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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