Home
Shea Cox
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Idiopathic or “Old Dog” Vestibular Disease

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.

Print|Email

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.

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
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 Julie | July 16 2014 |

Hi Rose,

How Babe is doing?

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.

Submitted by Anonymous NOLA | April 9 2013 |

This is a bit long but:

Our dog suffered from a very severe version of this on Friday. She is an Australian Shepherd / Collie mix. We had no idea what was going on, but she began to throw up all over herself and then soiled her self repeatedly. She would not stand up or drink anything. I really got scared when I noticed her rapid side to side movement of her eyes and up and down motion of her "eyebrows". It was if her computer was malfunctioning. She was incapacitated to the point where we had to roll her up in a towel like a dead body to carry her to the vet. I thought for sure that this was the end and was preparing myself accordingly. Our vet immediately recognized it a IVD and started to work on her. They set her up with an IV to keep her hydrated and began her on antibiotics designed for this sort of thing. The vet kept her over night to watch. When we went the next morning to the vet, they said we should visit with her for a bit to see if we would be able to deal the challenges of taking her out, feeding, cleaning up after her and such. I had already read about cleaning up the mess, but she already had incontinence issues beforehand. So this was not a huge shocker. When the vet brought her out, she looked a little better. She could not quite walk on her own, but could get around with a little bit of assistance. We decided to take her home and care for her ourselves. We were instructed to discontinue her incontinence and arthritis meds temporarily as to not react with her new meds. Later that evening on the day after the improvements continued. We still had to carry her a bit, but she was able to stand on her own as long as it was not a slick surface. The next morning the eye movements subsided substantially and were hard to even detect, But the eyebrows continued to move up and down at opposite times. When we tried to help her walk, she would move faster than us, but then fall occasionally. Sunday night, we were having dinner and she got up on her own and walked over to sit by us as she would normally. This was huge and showed her personality was intact. On Monday (yesterday, the vet prescribed some steroids to help her out and I imagine they aren't hurting her arthritis either, especially in lieu of the absence of the arthritis meds. She now can walk up stairs with slight assistance and as I write this just ran at the front door to bark at the sound of the mailman putting mail in our box. It's good to have her back and I am amazed by the improvements in just a few short days. I feel truly blessed that it was diagnosed correctly and the meds and care have worked so well. I know it won't always be like that for others, but just know that it can get much better.

Submitted by Chris | April 10 2013 |

Thank goodness for sites like this.. I was at a complete loss when I got home and my 140 lb 13 year old Great Pyrenees was displaying these exact symptoms. I am by myself, and have no way of getting him to a vet (in fact, the last time he was to a vet was for his 8 week shots, I have treated him with honey, epsom salts, the occasional panalog for ear infections, until the only vet that would give it to me without having to take him in is no longer working). Over the years he has had 2 face fulls of porcupine quills, throat opened from ear to ear from a tangle with a wolf, a severe infection on his shoulder from a wound, nose slashed by god knows what.. and at 13 years old, he still acts basically like a puppy, rolling over for belly scratches, jumping with joy when we are going for a walk, etc....

so, when I came home today and saw him, I was terrified that he had suffered a stroke. I was prepared to call someone to end his suffering until I came across this information. Thank You!!! I have food and water near him, although he won't take any, and i have been comforting him and massaging him to keep him calm. He doesn't seem to be in any pain, just afraid and disoriented, unable to move well, and his eyes are doing the side to side and eyebrows up and down. Will be doing lots of TLC, will try the dramamine, and tons of hugs, kisses and massages. Thank you all for your input... before I read this information I was beside myself with grief, although i do understand that 13 years is an incredible life for a giant breed... he has been the best friend ever...

Submitted by Anonymous | April 12 2013 |

Thanks very much for the reassuring info.

Do many pet owners experience such a situation and just "wait-and-see"? Without consulting, visiting the vet?

I wish I had known how to search for ODVS/D (Snyndrome/Disease) yesterday morning!.. I came home about 2 mins. after my daughter found our 13 y.o. male shepherd mix, OLAF, lying on the floor next to his bed. Olaf had urinated and defecated in his bed. One of our other dogs, Lila, heard Olaf whining and started barking. Our daughter thus found Olaf in this state... he couldn't get up. Fortunately I came home just after...not that I knew what was going on..

Previously I had a 12 y.o german shepherd who developed degenerative myleinoapathy (sp?) rear-end paralyzation-- also known as German Shepherd Dog(GSD) disease, so, I knew the "towel sling" method for moving her.... We took Olaf outside his head was tilted left, whole body leaning left on the ground... he could not get up, or stand when we tried to get him standing... he would try to move-- going to the left (trying to circle). We know he has hip dysplasia and arthritis... so I figured this WAS IT... the big one!!! A stroke.

I called the vets, they said bring him in.... had to leave him there since we didn't have an appt and they were of course booked... but "his" vet was in, so I knew she would tend to him ASAP. She did. By the time I had gotten back home she was calling to tell me she thought it was ODVS/D. She explained ODV and what they would do for him.

He received Dexamethasone IV, with Sucralfate to take home for stomach protection from ulcers (and I suppose to help protect the liver/kidneys as well).

When I went to get him 6 hours later Olaf PULLLED me out of the office vs. being carried IN by a Tech earlier--he weighs 80 lbs.
Olaf ate dinner, "used the bathroom" on his own, and is amazingly beter today.... Still wobbly.. but then I had been attributing the wobbliness to his arthritis...!

In hindsight, of course, I am wondering if I could have saved $200 (he had some radiographs & EKG, his heart beat was irregular, possible murmur....) had I know it would pass...

Peace of mind often comes with a price tag so, it' all GOOD. Praise God, He loves and cares for ALL His creatures.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 13 2013 |

My dog is with vet now . The vet called me and said it could be vestibular disease. My dog is a 5y old westie.
About ten days ago, he did not want to jump on my bed anymore, had dry nose, but only vomited once. I did not notice shifted eyes. 2-3 days ago, he started to show tilt head when walking, but never falling down. Does this sounds like VD?

Submitted by DCW | April 19 2013 |

10 days ago my dog (8 years old) woke up we went to let her out as usual. But as she made her way to the door she stumbled around as if she were drunk. She became very scared and tried to run back to us. As she did this, she fell violently (very tough to watch). We immediately grabbed her and called the vet. Her eyes were very very dispondent and she was shaking. At first we thought it was a leg injury but as we checked all of her legs, there didnt seem to be any pain. We then thought it was a stroke. It is worth noting that she had jogged 2 miles the night before and appeared to be in perfect health prior to this...

To make a long story short, she was not doing very well. The 1st vet (emergency vet- not our regular vet) was very thorough, but couldn't really diagnose her. He told us to keep an eye on her. For two days we had to physically carry her outside. She appeared miserable, stumbled severely and was extremely morose. Each day her eyes began to twitch more and more. With some research, I was pretty confident it was vestibular disease - which I had never heard of.

Our regular vet confirmed that on the 3rd day, but she showed zero signs of improvement for the first 4 days. It was a really hard time. Not only to see her that way, but also to care for her. My wife and I both took a day off work because she could not be trusted to be left alone. She would go to get up and fall violently. If you are dog people, as you obviously are if you are reading this, you know how hard it is to watch your dog suffer. The symptoms of vestibular are brutal, and although you are told it is not that serious- it is nearly impossible to believe that (especially when you see no improvement).

And then out of nowhere, she woke up one day (day 6) and was 10 times better. The eye movement had vanished. She was still a little wobbly, but was improving by the minute. We used treats to have her walk back and forth (pseudo physical therapy if you will). This helped alot!!! By that night, she was back to being 75%...

Today it has been 10 days and she is now nearly back to normal. God has blessed us with our dog back again, and we couldn't be more thankful. She still has a bit of a head tilt, but it doesn't effect her at all. She wags, plays, and begs to be taken on walks. I just wanted to post this as a way to give hope to all those who may be experiencing this. I came across a lot of scary information online when this first happened to my dog and I wanted to post a success story. Vestibular looks horrible... It is scary and overwhelming. But there is hope! God Bless

Submitted by Cheryl | May 15 2013 |

Thanks so much for your helpful comments regarding vestibular disease. Our 12 year old bichon frise came down with it and like you, we were petrified. As we brought her to the vet's office, we both thought that this was it and we were so sad. Our vet, an older gentleman, diagnosed the condition immediately and told us to give her an adult size dosage of dramamine(she is 17 lbs), and that otherwise, there was nothing he could do for her. He said that we were to call him daily for an update on her condition and that she would make the most progress within the first week. Like you, I stayed home with her and felt like I did when my daughter was an infant and totally helpless. The poor thing couldn't even shake her head without a face plant and fell over when trying to go to the bathroom. Miraculously, she made improvements daily and seems to be left only with the head tilt. We hope she doesn't get a reoccurrence and are so happy she is herself again.
Your comments in those early days were so comforting!
Thanks, Cheryl

Submitted by Tracy | July 30 2013 |

Thank you for this encouraging message. Mollie, 14 and a half border collie, started with these horrific symptoms on Saturday evening. My husband was away and I called him back early because I really thought we were loosing her. This is day 3 and this morning she got up and followed me out to the yard, slow but determined. She is not eating which is a worry but is taking water. It has been exhausting nursing her night and day and there is piles of washing as she has a few mishaps. She seems shattered after her trip to the yard and hasn't moved since. I am not giving up hope. We go back to the vet tonight for a check up. Less than a week ago she came to the lake with us and paddled while we fed the ducks so its not like she was an old dog who couldn't enjoy her life. Thanks again and pray for my Mollie please.

Submitted by Annie | April 26 2013 |

Our 14 year old Golden experienced this about 8 months ago. all the classic symptoms. Our vet followed your treatment to the letter. It did scare us watching him like this and we were frightened.

He has a few lingering things now, hearing is not great but then he's 15 next month, trips a bit and can be a bit unsteady but on the whole he is his old self, happy, friendly dog with much more life to come !

Submitted by Julie | December 1 2013 |

I was encourage by this article about 6 months ago when my 14 yr old Shepard mix went through this & fully recovered.....but am now faced with the exact same symptoms presenting in him again. Has anyone in this thread had this happen more than once? And is it more or less severe? Any thoughts would help as I am just as devastated seeing him like this as I was the first time.

Pages

More in Shea Cox:
Arthritis in Senior Dogs
Legislative Alert
Bromethalin: not all blue-green rodenticides are the same
Hops Can Be Lethal to Dogs
Moist Dermatitis in Dogs—Hot Spots
Paraphimosis:
Cracked, Broken or Torn Nails
Hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing's Disease in Dogs:
ASPCA Poison Control Center
Leptospirosis