A closer look: Involuntary Eye Movement (Nystagmus) in Cats
Nystagmus can be characterized into several categories depending on the nature of the eye movement. In general, the type of nystagmus does not reflect the severity of underlying disease. The general categories are:
Jerk nystagmus: Slow eye movements in one direction, rapid correction movement in the opposite direction.
Pendular nystagmus : Small oscillations of the eyes without a change in speed.
Positional nystagmus: Nystagmus that occurs only when the head is placed in an unusual position.
Resting nystagmus: Nystagmus only when the animal is not moving and the head is in a normal position.
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Nystagmus is associated with various disorders of the nervous and vestibular systems.
If a cat has suddenly developed nystagmus, it is best to seek vet care immediately. Not all causes of nystagmus are life-threatening, but it is best to determine the underlying cause as soon as possible. Some underlying conditions associated with nystagmus are life-threatening and require prompt medical attention to improve health outcomes.
Pendular nystagmus is common in Siamese, Birman, and Himalayan cats. Affected cats display nystagmus from birth and are unlikely to have serious underlying disease.
Testing and diagnosis
Diagnostics for nystagmus include:
- Physical examination
- Blood work
- Urine analysis
- CT scan or MRI
- Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid
- Bacterial culture analysis
Treatments will vary based on the condition associated with the instance of nystagmus but can include:
- Supportive care/symptomatic treatment
Nystagmus from side to side can be normal when the head is in motion. When the head is turned to the side, the eyes move rapidly towards the direction of turning, then return back to a central position.