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Canine Vestibular Disease

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  • Canine Vestibular Disease

    Bo was fine this afternoon, we went for a walk/run, I came back and fed him (he didn't eat but he usually doesn't right away so I wasn't concerned) and then went to go do some homework. I came back an hour later and he is freaking out... panting, shaking, etc. I notice that he starts to follow me around and he is very unbalanced. He tried to walk against the wall or the couch and would fall over or run into things with his back end. There seem to be visual problems as well. He was acting like he couldn't see well so I tried to give him a treat and he didn't notice it until it was against his nose.

    Called the vet at his house (awkward... he's my professor's husband) since they are closed now. He said it sounds like canine vestibular disease and that if it were his dog he would keep him quiet until morning and bring him in first thing tomorrow unless he gets worse.

    Info/experiences/anything? I know of two dogs who had this, one had a long tough recovery and I'm not sure about the other one. My mom is trying to call the owner of the second dog to see about her experiences.
    I'm running on literally less than 30 minutes of sleep from last night (2 exams today that I had to pull an all nighter for). I am here tomorrow but leave Thursday for 4 days for a mandatory training event that I won't be able to get out of. I'm freaking out... partly because he's my buddy but also probably because I desperately need sleep.
    "People ask me 'will I remember them if I make it'. I ask them 'will you remember me if I don't?'"

  • #2
    Had an older dog with it. Had a head tilt and went in circles. Vet gave anti nausea meads, antibiotics and steroids. The dizziness makes them nauseous so they don't want to eat. Antibiotics in case its an ear infection. Steroids reduce imflammation of inner ear.

    If it's VD, I'd say he would probably be fine overnight, if uncomfortable. But I would want a vet to rule out a stroke. I personally wouldn't feel comfortable with a phone diagnosis and would be taking him to an emergency vet.


    • #3
      My dog had this when he was about 17. He made a full recovery.

      The symptoms are scary but, provided the dog has adequate nursing care, he should be okay. You'll have to make sure he gets enough fluids and nutrition, which might mean sub-q fluids and syringing liquid food.

      My dog was tiny -- a 5 lb Chihuahua-Papillon cross -- so keeping him hydrated and glucosed wasn't too difficult. I assume your dog is somewhat larger. My dog was utterly lawless, however, so it was about four days of constant vigilance and no sleep.

      If you aren't going to be home, it's probably best for him to stay at a hospital or critical care facility until he improves.

      This is one of those things that older dogs get. Of course, knowing that doesn't make it any easier while you're going through it.

      Good luck.


      • #4
        she's not a dog, but I did go through this with my rabbit earlier in the year. She had full on vestibular disease complete with the nastagmus eye rolling. It was very frightening because it happened over night - she was fine when I went to bed and when I woke up she was on her back with her eyes moving back and forth like a cylon

        Took a lot of nursing, antibiotics, anti-nausea and middle of the night syringe feeding for about 3 weeks until she started to come round. Fast forward 5 months and she is almost back to normal - she still has a head tilt but is otherwise her old self.

        I know its not helpful for your exact situation, but thought I'd send you some empathy


        • #5
          My old basenji boy had it, I took him immediately to the vet, I thought he'd had a stroke, where he was sedated and put on prednisone. The very next day he was right as rain and never had a recurrence in the remainder of his life (5 years).

          Good luck.


          • #6
            Went though it with a 16 year old wolf hybrid. Scared the crap out of me thinking she'd had as stroke.

            Like others have said, anti-nausea meds, antibiotics and prednisone and she was much better in just a couple of days and over it in a week or so, but did always have a slight head tilt after that.

            I'd say try not to worry. Crate him or put him somewhere safe (where he cannot run into things) and keep him quiet until you can take him in to the vet.
            Visit Sonesta Farms website at www.sonestafarms.com or our FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/sonestafarms. Also showing & breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.


            • Original Poster

              Woke up this morning and he looked 10x better. He wasn't freaking out anymore like last night and he was happy and excited for me to finally get out of bed ("jeeze, mom! It's 5am, time to get up already!").
              I dropped him off at the vet this morning and just picked him up a little while ago. They aren't convinced that it's vestibular. He doesn't have a head tilt, rapid eye movement, or vomiting which are usually typical signs. He's treating for an inner ear infection as well.
              When he shakes his head he falls over. When walking he's still a little unsteady but definitely significantly improved from last night. We'll continue to watch and go in for a reevaluation next week if there are no signs of improvement.
              "People ask me 'will I remember them if I make it'. I ask them 'will you remember me if I don't?'"


              • #8

                My best yellow dog (14.5 year old lab) has had several episodes. The first was very scary and sent me to the ER in the middle of the night. I was sure it was goodbye time.

                She has a harness thing that I can stablize her with when she goes upstairs. I don't let her sleep on the bed as I am afraid she will fall off in the night. I have a big crate if she seem dizzy in the morning as I don't want my younger dog trying to play tug of war with her.

                She is doing fine. It was very scary however.
                A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton


                • #9
                  I see it commonly, as we have a boarded neurologist on staff. We probably see more of the extreme cases (as usually regular vets diagnose this fairly well), or the cases that are persistent.

                  A true vistibular is usually an "event", so a panicking dog is fairly normal as the vertigo can cause balance loss, head tilt, nausea etc. A slow progression is often indicative of a poorer prognosis (ie. start with headtilt, then days later vision loss, then days later seizures).

                  Some dogs do better with something like cerenia to decrease the nausea they feel from the virtigo. Dark quiet rooms are also helpful. Usually there is some response within a few days, but often it can take several weeks to become normal or "adjusted" (ie they may always have a slight head tilt).

                  Geriatric vestibular can just happen, its idiopathic, so there is no known cause of the event. There are several other neurological conditions that can present similar to vestibular, unfortunately the prognosis for many of these conditions is poor. Hopefully it was just a mild vestibular event, or a mildly herniating disc (this can be painful and cause mild ataxia).


                  • #10
                    My late dog had an episode and she recovered in a few days, but her head tilt remained. She did adjust but was never confident enough to jump on/off furniture or go up or down more than a few stairs again.

                    She was one of the few unfortunate dogs whose VD was caused by a brain lesion. She had a few odd episodes of partial complex seizures, where she would suddenly out of nowhere run around as if terrified, bark, foam at the mouth, loose control of her bowels, then collapse and go limp. She would need help walking for a few days and then would be back to "normal" for her. Towards the end of her 15 years, she had neurological problems, such as pacing and circling that reduced her quality of life and she was pts two years ago.


                    • #11
                      My first sheltie dog had several vestibular episodes over the years. First one scared the crap out of me as he woke me at 3am throwing up repeatedly and walking like he was drunk. I thought he had a stroke and rushed him to the doggie hospital.

                      He did indeed have vestibular - vet gave him anti-puke meds and he slowly recovered. I had to help him up and down the stairs for a while but thank goodness he was a smart cookie and knew he needed a little extra help. He recovered completely although he did have a slight head tilt.

                      He had 2 additional episodes after the first that were milder. Vet again prescribed anti-puke meds and he recovered more quickly, as they were milder.

                      As he got older he did have some balance issues that may or may not have been attributed to the vestibular.

                      But he lived very happily another 3 or 4 years after the first episode.

                      So anyway, it's really scary when it happens, but thank goodness they do recover relatively quickly. Vet told me even the most severe cases where the dog can't walk do recover with time. So hang in there !


                      • #12
                        Last one I had was a 16 year old who came down with it suddenly. Treated her for a week where she seemed to improve a bit but then she just kind of fell off the cliff and just lay there one morning. So I put her down. Scary to watch though. Other dogs recover just fine though.
                        Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

                        Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


                        • #13
                          Check his thyroid!!! This happened to my dog and once we adjusted her thyroid meds it went away. Apparently it can be a symptom of an overly or under active thyroid. I can't remember whether it was because her meds weren't high enough, or too high, but it definitely was thyroid in some way. Maybe a vet can chime in.

                          It's freaky to watch, my dog just walked in circles, eye rolled, head tilt, etc.
                          **Member of the Ocularly Challenged Equine Support Group**


                          • #14
                            This just happened to my Senior heart dog over the weekend. Very, very scary and was seriously considering putting her down but decided to give her time. She is hypothyroid and she is being checked tomorrow.

                            Hopefully, vet can find a balance. She is in chronic renal failure so the combination of thyroid meds and CRF resulted in a dog that looked like a skeleton. Grossly underweight despite healthy appetite.
                            \"You have two choices when a defining moment comes along - you can either define the moment, or let the moment define you.\" Tin Cup


                            • #15
                              The only thing I can add to the information already given is to raise his food and water dishes. Lowering the head to eat and drink can increase the dizziness.
                              I'm a second hand Vegan. Cows eat grass. I eat cows.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by wireweiners View Post
                                The only thing I can add to the information already given is to raise his food and water dishes. Lowering the head to eat and drink can increase the dizziness.
                                AGREE to this - I did this for my old vestibular boy and he ate much better. He was almost giving up on it before I raised the bowls. Also frequent smaller meals seemed to help.

                                Actually what made me think to try it was that my horse had WNV and could not lower her head to eat hay off the ground, as we normally fed it. She would loose her balance and almost nosedive. But once we put it up in a net she wolfed it down.