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Companion Animal Practice
Vestibular disease in dogs and cats
  1. Laurent Garosi

    Laurent Garosi is a diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Neurology, and an RCVS/European specialist in veterinary neurology. He is currently head of the neurology/ neurosurgery service at Davies Veterinary Specialists. His main clinical and research interests are cerebrovascular diseases, neuroimaging and intracranial surgery. He has published widely in the field of neurology, and is a regular speaker on the CPD circuit. He is an associate editor of the Journal of Small Animal Practice and board member of the European College of Veterinary Neurology examination committee.


THE vestibular system is essential in maintaining balance and preventing an animal from falling over, by holding and adapting the position of the eyes, head and body with respect to gravity. It is therefore not surprising that disease of the vestibular system results in some of the most dramatic and distressing neurological signs, including head tilt, falling, rolling, leaning, circling, abnormal nystagmus and ataxia. Clinical signs of vestibular disease may be a result of lesions involving either the receptor organs in the inner ear or the vestibular portion of the eighth cranial nerve (ie, peripheral vestibular disease), or lesions involving the brainstem vestibular nuclei or vestibular centres in the cerebellum (ie, central vestibular disease). This article briefly describes the physiology of the vestibular system and discusses the clinical approach to an animal with a vestibular disorder.

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