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Shea Cox
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Idiopathic or “Old Dog” Vestibular Disease
Vestibular signs in dogs are often incorrectly referred to as a stroke

A fairly common reason for a veterinary visit is the concern that an older dog has had a stroke, when he suddenly starts walking like a drunken sailor with his head tilted. I know of other cases, where these sorts of symptoms are assumed to be a brain tumor and the dog is euthanized—maybe unnecessarily. (The condition plays a role in the new Hallmark movie, Duke.)

Well, I want to shed some light on a much more common and less concerning cause of these and other disturbing signs, something known as idiopathic vestibular disease, in case it is something you ever experience with your own geriatric dog.

Idiopathic (meaning unknown cause, think: idiot) vestibular disease is a syndrome that looks really, really bad, but usually gets better all on its own with little or no treatment.

The vestibular system
The vestibular system is composed of portions of the brain and ear and is responsible for maintaining a sense of balance. When something goes wrong with this system, it’s like being drunk on a rocky boat. Dogs with idiopathic vestibular disease have some combination of the following signs:

These videos show a dog with mild, but very typical, vestibular signs and another dog with more severe signs.

Now for the caveat: These clinical signs are unfortunately not unique, or diagnostic for, idiopathic vestibular disease and other things can cause this same presentation. These can include (yes) a brain tumor, an inner ear infection, inflammatory disease or sudden bleeds into the brain—to name a few. But with that being said, when the symptoms seemingly appear out of nowhere in an older dog, I always recommend a “wait-and-see approach,” treating symptomatically and supportively, as there is a good chance of improvement.

Wait-and-see approach
For a dog showing the above signs, I first discuss the possible causes. Next, I recommend blood work and a blood pressure check to make sure there is no “obvious” disease. I discuss the availability of an MRI to evaluate the inner ear and brain. Although an MRI allows for the best evaluation of disease, it is often not pursued due to cost (about $1,500 here in the Bay Area).

I examine both ear canals, and if an infection is suspected, I discuss antibiotic therapy, as inner ear disease is one of the possible causes of vestibular signs. The inner ear (pictured below) is something you cannot see during an exam because the eardrum obscures the view to the inner ear. The eardrum is like a closed door that sits in front of the middle and inner ear. However, if there is a nasty looking outer ear and an inflamed eardrum, there is a chance that inner ear disease could be present as well.

If the dog’s clinical signs are so severe that they cannot walk, I then recommend supportive care with IV fluids and injectable anti-nausea medications. Urinary catheters are sometimes placed for hygienic reasons. If clinical signs are mild, pets can often be managed at home with over-the-counter meclizine (for the feelings of “motion sickness” they experience). We also provide instructions for general nursing care as well as how to protect from falls.

The conversation ends with discussing a very loose rule of thumb: If there is gradual or complete improvement within 72 hours, it is likely idiopathic vestibular disease and additional diagnostic testing is not necessary. If there is no improvement or progression of signs, it is likely something much more serious, such as a tumor, and an MRI would be recommended to reach a definitive diagnosis. With idiopathic vestibular disease, marked improvement is usually evident in this time frame, with the pet returning to normal in 7 to 14 days (although in some dogs, a head tilt will still persist).

It should also be noted that this is not a painful condition, and my recommendations stem from the fact that euthanasia is a permanent decision, so why not wait and see, giving time a chance? There is a high likelihood that improvement will be seen and the difficult decision of euthanasia can always be made at a later date if there is no improvement or if there is a change in your pet’s quality of life. I feel there is reason to hold out hope and be cautiously optimistic, as idiopathic vestibular disease is the most common form of vestibular disease in dogs. It is the direction I would take if it were my own boy experiencing this.

Please note: There are times, however, when a physical exam points undeniably to a brain tumor, but these neurological exam findings are beyond the scope of discussion, so feel free to ask me any questions.

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Veterinarian Shea Cox has enjoyed an indirect path through her professional life, initially obtaining degrees in fine arts and nursing. She later obtained her veterinary medical degree from Michigan State University in 2001 and has been practicing emergency and critical care medicine solely since that time. In 2006, she joined the ER staff at PETS Referral Center in Berkeley and cannot imagine a more rewarding and fulfilling place to spend her working hours. In her spare time, she loves to paint, wield her green thumb, cook up a storm and sail. Her days are shared with the three loves of her life: her husband Scott and their two Doberman children that curiously occupy opposite ends of the personality spectrum.

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Submitted by retired in nyc | October 5 2012 |

i hope this helps future folks that visit here. our 16 year old "baby" got this last week, after a night at the animal hospital and one night at our vets office, 5 doctors agreed it was idiotpathic vestibular, we came home with him. we bought a playpen at target . he is 34 pounds. it said it can hold 30 . but is looks like it could go up to 50 pounds. this way it restricts his movements. we couldnt get him to eat , but he is drinking from his bowl if we lift it up to him. after trying everything to get him to eat including baby food via a syringe , we had sucess with slices of baloney and american cheese( ripped into small pieces) and putting/shoving into his mouth. he looks like he is on thmend. everytime he got up or fussed in the playpen we carried him outside ASAP and he was urinating every few hours. as a safe guard we bought huge wee wee pads and put them on top of the comforter which is on top of the play pen matteress. i hope this helps. needless to say we thought when he sudeenly got this we thought he was a goner and we were hysterical. lots of kisses seems to help too !

Submitted by Debbie | October 6 2012 |

My dog is 14 yrs old and has signs of vestibular she has the head tilt,leans to the left and is having a hard time holding her pee.Her 1st bout was back in Dec.and she got better over a couple of months. Now she has had another episode in Sept.and is having a hard time. She also has cushings which is making her pee alot. She is eating again after a week of hardly eating anything. Now she eats soft food and noodles and some cheese.Some days are better than others but I think she has more than vestibular.From what I have read vestibular gets better over time.I think she might have a small tumor. She is still able to walk and go out on her own. But it's hard to watch her wobble around and go in circles. She does not seem to be in pain she does not whine or make any noises.I'm not going to put her down until she tells me or shows me she can't function with a quality of life. Anyone else have the same issues with an elderly dog? Thanks

Submitted by Anonymous | October 9 2012 |

My 13 yr old Shepherd/Boxer mix started the head tilt thing a few days ago. Yesterday she peed either when sleeping or because she got startled when the phone rang. Tonight she got herself downstairs by pretty much falling down. She does not have barking episodes and she seems to be eating, no vomiting. She is 70 lbs. She has always been a nibbler, not a gobbler, and she usually eats when we eat. We put a baby gate to keep her from coming upstairs tonight. She is walking in circles and stumbling, and I've noticed nystagmus. I'm so worried. But she does not seem to be in any pain. What can I do for her?

Submitted by Anonymous | October 10 2012 |

I had a 14 yr old Lab who all the sudden last week could not steady herself on her left hind leg. The following day, both hind legs were so weak she could not stand or walk on her own. I took her to the vet immediately and she was put on steroids to treat a possible disk issue. We discussed that there could be other causes, but we'd have to run costly MRI scans , so we opted to try steroids first. Two days later, she could not use her front left leg either. We had to completely support her if she needed to move or go outside. She also did not appear to be able to walk straight when guided, on her harnesses ) and would run into things. The following day ( we were heading into vet later that day) she had a seizure. Vets said it was most likely brain tumor or strokes. We put her to sleep after the seizure (she had two smaller seizures within the hour of the first big one.) It seemed whatever was happening to her was progressing, which seems different than the other posts I've read on this topic. I hope we made the right decision. It absolseutly broke my heart. She was my first baby before my children and brought joy to my heart each day.

Submitted by Karen | October 30 2012 |

I understand where you are coming from. I just put my 14 year old Lab down, my heart is breaking. I am now wondering if I did the right thing. His back legs collapsed, and was having that back and forth motion with his eyes. I wish I would of know about this disease ahead of time. The doctor mentioned it, but said if it was her dog she would put him down. Sometimes I don't think the vet. knows everything. I am just sick about it. Feeling like I made the wrong decision. Now there is nothing I can do about it. I had him cremated. I just feel sick all day long after reading deeper into this disease. So please everyone, don't make the mistake I did. I just didn't want him to suffer.

Submitted by BeareKucyGabby | December 6 2012 |

Our prayers are with you, you made the right choice at the time,so sorry to hear about your lost..your story is making me tear.Up this is a horrific time to watch. Each pet reacts differently some cases are very servere, they can also have a brain tumor or irrversable
symptoms..You did what was best at the time,we
came very close..Treatment can be expensive..Please do not beat yoursel up.. 14 years, just remember what you did to have the 14 years. Now go out to the SPCA and get another friend when you are ready.. Again my heart goes out to you nothing compares to the love you received.. memories are treasures for the heart. Hang in there.. hugs zx

Submitted by Sandra | October 14 2012 |

My 12 year old Springer Spaniel has developed a head tilt. At first his head just twisted to the left and he was walking squint. Then recently he has been very unsteady on his legs an then randomly collapses. He lies on his side looking really confused about why he keeps falling down. It's as though his brains wanting to do something but his legs just don't want to. We have the vets on Wesnesday. He walks around a lot unsettled and takes a while to lie himself down. At night he wanders around slightly whining then settles for a while then gets back up it's really heart breaking to see him in this way and the cost of MRI scans is just so out of reach. This page has been very helpful though I hope we can fix him

Submitted by Anonymous | November 10 2012 |

we are on day 19 of our vestibular syndrome for our 12 year old springer spaniel. We were there when the onset occurred.. watching tv in the living room. He threw up 3 times (very forthy) and eyes darting back and forth.. and shaking.

He is slowly getting back to normal. I did not take him to the emergency vet..I called them and they said it usually resolves it self. My vet said.. lots of TLC and PATIENCE!!

hope yours gets better also..

Submitted by Aida D | October 19 2012 |

Hello....I have a 17 yr old Lhasa Apso.She has had her second stroke this week. The first was 2-3 mo ago. I took her to the vet the first time around and he said because she issue such an old.dog its probally a tumor in her brain to just make her as comfortable as possible. She seems to be recovering from this second stoke but what she is doing now that is different from the first time is heavy panting as she walks around anxiously. Why is that? Is there anything I.should do? All her symptoms are exactly what is listed. Except for the vomiting. She is blind, partially deaf, and her Are legs are very bad. I pick her up and bring her outside to. HOWEVER she is still alive and kicking. At what point should it be determined that her quality of life is gone and I should put her down? Is she suffering mentally? Please help! God bless...thank-you!

Submitted by Nick Abbott | November 6 2013 |

AidaD my heart bleeds for you, My dearest friend a 14 year ol Staffy, has been going downhill for over a year now, swellings on both hocks, kept falling over at regular intervals, 7 to 14 days, unsteady on his legs, but he was coping. In the last few months he has started to drink a lot more water than usual, I think, and he , whilst always being very vocal, has started to bark loudly for minutes at a time. This morning he staggered whilst trying to get down stairs to go out for his morning ablutions. I had to carry him downstairs. He was not right, eyes rapidly moving left to right , all the symptoms mentioned apart from the vomiting unless I did not see him. His appetite is not there anymore, UNHEARD OF, he usually could eat for England. I am not very good with emotional pain and was certain that this was it, and I was certainly going to loose him , BUT I just felt that whilst frightened and confused, he was not in any pain. I then found this thread, I am so glad I did as if I have to nurse him 24/7 for weeks, I will as long as I feel that he is not suffering unduly, in no pain, and reassurable with love and attention and encouragement. I am sure I am not being selfish, I love my boy more than you could know, but I am sure that letting time take it's course is the right thing for him at this moment. I think I will know, and i'm sure that you will also, when the time comes to say good bye, your heart knows, you just have to trust your heart, so sad, it's a bitch, I've got it coming very soon but thanks to reading the information here, I truly believe I have had a short reprieve.
Love,compassion and my very best to you and your Lhasa hope she is still ok

Submitted by Francis | October 19 2012 |

My dog Tiny just passed away yesteday she was almost 14 and she was a chihuahua. The vet said she had Vestibular Disease. She jumped off the couch 8 days ago and didnt move i thought she broke her leg when i picked her up her body just went limp and her head turned to the side. I rushed her to the vet and they diagnosed her. They put her on medications but nothing changed. She never walked again or could even sit up. you had to do everything for her even hold her over the bowl to drink water and hold her up to pee and sometimes she would pee on you or in her bed and only ate a very small portion the first couple days after that she would not eat anything.Then you had to try and use a syringe and queeze it in her mouth. She started to act like she was not swallowing so i was scared that she would get choaked. Even though she could not do anything she really did not make any noise except a couple times during the week she yelped out.She would pee but never had a bowel movement the whole eight days, and the last day and a half she stopped urinating. Did not act like she was in pain. Yesterday my mom tried to feed her and about an hour after she tried she was dead. I am wondering if trying to feed her with the syringe could have caused her to dye sooner. I asked my mom how much did she feed here and she said hardly nothing because she wouldnt swallow. My question is that normal for a dog of her age with Vest Dis to have those symptoms? Could it have been because she had been with out food for so long. The last two days she would not even drink any water had to use a syringe for that. I know it had to be her time but just wished I could have done more for her. I am so heartbroken.I wished i knew exactly what caused her to dye.She didnt bounce back like they said she would and so I was not sure if it was Actually Vest Dis. Thanks

Submitted by Rich | October 22 2012 |

This doesn't sound like IVD. Our dog or 14 years just went through it 3 weeks ago, and she's back to 100%. She couldn't stand on her own or eat from a bowl. She had to be carried outside (and she's 70 lbs), and had to be hand fed. We even had to cup water in our hands to make her drink, but she wanted to drink quite a bit. Dogs can live without food for a while, but can't live without water very long. Dehydration can cause greater weakness and account for the lack of urination toward the end. Syringes of water probably isn't enough to live on. I'm very sorry for your loss.

Submitted by Cath | January 3 2013 |

Hello, I am so sorry for your loss. It is possible that there was an underlying cause to the vest disease. Sadly I lost my gorgeous girl to this too. Have a look at my post in early June. Cath

Submitted by sandra | October 21 2012 |

our boy is 11yrs old am staff and has a history of sezing, he takes 1 every 6 months, usually one in summer and one around christmas, but last night was diff. he was fine ,he went out to pee ran around ,was fine, came in ,after a good while my daughter hallerd for me he was sezing, but idont think so. hes quivering,left side isnt worken well and holding head low,dosent want water,hes the same this morn,i know it could be a stroke or v diesease, but is ther any thing i can do right now, its sunday his doc is closed and the emergancy hosp. is far, scary,and expensive which i dont care about money but i have not a dime right now, i have payed over 10,000 in the last yr for his docs.never nothen serious,so they said.im so scared for him.

Submitted by jemom | October 22 2012 |

Our 15 and half year old pointer mix got vestibular 3 weeks ago. For those of you out there whose dogs just got it, hang in there. Confine, hand feed, take out outside a lot, give them light at night, all of these things I learned from others online and they worked. It is an up and down process and I lost hope a lot but was not willing to give up on my sweet pup. 3 weeks later, she is pretty much back to normal. I am grateful to my vet who said to give it time.

Submitted by Marcia | June 24 2014 |

Thank you jemom. You give me hope. Our 13 yr. old schnauzer has geriatric vestibular and it was very scary. She could not Stand up and we had to carry her outside, hand feed her etc. she is still off balance with head to the side but she is eating well and drinking lots of water. She is on prendisone and meclazine. She has not barked since this happened over a week ago. The vet said it would take some time.

Submitted by Andrea Llewellyn | October 28 2012 |

My 13 year old German Shepherd Dog had an episode of Vestibular on Wednesday, Oct 24th. I was sure it time time to make that decision that we all dread. However my vet said to give him some time. I am happy to say that today he is once again eating and has taken two short walks I. The woods. He seemed to enjoy them very much. He is still far from normal, but I am seeing little glimpses of him more and more. :)

Submitted by Simon | November 9 2012 |

Hi, i'm not too sure if this has happened to my dog this morning. I was upstairs and heard him bark then the kids shouted for help saying he had slid over on the floor. I came down to find him laying on his side, he didn't seem in any pain so i just held him close and got him onto a cushion. I did notice he was tilting his head but once he had lay for a few minuets he seemed ok. Still a little wobbly on his right front leg but he did manage to go out for a very short walk about an hour later.
He is 14 years old, a Jack Russel Cross and very prone to ear problems (i think he is pretty much deaf, only hearing high pitch sounds).
I haven't spoken to the vet yet as i'm sort of hoping it was a one off thing.
4 hours later and having slept most of the day (pretty normal for him) he has eaten but just seems a bit slowed down.
Any feedback on if I should worry would be very welcome.

Submitted by Munya | November 11 2012 |

hey doc i have an 8 month old pitbull puppy n has recently been diagnosed of tick bone disease but three dayz latter after treatment its now showing symptoms of the v-disease but it been 24 hrs n no improvement what should i do please help am freking out.thanx in advance

Submitted by Bonnie | November 12 2012 |

Our 17 1/2 year old collie golden mix has had three vestibular episodes, and has had some 'leftover' symptoms after each episode. He is generally healthy otherwise, but still walks like a drunken sailor at times when he gets tired. My vet prescribed Meclizine (otherwise known as Bonine for seasickness) and it helped a LOT! He also took steroids and antibiotics for a couple days immediately following the last episode, and those seemed to help as well. When he has his first episode a couple years ago, it scared us so much thinking that he had a stroke, but now we know how to deal with them and they are not so scary. Hopefully folks will learn more about this disease and not react with euthanasia thinking that their dog has had a heart attack or stroke instantly.

Submitted by Bonnie | November 12 2012 |

Our 17 1/2 year old collie-golden mix has had 3 vestibular episodes and after each one, has had some leftover symptoms, but after his first one 2 years ago, he is still pretty healthy and only occasionally 'walks like a drunken sailor' when he gets really tired. Following his last episode, my vet prescribed Meclizine (otherwise known as Bonine for seasickness) along with a short stint of antibiotics and steroids, which all seemed to help immensely. We were so scared when he had his first episode thinking that it was a stroke, and that we would have to have him euthanized. Thank God our vet saw what it really was.

Submitted by Ellen | November 15 2012 |

My dog too! 13 years old, some kind of mutt mix. I took her for a walk. She was having a slow day, but nothing too unusual. She ate her breakfast around 9:30, and then went back outside to lie in the sun. When she came back inside around 10, she was stumbling all over the place. This scared me, so I took her right away to the nearest animal hospital. We wound up treating her for poisoning using charcoal, which I regret (This was before I found this article). I'm sure the stress of the charcoal is what made her worse again.

On day 2 she is able to get up and walk around and do her business independently and she eats! She is still VERY wobbly, tilting to her right side, but I think we have reason to believe she'll improve. We'll be trying the meclazine treatment too.

Thank you for this article and for all the informative comments!

Submitted by Quigsis | November 16 2012 |

My almost 14 year old Samoyed/Sheltie mix started staggering yesterday evening and vomitted all night. This morning she couldn't take a step without falling. I was at the vet when they opened at 7:30. I'm not a "run to the vet" for every small thing kind of person but this really scared me. I thought she had suffered a stroke and thought for sure that I was taking that dreaded trip to have her put down. I even prepared my 3 grown kids via text messages for this outcome. Well...I have to say...I totally LOVE my vet office. They knew right away what was going on and explained it all to me. Put her on antibiotics in case there was any inner ear infection and steroids. I had never heard of this before and am so thankful that my vet recognized it right off and didn't require lots of tests first. She's old and I won't put her through lots of tests...she's been the best dog ever and deserves to move on when she can no longer have a quality of life. But after researching the disease and how great the recovery usually is I am so happy for the extra time we will have with her.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 16 2012 |

My old girl is on her way home from the vet now. I too thought she had a stroke & was going to put her to sleep. I wish I had seen this before the long trip to the vet, but I am thankful to have another day. My hugs & prayers go out to all of you.

Submitted by Isabella | November 16 2012 |

our 12 year old german shepherd was diagnosed 2 days ago with vestibular syndrome...while she is lookignbetter, no more twitching or nystagmus..her head is still tilted. She can get up better on her fromt legs and move her back legs in place but cannot stand on them. My concern is I was expecting and prepared for incontinence but after 48 hrs she still has not urinated or moved her bowels..please advise. I must add that she has had a difficult personality all her life..cannot get near her to examine her without sedation..I cannot even try to check her bladder for distention without her snapping..any ideas?

Submitted by Anonymous | November 24 2012 |

My 6 yr old Brittany had signs of VS...Sudden onset. Pred/antibiotics helped 90% fast but took away pup's personality. 1 wk after Rx, acute relapse. It was terrible. Vet/I believe it was polyneuropathy effects. All other tests came back normal...He was healthy!

My fur child Seth was put down -- yesterday. Having a tough time coming to terms. It was dramatic...so quick. One minute he was almost OK and then BAM! He barely could walk, eyes glazed, shut them...it was worse than a seizure. Devastated.

Submitted by Brandon | November 27 2012 |

Hi there,

My 7 year old German Shepherd/Queensland Heeler mix is currently having these symptoms. On 11/12/12 we noticed he started sneezing which lasted for several days. Finally on 11/15/12, I took him to the vet as half his face was paralyzed. He was given antibiotics. Later on 11/21/12, we awoke to him having ataxia and unbalanced walk, took him in to the vet and they prescribed predisone. After 24 hours, he was completely cured of ataxia and unbalanced walk. It's been about 2 weeks and his right eye still doesn't blink, right ear droops, and right side of mouth droops. Last night I was playing ball with him and I noticed his right eyebrow starting to move slightly. We've discussed an MRI, but the cost is $2800. He is no pain, responds the same and seems happy as ever. I am in the process of switching his food to Blue Buffalo Basics Salmon dry and wet. I'm wondering if this is idiopathic or inflammation? He goes for a check-up tomorrow night. My fear is that once we begin to taper him off the steroid, the ataxia and unbalanced walk will return. Also I did have our grass overseeded by professionals on 11/7/12 and they used a starter fertilizer and herbicide. The dog has seasonal allergies (not tested) and may have walked on the grass while still wet and licked the paws.

Thanks for any information you can give me!
Brandon

Submitted by Nick Abbott | November 6 2013 |

brandon you may have connected with a cause mate . hope your boy gets better

Submitted by Anonymous Sacramento | November 28 2012 |

My heart goes out to everyone who sees their beloved pet going through these episodes. Many thanks to the Dr. for writing this article.

My G Shepherd/Lab or Husky mix was 13 when she had her first vestibular disease episode. She recovered over about 2 weeks with no lingering signs but the head tilt. When I researched the diagnosis online, I was scared she would only last 6-9 more months. Happily, we were able to share 2 more high quality years together before organ failure set in at 15 years. She did have additional episodes over that period when encountering situations of high stress, but they lasted only half a day at most, and she always showed significant improvement within days.

I hope this helps someone see past the episodes in front of them to the better days ahead.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 5 2013 |

Thank you for your post. Our 11yr old Lab experienced his first episode about 6 weeks ago and recovered in about 5 days. He is now having another episode. I was thankful to hear that this can happen again, since all the research I've been doing hasn't said anything about recurring episodes. We are hoping that this is the peripheral vestibular type, but I'm a little concerned that it might be something more serious since they have happened so close together. Going for a second opinion on Monday.

Submitted by Jacquie | November 30 2012 |

My 7 year old pitbull has just been diagonsed with v. She has puked and now wont eat!!!She cant walk without falling so i have to carry her downstairs to go out(shes 53lbs)...He head is tilt and i freaked out until i went to vet...I really hope she gets better but i have seem and read that everyone elses dog has gotten better over time..So i sure hope she does!!!

Submitted by DoxieMom5 | November 30 2012 |

Thank you, Dr Cox, for the informative article. My 14yo Mini Doxie suffered a possible stroke (or ivd) ~ Oct 2, 2012. Our vet was great and allowed me to give her days of sub q fluids and antibiotics injections at home- (she had an enlarged kidney). Lots of care and she is almost back to her normal self, Thank God. But her tail still doesn't wag. I thought she was just feeling bad or depressed, but sometimes, now, she seems very happy and her tail just hangs. I can move it, and she shows no sign of it being painful. I'm grateful for all she has regained. Is there anything I can do to help her tail improve. I hate that it took me so long to realize and fear it has been too long. Thank you.

Submitted by R. E. Bradshaw | December 6 2012 |

Just got home from the vet with my 12 year old Chow/Golden mix. Glad this article was here and the comments as well. I feel better now. If she improves in the next 48 hours, we'll know we got the diagnosis right. If not, it's off for an MRI on Monday. She's resting now, and I think I'm more stressed out than she is.

Submitted by Spuffy | December 12 2012 |

I'm going through this with my 13 year old shepherd mix. We are at 48 hours and he is still in bad shape but its looking like he has an ear infection as the source, high white count and slightly irritated ear on the affected side. I was terrified when this started that this was the end. It's very comforting to know that something that looks so severe can resolve relatively quickly. He just ate for the first time since the night before this started. I had offered everything I thought might tempt him, even brisket, and he had no interest. A friend mentioned that when her elderly dog had this the only thing he would eat was McDonalds. I bought a cheeseburger and broke it into pieces for him. He had a little trouble coordinating the chewing but he got it down. I think its the first McDonalds of his life. They must put something in that food to make it appealing to innocents like dogs and children. Thanks for having this information available. I'm sure it will save many dogs from being euthanized before their time.

Submitted by chris | December 17 2012 |

Thanks I am going to try McDonalds tonight. My Kassie will eat cheese, but nothing else. I have even tried the wet cat food she loves to steal from the cats when I am not looking.

Submitted by Mike and Jen | December 13 2012 |

This just happened to our terrier mix Boo (14 years old), on 12/12... She started walking around at 4am and my wife woke up to her not being able to walk steadily. We rushed her to the vet and he told us almost word for word the advice in this article. It's day 2 and my wife is home with Boo today and she seems to be walking a little better today, but not much improvement with the head tilt. Her eyes seem to be rolling a little less. We are just praying this gets better. She is eating "steamed" chicken, but we do have to feed it to her. But I'm happy to say my wife reported that Boo did go to her bowl and eat some treats on her own.

Submitted by Jen | December 16 2012 |

Hi Dr. My 12 year old pitbull about 6 days ago had an episode. After reading your article she pretty much had the symptons of the vestibular disease except the vomiting. i took her to the vet and he took xrays of her body and blood tests. All her tests came back fine and the vet has no idea what was wrong with her. He suggested I give her a low fat low protein food? She got better pretty quickly but a week later woke up to the same thing again. Should I take her to the vet again and should I mention this disease to him or should I just wait to see if it gets better? Also the past 2 times that this has happened she woke up like this?

Submitted by angela | December 18 2012 |

Great post! I think when this happens its so scary and heartbreaking to see and the symptoms seem so severe that euthanasia is often considered. When this happened to my chihuahua in '07, I also discovered that the ER vets and even her own vet were not knowledgeable about the ivd. That surprises me now that ive read so much about it and how its common. Well when we went through it I thought she was dying and $800 of testing and 24 hours later we're leaving the ER vet....who never once mentioned ivd but tested for all kinds of stuff which was all "inconclusive" no closer to an answer and no improvement..a very expensive night!
We took her home for the rest of the weekend hoping to see her normal vet on monday (of course these things always seem to happen on a friday night! She was on iv fluid at the ER overnight. I kept her in a soft-sided kennel and had someone with her at all times. She would not eat...very uncommon for her. ShewShewould take water from a syringe (sans needle). And about 3 days later she was walking....wobbly, but walking.
She still has a slight head-tilt and will usually prance around in circles...she favors one side, and her balance is definitely a bit off...but we're now about 5 years later and she's doing great otherwise! She's since seen a neurologist ...last year she had what seemed like a repeat incident (minus the nystagmus) and she recovered faster, annd they agreed it was from the ivd. Her regular vet still thinks it was a stroke and never mentioned the ivd, so if they're not in pain, even if your vet doesn't mention ivd, if they have the ivd symptoms its totally worth giving it a few days at home to see if it'll resolve on its own.

Submitted by DARPAN | December 18 2012 |

I have a Male German Shepherd of 13 years. His name is RAMBO. He is having severe problems since 3 months. This mainly includes vomiting. This problem has increased from past 1 month. Along with this he is having difficulty in having bowels and the color of stool is dark brown or black. His diet has also become less and he seems to be very much weak. Vet Doc has given him some antibiotics but that are not working efficiently. Kindly help me.

Thanks..

Submitted by emma | December 25 2012 |

OUR 12 YEAR OLD ENGLISH SHEEP DOG IS RECOVER FROM IVD. SOUNDS SO FAMILAR. SHE STARTED THROWING UP ABOUT THREE MONTHS AGO. SOME DAYS I WOULD CLEAN UP PUKE PILES ALL DAY LONG. IT WAS SO HARD. I TOOK HER TO THE VET AND $300 LATER THEY SAID THEY COULDN'T FIND ANTTHING WRONG SO THEY SUGGESTED PEPCID. IT WORKED FOR ABOUT A WEEK AND THEN THINGS GOT BAD AGAIN. BACK TO VET FOR X-RAYS ANOTHER $300, AND SAID SHE WAS FULL OF AIR IN ABDOMEN AND INTESTION. THEY COULDN'T EXPLAIN WHY SO STARTED HER ON ANOTHER MEDICATION. AGAIN SHE SEEMED BETTER LESS PUKING. LAST SUNDAY SHE WENT OUT AND WHEN SHE CAME IN SHE COULDN'T WALK. IT WAS SO SAD. WE DECIDED TO TAKE HER BACK BUT WE PREPARED OURSELF FOR WHAT THE OUTCOME WOULD BE. IT GETS SO EXPENSIVE AND AGAIN ANOTHER ROUND OF BLOODWORK ($286.00) LATER AND NOTHING. SHE WASN'T IN PAIN AND SO SHE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH IVD. I GOOGLED IT THAT NIGHT AND SHE HAD ALL SYMPTOMS INCLUDING THE EYE MOVEMENTS, TILTED HEAD, COULD NOT EAT OR DRINK. AFTER READING ABOUT IT AND SEEING THE POSTING I DECIDED WE SHOULD GIVE HER A CHANCE AND WE CAGED HER IN OUR HALLWAY AND SLEPT BESIDE HER FOR SIX DAYS. I CAN TELL YOU WE GOT THE BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER. SHE IS BACK TO EATING AND PLAYING(NOT AS MUCH AS NORMAL)AND SHE SEEMS HER OLD SELF. THROUGHOUT THIS WHOLE PROCESS I DID EVERYTHING TO MAKE HER COMFORTABLE AND FED HER WHATEVER SHE WOULD EAT. WE DID USE A BOOST SUPPLEMENT AND THEN SHE STARTED EATING OATMEAL COOKIES, CHIPS, AND FINALLY HER OWN DOG TREATS. I GAVE HER ARBYS ROAST BEEF SANDWICHES, MCDONALDS. SHE IS NOW EATING HER OWN FOOD AND GETTING AROUND SO MUCH BETTER. HEAD STILL A LITTLE TITLED AND STILL WOBBLES AT TIMES .
HANG IN THERE, EVEN IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO HER IN MONTHS TO COME, I WILL BE ENCOURAGED THAT SHE IS JUST HAVING A FLARE UP AND TREAT IT THE SAME WAY

Submitted by Karrie & Gina | December 28 2012 |

Thank you so much for your post! We have a diabetic dog that issuffering from (what we think is ) IVD. However, the doctor says it's and chronic "inner ear infection". However, our problem is she is diabetic and isn't eating. She hasn't thrown up (due to using giving her meds for vomiting). Her sugar level is higher than it should be. We are blending up her food and giving it to her with a turkey baster (she is not happy). I just don't understand why she won't eat; or better yet why aren't the vets concerned with her not eating! She must eat in order to give her her insulin! The thought of ... well you know .. is not an option! She seems to want to eat, she licks her treats, but just will not eat it. If things do not change; we will be taking her to specialist before something really bad occurs. Maybe it isn't IVD and it is only a chronic ear infection; if so - why isn't she eating! Day 3 and praying! K&G, Greenville, SC

Submitted by AAF | January 1 2013 |

I can sympathize since we are just going through pretty much the same. Our diabetic dog was diagnosed with vestibular disease two days before Christmas, and while she would eat ANYTHING prior to this event, now would not eat. She is on prescription diet which was keeping her regulated, now her BG just keeps elevating. My concern was the relationship of food to insulin which the ER vets just didn't seem to get or want to help me with. I gave up on the prescription food and gave her anything she would eat. Scrambled eggs, turkey, roast beef and then slowly worked some fiber and carbs back in. She is slowly coming around, still refuses the prescription food, but BG better and mobility improved aside from some rear leg issues. We were also given an antibiotic for suspected inner ear which may have exacerbated the nausea - perhaps that may be the problem - best of luck to you and your dog - AAF

Submitted by Lynn Ley | December 29 2012 |

Last night at 6am (Malaysian time, Sat, Dec 29) I was putting my 12-year-old mini pin at the wet kitchen to pee when he suddenly fell. Noticed that he was a little strained on his upper body and his head tilted to the left but he was ok after few secs. I thought nothing of it and put him on the bed to sleep but he vomitted the water he had drank just minutes before.

This evening I had just noticed that his eyes were moving from side to side and his head was still tilting when I carried him. When I put him down, he doesn't have balance to walk.

It is comforting to read your comments. Can u guys give me more advice on this? I am really worried. He is still able to call me ( by barking) when he wants to pee. And I have been feeding him water.He had breakfast + papaya in the afternoon. He doesnt want dinner.

Appreciate comments. Thanks!

Submitted by cindy | December 31 2012 |

This is very helpful, my 12 year old German Shephard was diagnosed with this on Friday (12/28/12). She had the very rapid eye movement, and she can't use her back legs at all. The vet gave her a shot for teh nausia, and some medicene to take home for the nausea. my question is can it hit them so hard, that they cannot walk at all? I have to wrap a towel around her hind end to pick her up to take her outside so that she can go to the bathroom.

I did notice that after the shot, the rapid eye movement stopped, and she is drinking water again, but not eating much, barely ate a Wendy's cheeseburger. He said she should snap out of it in 3-7 days, but it just kills me to see her like this....

Submitted by Steve UK | January 4 2013 |

Hi Guys, stay with it and support your dog with towels or whatever is practical. My old black Labrador suffered from this almost two years ago and she made a full recovery! It is very upsetting but they just get over it. Only wish people were so brave!
She's a very old arthritic Lab now..... but still has a very strong tail muscle! Don't despair.

Submitted by Jackie's Mommy | December 31 2012 |

Thank you so much for such an informative article. This will help us sleep at night. Jackie is about 24 hours into recovery after collapsing and a scary car ride to the ER. We thought we were losing her on the way to the ER. This helps me understand what's happening for her as well as a promising recovery. At 13 it's hard not to expect the worst, but we are hopeful now and look forward to her return to her "old self" and glad she will be with us to share in the arrival of our first born.

Submitted by Jackie's Mommy | December 31 2012 |

Thank you so much for such an informative article. This will help us sleep at night. Jackie is about 24 hours into recovery after collapsing and a scary car ride to the ER. We thought we were losing her on the way to the ER. This helps me understand what's happening for her as well as a promising recovery. At 13 it's hard not to expect the worst, but we are hopeful now and look forward to her return to her "old self" and glad she will be with us to share in the arrival of our first born.

Submitted by Jackie's Mommy | December 31 2012 |

Thank you so much for such an informative article. This will help us sleep at night. Jackie is about 24 hours into recovery after collapsing and a scary car ride to the ER. We thought we were losing her on the way to the ER. This helps me understand what's happening for her as well as a promising recovery. At 13 it's hard not to expect the worst, but we are hopeful now and look forward to her return to her "old self" and glad she will be with us to share in the arrival of our first born.

Submitted by dogparkwalker | January 3 2013 |

I second the deep gratitude expressed here for the information given. Our 13 year old lab/border collie had a fairly severe episode last March and has just had another today at the dog park.

She is very active for an old girl,so when she did not only return with the ball,but laid down-well,it was immediately clear something had occurred. After checking her over for any possible muscle pull/strain or god forbid another cruciate damage incident,I realized this was the same distracted behavior we saw last year,along with extreme weakness,difficulty breathing and unsteadiness. Her eyes are not jittering around, but do appear "not normal",like last year. Needless to say,when this dog does not want food or water,or to play-something is afoot.

I got her home and convinced her to drink a bit before letting her collapse in her bed. She is still,3 hours later,unmoving,& completely uninterested in food or water. This is very atypical.

With an old dog, you may be dealing with other life-threatening things. All the information is such a help,because of this and our previous experience,we are taking a wait and see attitude.

I just want to tell others that our dog DID recover almost fully from last year,to her usual happy,active and hungry self. I am hoping for the same this year.

Submitted by Tracy | January 7 2013 |

Hello, I have a 7 month old German Shepherd rescue pup who has been diagnosed with Vestibular syndrome, either she was born with it or someone bashed her head in before being left in a cardboard box. I pray she was born with it! Anyway, until about a month ago, her head used to be tilted but moved side to side before she could focus, her eyes are clear but she is partially sighted and she is totally deaf. She walks like she is drunk and when she runs she normally runs in large circles. She is a nightmare when on her lead/harness but is so good when not on the lead. She loves her food, has no problem with swallowing and is never sick. She does drink quite a lot as well. She is very clever, she sits, lays down, sits at heal (at an angle so she can see) and she will shake your hand. We have taught her hand signals. She also uses a dog flap and is now toilet trained (at last!) She is very clumsy and bumps into most things with her back end as it seems to flip out when she is on the move. She has so much energy I call her a "dog on speed" and she is like a bull in a china shop. About a month ago, after a walk she had some sort of "turn", fell to the floor, cried and could not get up, I had to carry her home. The vet gave her a steroid injection the next day and she rested for 5 days. Since then she seems to have a phobia about going for a walk. I take her out locally and all she does is cower on the floor and wont move off our drive - its like she is totally disorintated. However, she will get into the car and walk very well at our local country park. I have noticed that although her head is still tilted, it does not wobble anymore. she also barks at nothing and it is hard to stop her, its like she is just focused on "something and has got to bark at it, or if she has a bone/treat or if we are eating our dinner she will bark to protect it even though our other dogs are not bothered about what she or we have. She will climb up and down stairs but uses the walls/banistairs to guide her up and down and she will jump on the settees and beds (although she will normally fall off the side of the beds!). We have been taking her to obedience classes and she passed her first class with 17.5 out of 20, but since her "turn" a month ago, she has really played up in class, barking at other dogs (although she interacts with many dogs) being a nightmare on the lead and totally disrupting the class etc, to the point she was asked to leave the room! I have read many things on vestibular syndrome and although she has many of the symptons she does not have all - can this happen?

Submitted by ANgie B | January 10 2013 |

In September 2010 our 14 year old dog came down with Vestibular disease out of the blue. My dog woke up one day and fell then it all started from there. We never gave up on her and gave her time. She would do the alligator roll, refuse to eat, walk, ect. It took her about 3 weeks to recover from it which is longer than average. She never lost her head tilt though. Fast forward to 2013 and she is now 16/17 years old and we think she is having another episode. She has trouble walking and her eyes are moving back and forth

.
I started a Facebook support group to help ownwers cope with this and offer support. https://www.facebook.com/groups/126232394099102/

Submitted by Larry | January 22 2013 |

Our 13 year old yellow Lab is at TX A&M Univ & has been diagnosed with this disease. Tests are being run to rule out causes. We will know more tomorrow.

Submitted by Pamela Gorman | January 19 2013 |

My 16 y/o pug just experienced this old dog disease,, she was barking early in the morning , my husband checked her , she is paralyzed for 10 yrs.... she suddenly had twitching of her eyes,, off balance , she is now better within 2 hrs. ate her breakfast , no vomiting,, i cleaned out her ears and will give her ear antibiotic ... thought it was a stroke,, she is okay now.. it came on almost as fast as it went away ... thought i'd share

Submitted by Jennifer R | January 23 2013 |

My nine year old german shepherd has had three episodes where her legs get weak and shaky, she sways from side to side, her head hangs, and then she falls over. The first two episodes she also vomitted suddenly. So far this has occurred once per day. The vet looked at her ears and noticed a little redness but nothing sever so inner ear infection was ruled out (although she was sensitive to the scope and yelped). They ran a full blood panel, a urinalysis, did chest x-rays, and also stomach x-rays. Everything came back normal except for crystals in the urine. They gave her fluids, nausea meds and send her home. They said the next option would be to send her to a radiologist for an ultra sound. A little history... Gypsy has a history with pancreatitis (vet said this was likely unrelated). We recently changed her food to a senior low fat formula with vitamins and minerals. My boyfriend thinks the food is to blame so we have switched her diet. She had one more episode this morning (much shorter lived than the others) and is a little bit lethargic. I'm trying to wait it out for a few days before going to see a specialist but I'm so worried. I can't seem to do anything to help her. Any thoughts on whether or not this could be Vestibular disease?

Submitted by Anonymous | January 29 2013 |

My mini schnauzer is 14. Several nights ago his back end and leg started twitching. He was trying to walk around almost like he was trying to figure out what was wrong. He kept stumbling and falling while he tried to walk to his bed. I got down to try to help him get up on his beanbag he kind of collapsed onto it and then tried to pull his back end on. I gently lifted him up and laid down next to him. His little head was twitching and his eyes were twitching back and forth. He laid down and slept for a couple of hours. He then made a gagging noise and vomited. It was like he didn't realize he did it. He barely moved! We are now 4 days later he eats and drinks fine but still stumbles around when he walks. It almost looks like he's drunk. I did notice yesterday that his eye was twitching. I'm just trying to figure out exactly what is going on. He has really never had any health issues.

Submitted by Lisa & Bob | January 29 2013 |

Our dog Chance, our Aussie, who will be 14 years old this April 2013 woke this morning displaying these symptoms. We were scared out of our wits, and although I didn't want to tell Bob, I truly thought he had had a mild stroke during the night.
It was hours agonizing waiting until our Veterinary Office opened, and we could see our Vet. (Chance & Gina our Border Collie 1st get up at 5am)
We were preparing for the worst. Talking about taking Chance's bed, and toy with him when we set his soul free. Fortunately our Vet, told us about this "Old Dog" disease, and told us Chance displayed many of the symptoms. The head tilt, the extremely unsteady walk, the eye movements, etc. He saw what looked to be earwax build up in his right ear (his head was tilting right) and after explaining the disease to us, put some drops in his ear to help dissolve the build up, gave us some home care instructions, had us get some Dramamine for the nausea, as it wasn't presenting as remotely sever, and Chance had drank, and kept water down, and we got to take him home.
Chance is an otherwise extremely healthy, active, bright, alert dog, and except for some stiffness from a bit of arthritis, is in GREAT shape for a dog his age.
Chance has been resting quietly now all day, and we are hoping for the best of outcomes. We see the Vet in a week to see how he is doing. We love our Vet, and the staff at our Clinic. They are extremely knowledgeable, caring, loving, people, and we thank them all for making this a day that has ended in happiness instead of grief.

Submitted by anaky1220 | January 30 2013 |

My 15 year old Husky-German Shepherd mix had this on January 8. We took him to the vet who said that he had seen this many times and the dogs often recover (he did call it a stroke though). He treated with cortisone injections and saw him daily for 4 days. Several things got better quite rapidly (the nastigmus was gone the next day, he was walking, although quite wobbly by the 3rd day). He never vomited and at first he ate but only "goodies" (chicken, cheese, dog treats). SInce, however, he has lost all continence and doesn't even seem to know when he is not urinating (gets in the position but nothing comes out unless I gently squeeze his sides). Last weekend he had a bad bought of diarrhea and he is losing clumps of fur, especially from his tail. The vet treated the diarrhea but suggested for the first time that the time had come to consider putting him down. He suggested that the fur loss (clumps with dead skin cells attached) are because the tail section is no longer properly enervated and that he won't get better. His eyes are still bright and he goes on short walks with me in the woods (with enthusiasm). There are, however, less and less things that he will eat. Please help, I don't want him to suffer but his eyes don't look in pain. Has anyone had a dog who recovered that was like mine?

Submitted by Shea Cox DVM | January 31 2013 |

Hi~ I am so sorry to hear what you and your baby are going through; I understand how scary and emotionally difficult this time can be.

It is difficult for me to understand the full scope of what your pet is experiencing, but from the pieces I am reading, I would be concerned with a more serious issue. Generally, IVD tends to get better after 72 hours, but your pet seems to be experiencing continued and progressive signs.

The issues of quality of life as a whole, and when to make the decision to help him pass peacefully, are another important issue and conversation. From what you are describing, I have to say that sadly I feel it is unlikely that your pet will recover, but is the time right now? It sounds as if (despite his disease) that you feel he still has a spark of good quality of life in him: he has bright eyes and enthusiastically enjoys walks, even if they are short. "Suffering" is a complicated word during these times because we are faced with having to determine for ourselves "just what suffering means," which is a huge emotional burden, especially when we are making such decisions for another being we love so much. There are a couple of tools that can help put into perspective an overall quality of life, which can sometimes help make decision-making easier and guide you through the process. I would be happy to pass along these tools to you and offer some assistance, if you would like. You can email me at sheacox@bridgevs.com and I can forward you more information. I understand what a difficult time this is and am here if I can help make it a little easier.

Warmly, Shea Cox

Submitted by ian | February 4 2013 |

hi, Sadly I took the decision to have Toby my nearly 14yr old black lab pts last week. He suffered his first vs attack july 2012 and made a good recovery,his brother Luke also suffered his first attack of vs beginning of january 2013 and again was on the road to recovery, it was during his recovery that Toby had his second vs attack, mid Jan 2013. Initialy he was making a good recovery after a wk, it was agreed to put toby back on Previcox and vivitonin to try and eleviate his joint pains. It was on the following morning that he had some kind of seizure. At this point he was less mobile and lost his appetite. I could no longer see him suffering due to his deteriation and had his pts 31st Jan 2013.Worse time of our lives for all the family.

Submitted by Hannah | February 21 2013 |

Really sorry to hear that :(

Submitted by CNoll | February 4 2013 |

I have a 13 year old English Springer that is having problems. Over the holidays she seemed to go almost totally deaf. She had been getting hard of hearing since the summer, but suddenly didn't seem to hear anything. About a week later she started with a head tilt, but no other IVD symptoms except a bit unsteady. Took her to the vet & she said her ear was swollen & diagnosed an ear infection. My dog has never previously had an ear infection & there was no drainage or smell. She received a shot of dexamethasone, Dermalone ointment & 10 days of Clavamox. Her head tilt corrected slightly the first few days & some hearing returned, but gradually her head got worse again. Took her to the vet again & she said it vestibular disease & put her on 17 days of oral dexamethasone. Her head seemed to correct slightly. By day 7 she was drinking like crazy, and acting hyper at night (panting barking & pacing) so I called the vet & took her off the steroid. I don't think it is IVD, but what is it? The only symptoms she has is the head tilt which makes her slightly unsteady on her feet. The head tilt is not severe unless she is begging for food or riding in the car. Then she almost turns her head upside down. She eats well and all other ways seems normal. She has some hearing. I will do whatever I can for her, but an MRI or CAT scan is probably out of the question. I have concluded it's either an inner ear infection or a brain tumor. Can a dog have an inner ear infection without smell, discharge or scratching of the ear? Thanks for any incite you can give. I do plan to discuss what else can be done with my vet.

Submitted by Shea Cox DVM | February 6 2013 |

Hi there~ yes, it is possible to have an inner ear infection without smell or discharge (you can re-refer to the reasoning behind that and the illustration in the article). Since there has been no improvement in this time, I would be concerned with another issue outside of idiopathic VD, which generally resolves for the most part in 72 hours. Without an MR/CT, we are left to guess and continue treatment based on her clinical signs. I understand about the cost of such a test, and it is not usually an option for most because of this. I hope this helps.

Submitted by CNoll | February 11 2013 |

Thank you for your help. The vet has told me to watch her, as an MRI would be the next step & IVD takes weeks to get better. Problem is she didn't have all the signs come on at once, so I don't think it's IVD. She started with the deafness & then the head tilt. She now has some hearing. There were no blood tests or anything done to see if something else is going on. The first visit they said her ear was swollen (no external signs) & when the 10 days of antibiotic & Dermalone drops didn't resolve it they said IVD and put her on steroids. I doubt an inner ear infection (no previous known infections), but have read that sometimes it takes 6-8 weeks of an antibiotic to cure an infection. Would I be out of line to request such a treatment & would it make her worse if indeed she has a brain tumor? She still gets around, eats & even runs outside, but she is really unsteady. Twice when she leaned too much she did the rolling over until we grabbed her, but recovered immediately once we steadied her. Mentally she is still the same & she has never had any eye movements. I am mentally prepared to care for her until the point of no return if it is a brain tumor, but can't shake the feeling that she could have a severe infection & will die from lack of care. The only other thing that has gone on in the last 6 months is an operation for a fatty tumor in November, which she came out of with no problem.

Submitted by Cheryl | February 5 2013 |

On Wednesday, January 29, 2013 I came home after work to find my sweet old girl (Golden Retriever)curled up in the hallway (small hallway) having peed on herself, pooed herself and had vomited a white foam. I brought her out into the living room and placed her on a sheet and placed pee pads underneath her. I did not know what was going on with her. She had the left head tilt, the darting back and forth of the eyes, and could not stand. I searched the Internet for her symptoms and the thing that fit most was a stroke. I decided to watch her for a couple of days. She still had a good appetite and was drinking and voiding as usual (poo was soft, not runny). She was alert and knew when I was around. On Friday, January 31, I decided it was time to put her down. I cried all the way to the vet, and at the vet's office. When he seen her he said the thought almost 100% that it was a severe inner ear infection but now as I read I believe it is Idiopathic Vestibular Disease. My vet gave her Amoxicillin and a supplement for her hips. He said he sincerely believed that she would recover. We are into day 6 and she is doing well other than she won't get up. Last night she did stand for a few minutes before falling down again. Should I be concerned at this point or do I continue to let her heal on her own. I am just afraid that after being down for so long that her muscles will atrophy. My daughter who is a zoologist said to give her Dramamine for the dizziness, the vet says no. Any advice would be great.
Thanks,
Bailey's Mama

Submitted by Cyndi | February 11 2013 |

You poor thing! I've been through it twice with my 15yr old dog.
First of all, time to get a new vet! Yes, you can give them Dramamine. In fact I've had two different vets tell me to give it to her and it helped.

They also said to keep her in a low lighted area preferably in a corner with lots of bedding or a crate. It makes them feel secure with everything spinning. It took Kimber 2 full weeks before she was fully mobile again, however she was never the same. Dr Woody also prescribed lots of love and affection cos it's scary for them. :-)
The first episode happened when she was 12. That was the worst. She went to Dr Woody at Franklin Animal Center (in Tennessee) and instantly he knew what it was.
He also said it will probably happen again, which it did. It just wasn't as severe.

She is now 15 years old. Her head still tilts to the side and walks at a slant :-)

I hope this helps :-)

Submitted by Lo | February 5 2013 |

My dog (a peekapoo) is 10 yrs. A month ago, he started with a cloudy eye, then a couple wks later it got red and noticed side of head sunk in. Took him to vet, she diagnosed him w/ulcer of the eyeball.Gave Optimmune bid, neomycin & polymyxin B Sulfates & Gramicidin, 1 drop bid & dogs own serum 2 drops tid. Then a week later, I noticed head dropped down and head tilt. Two days later, he was staggering and falling, difficult to stand. Went back to vet, she said the eye problem was separate from this staggering situation. Gave pills for dizziness. Two days later, dog is no better. Oh, about 3 wks ago, he started sneezing real bad. No tests done, vet diagnosed as vd, do you agree. I am concerned about the sunken head; is it a symptom of vd or something more serious? Please send me an answer soon. Thank you so much.

Submitted by Shea Cox DVM | February 6 2013 |

Hi Lo~

I would be concerned with the signs you are describing as well, and the next step would be to consult a neurologist, if one is available in your area. This way, you can at least get better options for what is available to you and decide how to move forward. Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to offer more advice without examining your pet, but you are right in feeling there may be something more. I hope this helps.

Submitted by Maggie's mom | February 8 2013 |

Very informative,thank you!!
So relieved...thought we were saying goodbye today to our 14 year old girl...
Back from vet, she is drinking and resting, Hope she will continue to improve each day and get her spunk back.

Submitted by Babe's best friend | February 9 2013 |

Babe (Baby Ticka) is on her tenth day now. It was so bad on the onset that she couldn't walk, eat, drink. We went to a different vet in another small town near by because we no longer trusted the local vet. The new vet diagnosed it right away and prescribed 10, 20 mg prednisone pills. Babe is a Chessie and weighs 94 pounds, she is a big girl. Later that day she began eating a small amount of peanut butter bread and animal crackers and would also drink but she had to be hand fed and the water dish brought to her. By the end of the second day she was able to sit up. We have been by her 24 hours a day. The most difficult part was that we couldn't carry her outside to tinkle so we devised a system where my husband would pick her front up and I would act like a bench for her, propping the front up while massaging her belly, naturally with about 100 towels to absorb the tinkle. One of the scarry parts was her trying to walk so we had to be right by her to grab her to make sure she didn't hit her head. On the third day we used a fleece vest of Paul's (men's large)to put on her with the zipper on her back. The chest size (42) was perfect for her chest and the waist was large enough to be able to gather the vest in the back to use as a handle to stabilize her and enable her to go outside to do her business. On the fourth day she was able to walk on her own; however, she is still a little unstable in the morning and evening. Well,on the third day we then switched to chicken and then chicken with a small amount of her food and now she is on a regular diet and can go outside to tinkle and do her bombs but she is still somewhat unstable but compared to ten days ago she is 100 times better. It is exhausting for her so I still spend all night sleeping by her and taking her out as soon as she needs to go and doing hundreds of loads of towels and throws. She is my little princess and she is getting better. It would be nicer if there wasn't so much snow outside and if it were warmer. So, Babe isn't totally back to her old self i.e. taking a slipper, glove or taking my towel from the bathroom and demanding that we chase her for them, but, she is on the last day of her pills which make her very thirsty and causes her to go out every hour. I am praying, as I have been from the start, that by the end of next week she will be back to normal, normal for a Chessie anyway. Don't give up, it may take longer than five days, wait on her hand and paw and give her kisses on her face.
Rose

Submitted by Mary | March 12 2013 |

Thank you so much for your comments..it is reassuring. Our Arly just out of nowhere started getting sick 2 nights ago, vomiting and very unsteady on his feet. He is 14 years old, weighs around 100 pounds. Getting him outside yesterday was tough, today nearly impossible. When we got up his eyes were darting side to side and he was tilting his head. He does seem quite comfy if he's just allowed to lie quietly on the floor. Our vet said hand feed small amounts of rice and chicken which he is happy to eat and hasn't thrown up again, and as you say we are bringing the water to him. We got him when he was almost 2, and the first owners had terrorized him! so he will never pee or poo inside, I swear he would hold it til he burst! Between the 2 of us we get him out there, but your ideas with the towels is a good one! I'm sending good thoughts for you and your dog your way!

Submitted by Gary | February 8 2013 |

We are on day 6 with our 180 lb English mastiff....yeah it's tough haha. Besides having Vestibular he also has cushings disease and high blood pressure so it's meds 3 times a day on top of this. His little sister (140lb mastiff) has stage 5 lymphoma....she just made it a year and is still ticking thanks to Ohio State vet clinic. They are wonderful!!! So it has been a handful not only the last year but especially the last week. Just letting you all know this so you know it's not that bad if you just have one smaller dog with this disease. If you think you have it tough, I'll let you dog sit for us one day lol

When walking or attempting to walk,I have to keep my hands on him at all times or he falls over head first. He tries to walk fast so it's tough. Initially I wrap a towell around him to go down the stairs then I switch and either stay close and try to get him to take slow steps or I get being and steer/balance him like a jet ski by grabbing both rear hips. The "jet ski" method seems to work the best so far. Some days it's near impossible to get him to eat food so I switch to cookies and cream protein shakes. At least his way I know he is getting his nutritients. Trying 6-7 different types of food sometimes works too. Chicken nuggets, post bran cereal, yogurt, dog treats broken up, and again protein shakes although not the best food for a dog,seem to be the best option at the moment.

Our vet said he has central vestibular possibly from a blood clot so we give him one baby aspirin a day for that. We also have heard Dramamine or cerena can help with motion sickness. If your dog is really excited or upset a Benadryl can put them in a better mood to rest. If you have tile floors try to put mats down everywhere, rubber ones are the best. Lots of light is also helpful. Also he likes to bury his head whe resting so I put a few pillows on his bed too. Hopefully he gets better soon because it's quite a load emotionally and financially between him and his sister. walking him to pee in 30 degree weather at 5:30 am and again in the evening is one of the most stressful moments in my life but I love them both to death so giving up is not an option. :-)

Submitted by Babe's best friend | February 9 2013 |

Babe (Baby Ticka) is on her tenth day now. It was so bad on the onset that she couldn't walk, eat, drink. We went to a different vet in another small town near by because we no longer trusted the local vet. The new vet diagnosed it right away and prescribed 10, 20 mg prednisone pills. Babe is a Chessie and weighs 94 pounds, she is a big girl. Later that day she began eating a small amount of peanut butter bread and animal crackers and would also drink but she had to be hand fed and the water dish brought to her. By the end of the second day she was able to sit up. We have been by her 24 hours a day. The most difficult part was that we couldn't carry her outside to tinkle so we devised a system where my husband would pick her front up and I would act like a bench for her, propping the front up while massaging her belly, naturally with about 100 towels to absorb the tinkle. One of the scarry parts was her trying to walk so we had to be right by her to grab her to make sure she didn't hit her head. On the third day we used a fleece vest of Paul's (men's large)to put on her with the zipper on her back. The chest size (42) was perfect for her chest and the waist was large enough to be able to gather the vest in the back to use as a handle to stabilize her and enable her to go outside to do her business. On the fourth day she was able to walk on her own; however, she is still a little unstable in the morning and evening. Well,on the third day we then switched to chicken and then chicken with a small amount of her food and now she is on a regular diet and can go outside to tinkle and do her bombs but she is still somewhat unstable but compared to ten days ago she is 100 times better. It is exhausting for her so I still spend all night sleeping by her and taking her out as soon as she needs to go and doing hundreds of loads of towels and throws. She is my little princess and she is getting better. It would be nicer if there wasn't so much snow outside and if it were warmer. So, Babe isn't totally back to her old self i.e. taking a slipper, glove or taking my towel from the bathroom and demanding that we chase her for them, but, she is on the last day of her pills which make her very thirsty and causes her to go out every hour. I am praying, as I have been from the start, that by the end of next week she will be back to normal, normal for a Chessie anyway. Don't give up, it may take longer than five days, wait on her hand and paw and give her kisses on her face.
Rose

Submitted by debbie | April 18 2013 |

my dog got hit by a car, rushed to the vet she got hit monday, she have head trauma,she cant stand she dont eat her head tilt to one side, she dont drink water or nothing, her eyes go everywhere rolling in her head, side to side, and i am worry sick, i dont know what to do she is a chihuahua dog, any advised please will help me. thank you

Submitted by Jane | February 12 2013 |

Hi,
My dog was diagnosed with Vestibular Disease last Monday, after he collapsed. Vet did find some signs of ear infection, and we have been fighting ear and yeast infection in one of his ears for years, it would keep coming back few months after being treated. He spent 2 days in the hospital, and went from not being able to lift his head up to walking around the house (still rocking from side to side) and being more confortable outside when on the leash, in just 5 days. Just when I thought that he was on the road to recovery, he had a seizure last night. I spoke with his vet and he told me that there is a possibility of brain tumor, but he still suggested to increase his dose of steroids and see if he continues to get seizures. My dog had hard time falling asleep last night, he was breathing heavily, getting up, shaking his head, so i do understand that he is experiencing discomfort. What i want to find out is - are seizures common during Vestibular Disease recovery or should i outrule everything else, and succumb to the fact that it is brain tumor? If it is the brain tumor, then how brutal can it get for him? I would hate putting him through pain, if he is experiencing it, but at the same time i dont want to give up just because it became challenging. He has always been a healthy dog, and has been in excellent mood for the past 2 days, even after the seizure, trying to move around a lot, playing with his toys, etc. But i must mention - he is 12.5 years old labrador retriever.

Submitted by Jane | February 12 2013 |

Hi,
My dog was diagnosed with Vestibular Disease last Monday, after he collapsed. Vet did find some signs of ear infection, and we have been fighting ear and yeast infection in one of his ears for years, it would keep coming back few months after being treated. He spent 2 days in the hospital, and went from not being able to lift his head up to walking around the house (still rocking from side to side) and being more confortable outside when on the leash, in just 5 days. Just when I thought that he was on the road to recovery, he had a seizure last night. I spoke with his vet and he told me that there is a possibility of brain tumor, but he still suggested to increase his dose of steroids and see if he continues to get seizures. My dog had hard time falling asleep last night, he was breathing heavily, getting up, shaking his head, so i do understand that he is experiencing discomfort. What i want to find out is - are seizures common during Vestibular Disease recovery or should i outrule everything else, and succumb to the fact that it is brain tumor? If it is the brain tumor, then how brutal can it get for him? I would hate putting him through pain, if he is experiencing it, but at the same time i dont want to give up just because it became challenging. He has always been a healthy dog, and has been in excellent mood for the past 2 days, even after the seizure, trying to move around a lot, playing with his toys, etc. But i must mention - he is 12.5 years old labrador retriever.

Submitted by Andy and Cheryl | February 17 2013 |

Our 15-yr old female pug has had 5, 1-hour vestibular episodes, she is wobbly afterwards but fully recovers in a few hours after some weakening of back legs when eyes stop rolling, etc. This is happening every 5 or 6 days for past month. This is not what we read elsewhere? Anyone know how serious it is...Vet doesnt know but confirmed Vestibular event, did blood work only found some kidney malfunction.MRI, $3000, too much for us. Any insight???????????

Submitted by Debby | February 23 2013 |

Ask your vet about Gabapentin...it's done wonders for my dog. He weighs about 50 lbs and is on 300 mg twice a day.

Submitted by Robin | February 28 2013 |

I wonder if this might not be some sort of seizure disorder? I would keep a log...day, time, place, circumstances. I had an older pup diagnosed as a probable brain tumor. Listed to a jerk of a vet and we saw specialists, put her through the trauma of a spinal tap, mri etc and nothing was conclusive (aside from the expense!). Got fed up with the vet who ignored me and my updates, found a new vet who listened, heard the story (in our case it was that she almost always had the seizure in the AM, BUT on the nights when she had a snack before we went to bed, it didn't seem to happen) Vet grabbed a text book to confirm what she was thinking, and she turned out to be able to confirm via blood work it was being caused by an insulinoma, an insulin secreting tumor of the pancreas. Surgery was too risky, so we treated her medically, and that included smaller meals throughout the day. Seizures still happened but more days without than with.

Submitted by Hannah | February 21 2013 |

Our rescue dog, Toby, also had this in January 2013. We are unsure of his breed (possibly labrador cross beagle?) or age (the vets put him in double figures so he is an older dog). He started off by staggering a little and then his legs wouldn't hold him up. He was also very sick and his eyes kept fluttering and moving like he was in a sci-fi film. It happened fairly quickly - over an hour or so - and we were convinced this was the end and we were going to lose him.

We took him straight to the emergency vet who gave him a shot to stop him vomiting. The vet explained Toby's condition was not unusual in older dogs and he had a good chance of making a full recovery. We watched him like a hawk for the next 72 hours, and he slowly seemed to regain his balance and started eating again. He was very tired and slept a lot, but the eye twitch had stopped and he was no longer vomiting.

Toby is now fit and well after 6 weeks, although his head is slightly tilted to the side. He also seems to have lost some strength overall and is perhaps a little lobsided. He needs to have his food cut up into small pieces as the episode seems to have affected his ability to eat large bites. His apetite came back fully after 3 weeks and he was starving!

We are aware that the condition may strike again and consequently he is being treated like royalty. But to anyone else out there who is going through the same thing, have hope as we really thought he wouldn't get better.

Submitted by Debby | February 23 2013 |

My 14 year old border collie mix has Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome. He was on Gabapentin for another problem. We upped the dosage to 300 mg twice a day, and a little extra when necessary, he was normal again within hours! He had the more severe form of ODVS. Couldn't even stand up without falling over. Gabapentin...ASK YOUR VET about it! It's not expensive...I pay about $30 a month for 100 300 mg capsules. And the pill pockets are a God send! I hope your doggies get better. No need for this to be a death sentence!

Submitted by Donna | February 24 2013 |

I came across your article as I was searching for information about canine stroke symptoms and recovery. Its thought that our 7 year old blue heeler had a stroke 3 days ago. She's lost her vision in her left eye. She has limited use with her left feet (legs work well other than the wrist down so she walks heavy footed in order to place her foot pad on the ground instead of landing on her toes)She gets around pretty good compared to when it just happened.
My question is, do dogs with this condition regain their eyesite? Is there any supplement, medication or rehab we could try to help this? thank you so much for this article, it gives hope.
Donna

Submitted by Robin | February 28 2013 |

One of my pups appeared to have a stroke many years ago, which led to my doing much reading. She recovered. I remember reading about someone in England...and that the conclusion was rest and quiet, less stimulation, lots of love, helped the process along.

I knew someone whose dog had stayed with me...a wonderful lab. When he had, what appeared to be a stroke, his "father" wasted no time and had no patience for nursing him back to health. It was one of the saddest moments of my life for he made a decision to put him to sleep without supporting or helping him for any time.

as long as you have love, you have hope:-) and we're keeping you in our prayers and thoughts here in Cleveland!

Submitted by Joe G | February 27 2013 |

My dog Stubby has presented much like Lo's (feb 5) dog. He is a Boston Terrier about 11 years old. I originally noticed the red eye and corresponding loss of muscle mass behind it- looked like his head had been stove in. Turned out to be a corneal ulcer. The e-vet suggested that it might be result of a tumor.

Took him to a small animal ophthalmologist and was told he had the corneal ulcer and something akin to 'bell's palsy' for dogs. Besides the ulcer due to dry eye and lack of blinking, he had a droop on one side of his mouth. (all on left side). We have been treating the corneal ulcer with antibiotics and ointment. Ulcer has improved since december. Last visit may be mar 4th.

We are now treating the eye with a neomycin ointment- for about a month. Last weekend Stubby lost control of legs, has head tilt and circles. His normal vet says vestibular disease. We checked outer ears.

I am wondering if the topical Neomycin might be affecting Stubby. I noticed that some articles suggest it but don't know if that would be due to topical use in eye. Any thoughts? I will also ask my ophthalmologist. Thanks!

Submitted by Cat | March 2 2013 |

Found this article and it has helped tremendously. Tallie is a mini wirehair doxie - He woke me up at 3am, vomiting profusely. He seemed thirstly, drank water and vomited some more. He also seemed unsteady on his feet. He has a history of epileptic seizures, very infrequent - 1 to 2 per year, usually when stressed, and recovers very quickly. He is lethargic, disinterested in the other dogs, food or any thing. I took him to the vet this morning, they gave fluid, anit nausea injections (famotidine and cerenia)and checked blood pressure. Later this afternoon, I noticed the rapid eye movement and he continued to sleep. I tempted him with a little broth from some canned chicken and he took that and went back to sleep. I have a call in to the Vet to find out if there's anything else I should be doing to help him feel better - I wondered about an antiinflammatory

Submitted by Anonymous | March 10 2013 |

My dog was diognost with vestibular disease
My vet and I are treating it as iner ear infection since
She had Ben treated for one but we thought it cleared
Up but we think it went deeper / behind where you can't
See it with a scope ? , she is on Prednisone , doxycycline
, meclzine , started decrease prednisone she started
To shiver , up dosage back for a few days , I'm concerned
About infection and swelling ?

Submitted by Mama Wolf | March 14 2013 |

My fifteen year old German Shepherd has this in a severe form. Good news is that, after a full two weeks of not walking, she is walking now. Although she is still extremely lopsided and her walk is tentative, she can manage from one room to the next. Her first panicky fear has subsided and although she seems puzzled by her inability to run and jump she is no longer freaked out by it. It took longer than I expected but dhe is recovering. Good luck to anyone else who has a dog with idiopathic vestibular disease.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 14 2013 |

My dog was diagnosed with this on Monday night. It was so sudden and was so scary, we thought for sure it was the end. The ER vet diagnosed her with this and we are in the wait and watch stage. I have a question to people out there... My dog can't move at all, other than holding her head up for awhile and wagging her tail. We are doing everything for her (and she's not a tiny dog). For those of you whose dog was unable to stand or move at all, how long did it take until they tried to make the first attempt to stand/walk? I'm really worried that she hasn't shown a whole lot of improvement thus far, other than being able to hold her head up.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 19 2013 |

I feel your pain and anxiety...and I hope that things have improved by now.
My dog was three days before he tried to stand...he was placed on iv fluids and stayed at the vets for almost five days. I was there with him as much as they would let me be.
Its a hard disease to watch...I hope things are better for you and your furry friend

Submitted by Kevin | March 21 2013 |

Our dog Peebody is a 12 yo German Shepard mix that can't stand up, vomited, and seems to be disengaged. He can lift his head, but can't turn over or stand. He doesn't have the head tilt or eye symptoms. Is this ODV or something more serious?

Submitted by Kristi | April 2 2013 |

Our 14.5 yr old Golden fell into our pond (with the help of his 3yr old nephew galloping by) and that's when this IVD hit.

He couldn't walk at all the next day and I too thought this was the end for him.

Then the next day, he started getting up very wobbly but walking again.

I think it's because he overheard us preparing ourselves for his demise! Kind of like the scene in Monty Python ... "I feel Happy! I want to go for a walk!" .... the Bring out Yer Dead scene. :-)

Anyway, took him in for a check and vet gave me that long explanation of what he has.

If he isn't in pain and he can still walk with steriods, then I'm happy.

He's lived almost 15 years and can still bark at the goats. This is good enough for me.

Peace.

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