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Geriatric Vestibular Disease

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  • Geriatric Vestibular Disease

    Have any of you ever dealt with this in your dogs?

    My oldest Lab (thirteen years young) is currently suffering from it. It started Saturday evening/Sunday morning, and Sunday was a very very hard day on our family. Riley was unable to get up or walk at all, but was still very lucid and has a good strong heart, so would try to get up and get very frustrated, causing us to stay down on the ground with her to keep her from struggling. She also kept her head cocked to one side, with that ear and lip being a little droopier than the other side, so we thought she might have had a stroke during the night.

    Through tears we started a trek to the Emergency Clinic, where we all thought we would need to put her down. Riley had had a regular vet appointment less than two weeks prior and got a very good bill of health, so it was a surprise to all. Especially me, I guess, because she was living with me at the time and was just her normal, happy self. I'd had her out to the park, running and swimming, on Friday... I guess I just thought we'd have a little more warning, and I was also thinking that she'd get at least one more good summer.

    Anyway, we get there, and the vet says she's showing signs of Geriatric Vestibular Disease, which should improve drastically in 72 hours, though some lasting effects can take up to 3-4 weeks to disappear. We decided that since she was still happy and apparently pain-free, we would take her back home and hope for the best. She had not given up yet, so we were not going to give up on her.

    She HAS improved... but not as much as we were expecting from the vet's detail of the disease. When we get her outside (the stairs and floor in the house where she's currently staying are too slippery for her to manage), she walks around happily, does her business, smells stuff, etc. She's still got the serious tilt (which is a normal sign of the disease), and she stumbles around like she's drunk, but it's a definite improvement from Sunday. She even stood up on her own on her dog bed as soon as I walked in the door yesterday.

    However, she's still not eating much (hasn't had a proper meal since Friday), and she can't hold her bladder. She was outside to pee at 10:30 last night, and when we got up this morning, her dog bed was soaked.

    I guess I am just at a loss at what to do. We scheduled a vet appointment for Friday, and of course our decision will be largely based on what our regular vet (who is wonderful) has to say, but my family thinks it may be time to put her down. I'm not allowing myself to think that far ahead yet, because I'll just break down (I'm tearing up right now - she's really "my" dog; I've had her since I was eight).

    She's an old dog and she's lived a very good life, but I'm having a hard time accepting the fact that this is it. She's so happy and full of life, and otherwise healthy. Obviously this is no way for her to live, and if she will not improve, we will of course make the responsible decision and have her humanely euthanized. I'm just hoping beyond hope that the original vet is right, and she'll continue to improve.

    I'm torn between wanting her here because she's been my best friend for over thirteen years, but mostly because I want her to have one last summer running around on her beach, swimming every day and barking at every person who dares present themselves to on on HER beach. I thought she would "tell" us when the time was right... but maybe this is her telling us.

    So, the point of this super long post (thanks if you've read this far)... have any of you dealt with Geriatric Vestibular Disease? If so, did you have any problems with bladder control and lack of appetite? How long did it really take for your dog to come around?

    I'm going to go do a little more research and then go hug my dog... it's been a rough week.

  • #2
    I've seen it in multiple patients and also had it in my own dog.

    It can be transient, lasting 48-72 hours, or it can take several weeks for them to completely improve. Some will still have a head tilt, but can get around quite well.

    IME, the majority of dogs significantly improve in 7-10 days, so I wouldn't give up on your girl yet. She might need to be hand-fed for a period of time, and you should make sure the water bowl is also close by.

    I am assuming she is on prednisone, as that's a typical treatment. In that case, a known side effect is increase in drinking and increase in urination. It affects some dogs more than others: my old girl couldn't hold her bladder even on the smallest dose of pred, and she was an extremely fastidious dog. I wound up putting her in dog panties while she was on it.

    Hold the course--if it is vestibular disease, she could easily make a complete recovery. The dog always looks awful in the acute phase, and clients always think it's the end, but it's really not as bad as it seems.
    Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.

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    • #3
      My oldie has this as well. Came out of nowhere, one second he was playing and fine the next he was flailing around unable to stand (his is much more pronounced as he is 3 legged so can't stabalize himself). He spent the night at emergency and took about 2 months to look pretty normal. He still staggers when he first gets up, and has difficulty in the dark, but it is now 2 years later and he is a 15 year young, 3 legged wonder mutt. Don't give up yet, the loss of appetite might be because the vet told me they get super dizzy and nausious so perhaps she thinks she is going to vomit. Syd was given anti-nausia medicide but no other steroids. He has a funny bladder for 2 weeks so he slept on a crib pad matress over his bed so it wouldn't soak through and was easily hosed off. If you saw him now you really wouldn't notice it if you didn't know. I have noticed he will have smaller attacks though if he gets really tired, so we just limit him back a bit when playing with the other dogs.

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      • #4
        My own 13 year old Malamute/German Shepherd (A malamutt) has had this off and on and like you, scared the willies out of me! I thought he was having a seizure or stroke, took him in, had everything checked and she said he is just an old dog. I had to hand feed him a few times as he was not interested in his food but I found, if I mix his food with a little hot water, ground chicken breast and for a treat, rice, he scarfs this down and the protein is good for him too.

        I also started to give him L-Lysene, it is a vitamin that is suppose to be good for his coat but it also has other beneficial things too. Do a google on it and maybe your girl would benefit from it.

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        • #5
          We rushed our elder daxie to the vet thinking stroke, poisoning. He was diagnosed with the same thing and told "tincture of time". If I ever had another dog I'd save going to the vet, although if you never have seen a poor little dog running around like a drunken sailor with his head tilted and his eyes zig zagging, it is pretty terrifying. It can be a number of other things - according to some posters on another thread - but this was pretty obvious. People get it too, and feel out of balance and nauseous. He started to get better almost immediately, although I think he is more deaf than before. He is actually very fine, happily.
          Since then, of course, we have found several people who have been through the same thing. Gosh, our vets get the largest slice of our financial pie, it seems.
          Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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          • #6
            My 14 yr old Lab had this last August. Same symptoms, treatment was antibiotic ear drops for ongoing infection. I gave her Dramamine for the nausea and dizziness which helped. It took about 4 weeks to resolve. She seemed to lose her hearing worse for several months, then it seemed like Dec, her hearing returned somewhat. She still is tipsy on her feet, but that is probably age/arthritis.

            I had never heard of it before. Did you notice how the eyes moved rapidly from side to side?
            Wierd disorder.
            ********
            There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Bank of Dad View Post
              My 14 yr old Lab had this last August. Same symptoms, treatment was antibiotic ear drops for ongoing infection. I gave her Dramamine for the nausea and dizziness which helped. It took about 4 weeks to resolve. She seemed to lose her hearing worse for several months, then it seemed like Dec, her hearing returned somewhat. She still is tipsy on her feet, but that is probably age/arthritis.

              I had never heard of it before. Did you notice how the eyes moved rapidly from side to side?
              Wierd disorder.
              Our dogs eyes did the same thing B of D...that was why I had to wonder if it was a seizure...but since this he hasn't been the same...suddenly he seems just "old" now...poor guy.

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              • #8
                My shepherd-lab mix had this at either age 14 or 15, I think. He made a full recovery in two weeks.

                The eyes moving back and forth (there is a technical term for it that I forget) is diagnostic.

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                • #9
                  Hang in there...it will get better!!!!

                  My parents' 14 year old JRT came down with this about 3 months ago. It was also a very sudden onset and her symptoms were identical to your pup's. It is so scary to see them like that. My mom thought Gabby had a stroke...staggering, head tilt, darting eyes. We rushed to the E-Vet and learned about Canine Vestibular. She also would not eat until we took her back to our regular vet a few days in for a check up. They gave her some anti nausea meds and back came her appetite. I guess she felt too drunk to eat! Our girl is FINE now!

                  Just be patient and give lots of love & supportive care. (Hugs)
                  Animals are not disposable!!!
                  http://www.pawsnela.org

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                  • #10
                    the technical name for their eyes twitching is nystagmus. It can be either vertical or horizontal; horizontal is most often due to vestibular disease, which vertical is often seen more with brain disorders or head trauma, and is pretty rare.

                    How long and how severe the symptoms vary greatly, but overall most dogs improve with just time and supportive care. Sometimes it is thought to be brought on by cronic or severe ear infections, but you can see it without any signs of infection.

                    It is most closely related to vertigo in people, and essentially they are suck on one heck of a never ending rollercoaster. You don't know which way is up, and (for those of you who can relate) it's like when you get too drunk and you want to lay on the bed but have to touch the floor so the room doesn't spin, except they can't get to the floor(ya know, so I've heard )

                    Katherine
                    Vet Tech
                    You can't fix stupid.... but you can breed it!

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                    • #11
                      It's acutally a "good" diagnosis in that full recovery is typical. I usually expect a longer period for recovery than what you were given. There's a drug which is relatively new to the veterinary market, Cerenia which often works well for these pets. Non-drowsy dramamine can also be used. Your vet can tell you better, but the prognosis for your dog is still likely quite good.

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                      • #12
                        My brother's 15 yr old Shep/Red heeler mix had it about 8 months ago. Prednisone and antibiotics cleared it up. The dizziness can make them nauseous and not want to eat. It's important to make sure they are getting fluids and nutrition. Anti nausea drugs can help.

                        My brother's dog was completely normal within 10 days.

                        As mentioned in another post, the Prednisone will make them drink/pee more. You might need to help them go out often, as they can be too dizzy to want to try at first.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Our dog got this when she was 15 or so (lab/chowish mix) We thought it was a stroke. She was also slower than the prognosis in recovery - I'd say it took 3-4 months till we saw no signs and 3-4 weeks before the serious signs were gone. She went on to live another 3 happy years after it!

                          As far as food goes - it really helped her when we put her food in a round bottomed cereal bowl so it would all fall to the bottom and she could keep her head upright. When she tried to eat out of her cylinder shaped dog food bowl and turned her head to get food from the side she would fall over and after a few tries of that kind of gave up. The rounded bowl helped her get back to eating on her own (after 3 or so days of hand feeding.) We actually slept on the living room floor with her for a week so she wouldn't have to do do stairs. We also had to hold her up when she was going to the bathroom at the beginning and walk on the slide she lilted to so she could just lean into us.

                          Good luck!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            We had an Australian Cattle Dog that had vestibular syndrome. It was really scary the first time. Rushed to the vet at 11:00PM and by the time we arrived he was a little better. The vet gave us a medication to lessen the duration of the seizures and hasten the recovery. I don't recall what it was--this was about seven years ago - he's been gone about four years.
                            His second seizure was about a year after the first. We were told that it could be frequent or not...there was no way to know. It didn't seem to affect his day to day living.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hang in there....just went through this with my Sheltie who is old, 13. It took past the 10 days before he was normal in behavior and able to move around well. More like 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. The eating was longer. I had to make him homeade meals for a while, then, add it to his dogfood...we still struggle with his meals. It will get better, it just takes a while.

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