & Animal Behavior/ Plain English!
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My cat has a severe head tilt to the right and has trouble ...

Resolved Question:

My cat has a severe head tilt to the right and has trouble balancing. Can you give me some idea as to what might be going on with him??
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Reani replied 6 years ago.
Hi There,

How long has he been this way?
Is he eating and drinking okay?
How old is your kitty?
Does he go outdoors?
Normal litter habits?
How is is activity level, any lethargy?
Can you take a look at his ears, any redness or brown waxy buildup?

Standing by to help...
Reani
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Arlo was really sick about two weeks ago. He slept almost constantly for about 3 days and I didn't think anything of it. But then he woke in the middle of the night and could not even balance to walk straight or eat, drink or use the litter box. I thought for sure he would have to be put down. So I made an appointment as soon as possible that morning with the vet but he seemed to think that Arlo would be okay if we gave him some steroids and antibiotics. I don't remember what he diagnosed him with but I know it had something to do with an inflammation of one of the cranial nerves. Arlo is about 10 years old and has not been sick a day in his life. He was improving greatly but then this morning I noticed the head tilt was way worse and now he really has trouble balancing again. Is it possible that he had a stroke?? I guess you can never know for sure but is there anything I can do to help him?? Your help is GREATLY appreciated.
Expert:  Reani replied 6 years ago.
I was thinking an ear infection, but this might be better evaluated by other experts here, I will opt out so other experts can help...

I hope one of us can help...
Reani
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Reply to Reani's Post: An ear infection?? I guess that is possible. Any other idea's??
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I so very much appreciate your help. I really like this service and will use it again and recommend it to my friends.
Expert:  GenB replied 6 years ago.

Hello and thanks for researching this very important question!

Strokes, as such, are assumed to be rare in pet cats, but are beginning to be diagnosed more with MRI scans...these are performed under general anesthesia, so many older pets are not healthy enough to be tested.

A number of things can cause a disturbance of the "vestibular" system in the brain, which is responsible for balance, among other things. These conditions include:

1) ear infection, dogs and cats have VERY long ear canals, so a deep-down exam in needed to diagnose this properly,

2) cancer,

3) contamination of the brain with waste products usually handled by young healthy kidneys and liver...cats develop kidney and liver disease to a fairly high degree as they age,

4) generalized infections (like Toxoplasmosis) that can travel into the brain.

The chance of more severe problems increases with increased age of your cat.


Symptoms of vestibular disturbance include rapid eye movement from side-to-side, inability to stand or walk due to dizziness, nausea and/or vomit (with refusal or inability to eat), spastic head movements, and a tilt in the orientation of the head. Affected cats prefer to lie on one side of the body only.

There is such a thing as "Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome"...(idiopathic--pathology which doesn't make sense)...which does not have a cause that we can find. This is more common in middle-aged and older pets. The most severe symptoms fade (or become adjusted to!) over the course of a few weeks, and the most prominent thing we see is the head-tilt...looks weird, but is not a serious problem long-term.

The time that you mentioned he was feeling sickly was probably linked with the start-up of whatever has caused this neurologic imbalance. Non-specific symptoms that preceed acute illness are often referred to as an "aura".

Since he has stopped improving on the medications, some more testing would be in order to try and find out if he is having an illness in some other part of his body. High fever can adversely affect the entire brain...blood tests are needed to evaluate him for diabetes, hyperthyroid, kidney or liver disease, etc. Treatment and prognosis depends entirely on what is found, and what degree of organ damage you may be dealing with.

If nothing of this nature is found, then he may indeed have a small brain tumor that is beginning to press out on more vital locations. It is not possible to predict how quickly this may progress to preventing him from getting along at home.

You do need to have him re-checked as soon as you can arrange it, but in the meantime, you might consider confining him to a small warm room where he will be able to rest and not be in danger from stairs or opening doors. Keep liquified food and clean water near him, and cover the floor with a thick quilt so that any eliminations are easy to clean up. These patients feel worse in the pitch dark, so a night-light bulb is helpful during nighttime hours.

If you need additional support at this time, please click "Reply", otherwise I thank you in advance for your "Accept".

GenB, Retired Veterinary Technician
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 2227
Experience: Kitten, Adult, Geriatric Cat Care Specialist/ B.A. Neurophysiology & Animal Behavior/ Plain English!
GenB and 7 other Cat Specialists are ready to help you

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