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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.

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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 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.

Submitted by kathleen whelehan | April 29 2013 |

My pug has a head tilt. Hard time breathing. He has been to the vet and given
Meds. Gets better for awhile then comes back. I took him finally to a specialized hospital. He was going to have a egd but he had reaction to meds . His eyes were rolling. I took him home
He doesn't move alot because of breathing. This started about four months ago with ear infection. He also
has coughing which makes breathing worse. Is this vestibular disease? No other symptoms. Still eats. Goes out to do business. Also the cough is like choking. Any info would be appreciated. Thank you

Submitted by kathleen whelehan | April 29 2013 |

My pug has a head tilt. Hard time breathing. He has been to the vet and given
Meds. Gets better for awhile then comes back. I took him finally to a specialized hospital. He was going to have a egd but he had reaction to meds . His eyes were rolling. I took him home
He doesn't move alot because of breathing. This started about four months ago with ear infection. He also
has coughing which makes breathing worse. Is this vestibular disease? No other symptoms. Still eats. Goes out to do business. Also the cough is like choking. Any info would be appreciated. Thank you

Submitted by Plear | May 2 2013 |

Thank you so much for this article.

My Belgian Shepherd/Chow mix just threw up ALL of her dinner. She is drooling slightly and her nose is watering a bit. She couldn't walk for a while, seemed neurological, stroke-like? Her eyes were moving up and down, although not all that quickly. She did NOT have a head tilt and she was NOT walking in circles. She seemed like she didn't want to walk. She has improved drastically already, in about 1 hour, and is now asleep.

Does anyone know what may have happened?

Submitted by Sherry Reitmyer | May 6 2013 |

I have been reading so many of the comments and now have a better understanding as to what to expect. Our little Audri (a mini Dachshund) was diagnosed over this past weekend. She was absolutely fine on Friday night running around and begging for food. When I woke up to take her out in the morning she was a totally different girl. Her balance was off, she was stumbling, her eyes were shifting back and forth, and she had her head tilting. I took her out to go potty and she imediately vomited but was able to go to the bathroom. I just knew that she had a stroke and scared to death. We took her to the vet and the doctor diagnosed her with Vestibular Desease and gave her three shots for inflamation, nausea, and an antibiotic. She also gave us Valium for her to take for 3 days to hopefully break the signal? Anyway, she has had issues with wetting where she sleeps and she isn't eating very well. She does drink water so that is one thing that we are not worried about. I am concerned about her eating; she has always been a very enthusiastic eater and hungry all the time. I have found that she will eat softer foods like lima beans and wet dog food other than her beloved kibbles. She doesn't seem to be able to chew the kibble and spits them out. It has been only two days and I don't know if she is truly showing signs of improvement or if it is my wishful thinking. She is 15 years old and up to this point has been very healthy except for being deaf and having normal elderly dog problems. How long should we wait to see if she can recover? I know this is a question that you will say is not easy to answer but I am so concerned that we will make a decision too soon or one that doesn't need to be made at all. I am willing to take care of her for as long as it takes but on the other hand I don't want to prolong anything that is making her have pain or discomfort. She looks so confused and scared all the time and it breaks our hearts. I thought she showed signs of some improvement yesterday but this morning she seems to be where she was on the first day. Hopefully I am wrong. Is there anything thing more we can do for her at this point?

Submitted by brit | May 18 2013 |

my 14yo BC/JRT was dx with Vestibular Syndrome this March. She slowly recuperated but within the last month her right front foot 9same side as her head tilt) has become more shaky and knuckles under easily. I may be wrong but seems to be getting worse. Otherwise she is ok although not her original happy/perky self. Appetite is good. Any thoughts re her foot? I am concerned about this as I can no longer take her for walkies due to her having scraped the nails down to the quick :( Thanks for any help.

Submitted by Scott | May 19 2013 |

Hi Dr. Cox,

My dog Samantha is a 9ish year old Corgi/Beagle. Up until this morning her health was perfectly fine, and she woke up at 4am with the exact symptoms listed plus vomiting. I took her to the vet and they said it is likely this is what she has. Since her 4am spells she's walking better, she drank some water, and I was even able to get her to eat a slice of bread (in pieces out of my hand). Are these all pretty good signs that she's on the road to recovery? They recommended a blood test and a chest x-ray which she will be getting tomorrow (she's due for shots anyway).

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Really sad to see a perfectly healthy dog who loved to run, fetch, go on walks, and play get nailed with something so quickly.

Scott

Submitted by Hayley Adlam | May 23 2013 |

I'm gutted after reading this as I think my dog could of been mis-diagnosed! At 13 years old she displayed these exact symptoms and straight away with no real examination we were told she'd had a stroke! For 2 years she was prescribed vivitonin to thin her blood but we could never understand why she kept having repeated episodes! She had bad teeth, and after getting an abscess on her tooth was told she needed it removing, (wonder now if this caused an ear infection too), anyway we went ahead with the op only to get a phonecall hours later stating that the vet had removed 14 teeth which was a shock as it was originally meant to be one!! He was worried about the amount of blood our dog was losing to which I stated I had done research and was concerned the vivitonin drug she was on (blood thinner ) could be the cause of this! My baby didn't make it through the night as she lost so much blood and the vet tried to blame us for going to see her after the op and getting her overexcited hence making her bleed more!!!!??? After reading this I have a horrible feeling her death was in vain !! It's been 10 years since she passed but never a day goes by that I don't think she was diagnosed or treated properlyand wonder what if!!???

Submitted by Doug | May 24 2013 |

My 12yo Lab/Husky mix presented last Saturday (5/18) with sudden onset vomiting, loss of bladder control, nystagmus, head tilt and loss of balance. Not being a vet, we were of course immediately concerned about the possibility of stroke. We took her to the pet hospital and the vet there was convinced that it was IVD based on the nystagmus in combination with other symptoms. Blood work showed slight dehydration but no other concerns. She was given a subq injection for nausea and put on Cerenia ... my regular vet also recommended meclazine 25mg 1/day, which we have added.
In a prior comment, I noticed that one of the vets here had said that it is rare loss of for bowel control to present as a symptom of IVD. That does not preclude co-morbidity with another condition, of course, but the correlation in time (sudden onset of all symptoms within about 10 minutes)suggests a causal relationship.
Of greater concern to us is the fact that as of today, the 6th day after onset, the dog refuses to stand or attempt to even sit up, and food intake was 0 until day 4; the first two days she refused water as well even when squirted in her mouth with a syringe. Today food intake is only about 1/3 of normal. Head tilt is still present, nystagmus seemed to stop about day 4.
My dog has been afraid to stand; when we lifted her to a "sit" position, while she was able to hold her own weight, she began to tremble violently as if in extreme fear.
Today, day 6, she remains prone on the floor in the same spot where we brought her home last Saturday evening. She has urinated, but has not had a bowel movement since last Saturday. She refuses to walk or stand ... and she literally has not moved more than about 12 inches from her initial position 6 days ago. She does hold her head up now and drinks from a bowl hand-held in front of her, and she has began eating when hand-fed.
We looked into her ears and found them both to be extremely dirty. We were able to clean the left one but the right ear seems sensitive and the dog does not want us to clean it ... suggestive of an infection.
SO, as I understand it, the possibilities are:
-IVD
-Brain Tumor
-Brain Bleed
-Ear Infection
If there are others, please enlighten me.
We can't afford an MRI for the dog, and the persistence of symptoms are concerning, however, given the lack of food and water intake ... I am not sure that we should expect a lot more in recovery progress yet.
BTW, we do believe she is adequately hydrated now .. her skin is elastic when we pinch it ... it returns to shape and does not "tent" after pinching it.
Progress is very slow, compared to what my reading has led me to expect.
I have two questions:
(a) given the ear sensitivity, does it make sense to go ahead and treat with antibiotics for a possible ear infection? It seems that the downside consequence is only that there might be no infection and no improvement. But given that we can't pursue an MRI, this seems like a reasonable approach.
(b) should we expect more progress by this time, or am I unnecessarily concerned given her history since onset?

Thanks for your comments.

Submitted by Scott | May 27 2013 |

Samantha Update: It's been one week since the onset of the symptoms and she's doing great! After about 48 hours she started eating a little bit of sliced turkey, 72 hours she was eating sliced turkey mixed with some dog food. She's now back to eating most of her 2 meals a day. She hasn't vomited since day 1 and her eyes got back to normal around day 4. The wobbling/punch drunk behavior subsided around day 5. Her head tilt is better every day, she's almost there. She started going upstairs around day 5. Interestingly, she doesn't seem to have the confidence to go down the stairs yet. She chased her ball once today (first time since the disease occurred). It's clear her personality is coming back. She was on Meclizine twice a day and finished her last people yesterday. Pretty good progress in 1 week!

Submitted by chris | May 28 2013 |

my 13 year old jack russell just had an episode this past friday night and i witnessed it myself and had to hold him for a while and was so hard to watch.Took him to vet today and they said just like this article that with time he will get better to wait it out and monitor him for the next 10 days or so.Thanks for the article and info!really needed this for peace of mind!

Submitted by James | June 2 2013 |

Idiopathic vestibular disease. Our lab Lexi (13 yrs) is healthy and happy but she has had two bouts with IVD before we were advised of a helpful solution. If it happens in our presence we were advised to hold her gently, talk to her and rub her. In two cases since we were able to stop the syndrome completely in less than a minute with no effects whatsoever except for some excessive panting for a few minutes afterwards.

Submitted by Scott | June 4 2013 |

Samantha Update #3: It's been 2 weeks since she came down with IVD and she is doing great! Up and down the stairs, much more active, eating like a pig, personality has returned... Still not playing as much as she was prior to the disease but every day is improvement. I would put her at 90% recovered. So happy to see her get back to being herself!

Submitted by Angie | June 13 2013 |

I believe I am going through this right now with my dog. She is 11 years old and I have had her since she was 8 weeks old. I discovered it when I went to let her out of her kennel on my lunch. It was by far the scariest thing I have ever seen. She was flipping backwards because she couldn't get her balance. Unfortunately, I have had to carry her up and down the stairs and outside to go to the bathroom and am hand feeding her. The vet said it is probably this but there is still a chance that it is a brain tumor. The last couple days have been very sad and difficult. Just hoping it truly is this condition. She brings such joy to my life and thinking of being without her is unbearable.

Submitted by Kristine | June 24 2013 |

My 10 year old golden retriever started showing signs of this a fe months ago. She has head tilt, trouble laying down, and sometimes falls over. It's very scary but she always returns to normal with a week. When she is having an episode she hangs her head in a downward sideways position and we have to feed her by hand

Submitted by Nancy | June 27 2013 |

Hi Dr. Cox, not sure if you're still monitoring the comments here, but if you are I have a question. My older (found her and not sure of her age) mini dachshund is in chronic renal failure. We've been battling it for two years. She went into crisis and was hospitalized two months ago. Since then, she has had mild vestibular symptoms. She doesn't have many of the symptoms I'm reading about here; no nystagmus, circling, vomiting or head tilt. Her front end - head and front limbs - get very wobbly and uncontrollably shakey for several moments at a time. She has knuckled on one of either of her front paws very occasionally. She's eating and drinking well and gets subcu fluids daily. She coughs after drinking. I wouldn't say she's dizzy, but she does want to see where she's going if being carried and will sit up suddenly if I move her kennel. She has hypertension and is on meds. We saw a neurologist, but can't do an MRI because of the anesthesia risk to her compromised little system. I first noticed a slight head wobble, for one second, back in January. In March, she had a ruptured disk that healed well with strict crate rest. Her current symptoms respond somewhat to Meclazine. She's had a couple of courses of Clavamox and one of Clyndimycin recently. I'm wondering if you'd like to hazard a guess at what the cause of her vestibular symptoms might be. Thanks.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 1 2013 |

This happened to my family's 14 year old dog last night and we were really nervous. At first we just thought it was just her arthritis but then we were worried and thought it was a stroke or seizure. We rushed her to the emergency vet and found out about this disease. We all hadn't heard of it before but the vet told us that it was like the dog had just gotten off a crazy roller coaster. Our dog had to still stay overnight and we took to our vet the next morning. Since my dad is an emergency physician and used to be a vet assistant, my mother used to be a nurse and most my family knows a decent amount about medicine and such we were able to take her home since she would be more comfortable there. She can't eat or drink very well so right now she still has her IV in and has some fluids. My whole family is relived that she is okay. I wanted to thank you for writing this because its important that more people know about this because I have heard of people losing their pets when they could save them. Thanks again! her arthritis but then we were worried and thought it was a stroke or seizure. We rushed her to the emergency vet and found out about this disease. We all hadn't heard of it before but the vet told us that it was like the dog had just gotten off a crazy roller coaster. Our dog had to still stay overnight and we took to our vet the next morning. Since my dad is an emergency physician and used to be a vet assistant, my mother used to be a nurse and most my family knows a decent amount about medicine and such we were able to take her home since she would be more comfortable there. She can't eat or drink very well so right now she still has her IV in and has some fluids. My whole family is relived that she is okay. I wanted to thank you for writing this because its important that more people know about this because I have heard of people losing their pets when they could save them. Thanks again!

Submitted by madhuka | July 4 2013 |

hi, my 14 year old pom girl was acting strange for the past two weeks, like she was walking in circles,panting,and she looked very disturbed. unfortunately i was able to show her to the vet only on the 3rd day since he was out of town and he knew her medical history very well. gradually she showed an improvement after the medication but yesterday suddenly she started breathing heavily,eyes were popping out and did not respond to me at all. i rushed her to the vet and he gave a drip and some other medication and said that her temperature was 103.7. she didnt even move but looked as if she was leaving me. i was so devastated and didnt want her to leave me. she didnt sleep the whole night and wanted me to be with her. i slept next to her and took her to the vet again this morning. he said that it might be vestibular disease but he was having doubts since my girls tummy was swollen, and she was having alot of ticks lately mostly in her ears which was uncontrollable despite all the effort and medication done to her. im really confused at the moment if it is vestibular disease or tick fever. if it is either of them does she stand a chance to recover since she is old. she cannot stand by her own,eat or drink. i have to help her to even urinate. it doesnt matter i will take care of her even if i have to stay awake 24/7 with her.please advice me what i should do. after reading some of the comments i feel that i should give her some time too recover.is that what i should do.thank you.

Submitted by michelle caley | July 6 2013 |

lab mix DX with IVD 5 days ago. Given Prednisone and Cephalexin. 7 bouts of vomiting day 2-3. Antinausea med given. Vomiting stopped. Walking better. Head tilt better. Dog sleeping a lot. I think she's wore out from all the vet trips this week. No defecation in 4-5 days. Took Daisey to Michigan State University (MSU) last night for lack of defecation. Abdominal x-rays show soft stool with some dark blood there. No constipation. I was told she will defecate soon. She may be having difficulty squatting to be able to defecate. Very tired this morning and doesn't want to go outside. No defecation yet. Thinking of trying a towel underneath back end to help walk and squat. Concerned about how long she can go without defecation and what I should do next. If you have any suggestions, I would appreciate any help you can give.

Submitted by Stacy | July 16 2013 |

My lab presented all the symptoms except the eye rolling (falling over, vomiting and voiding)suddenly one night. We decided to wait till the next day since getting her to the ER vet would have been a problem. The vet came to my house and gave a shot for nausea and inflamATION. No antibotics as he said they do not help. A week later still falls from head shake but back to regular dog food and a partial walk outside. She no longer has the desire to be outside. But comes to the treat bowl for one. Still unsteady but what a difference time makes with this.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 26 2013 |

A very good and informative article about the subject!!! My former dog got this disease at 12 years. Accute onset with her falling over to the right, came into comalike state and she was opistotonic. I was sure she was going to die there and then. But - after diazepam an fluids iv she woke up again, and within 24 hours she was back on her feet. Fully recovered by one week. She lived happily for almost three years after this incident. :-)

Submitted by Grace | July 28 2013 |

My rescued poodle-schnauzer (we think) is going through this. Head tilt, cannot get up, cries when she tries to stand. From observing her I think the crying is more from disorientation than from pain. We aren't sure how old she is, but I know she is, as the vet said, old enough to collect social security. Sudden onset of symptoms, doesn't want to eat or drink much at all. No nystagmus, but she has cataracts and has had them for the last two years that we have had her. She also has hearing loss, also has always had that. We have just adapted our home to her needs. It seems like now her "sniffer" isn't working well. I've been doing research on this disorder, and she seems to fit the hallmarks. We are feeding and watering with a syringe, hoping to keep her hydrated. She still has good urinary out put, and when she needs to pee is when she attempts to stand and gets frustrated. I know it's good that she hasn't given up attempting to go out to pee. I am a paramedic, and have done the things I would do for a bedfast human; linens changed, positions changed, massage to help with soreness. Hydration, food as tolerated... I am looking for any other advice to help my Sophie. We love her ridiculously, even though we have only had her for two years. I knew when I rescued her that she would be with us for a relatively short time, but we have tried to care for her needs as best we could. Would ginger tea help with the nausea? She's breathing normally for the most part, heart rate steady, no tenting of the skin that would lead me to suspect severe dehydration. She does "shiver" at times, cries when she attempts to get up (but truly, it doesn't sound like her "mom, this hurts" cry), and isn't interested in much other than being loved on when we are down on the floor with her. Euthanasia is a LAST resort. With a human patient I can ask what hurts, or feels bad, and I know how to help. I am completely at a loss. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Submitted by Amanda | July 29 2013 |

My 8-year-old boxer developed these symptoms on Thursday, took anti-nausea meds and we took her home to hand water and wait-and-see. On Friday she had fluid draining from her ear (vet had checked for infections and seen none). She seemed to brighten over the weekend, still staggering, but going outside to pee. On Monday I took her back to the vet because she was still not drinking unaided and to check the ear. The vet kept her in to flush out and start anti-biotics for her ear, and to give her 24-hours of intravenous fluids. She passed away on Monday evening, apparently after a seizure. 2nd guessing whether I missed something. She had her annual exam and vaccinations a week prior to this and was taking other meds for a leaky bladder and swollen gums. So sad right now.

Submitted by Bill | August 2 2013 |

My 13 year old german shepard mix has exhibited most of the symptoms you describe for vestibular problems but the episodes have been very short, lasting about 5 minutes or less, and I have only observed about four total episodes during the past year. During the episodes, she seems very disoriented and seems to turn or fall in one direction when she tries to stand up or walk. I usually just make her lie on the ground so she doesn't move around until the episode passes. After a few minutes, she is totally normal again and it may be two or three months until the next episode. She is in overall excellent health otherwise although she is showing signs of arthritis. Does this sound like old dog disease?

Submitted by Vicson | August 14 2013 |

Our 13 yr old pit bull is experiencing this disease now, symptoms started on Monday 8/12, we brought him into Emergency Vet office. He got IV fluids, anti nausea and predinose and the doc told us we would see improvement within a few days. It's now Wed, and he is not any better. I am really worried. All the info I read says, it will just go away. I am doubtful. But I do tend to worry more than others. It is so hard to see your animal out of control. Any and all info is appreciated. Anxious Atlas

Submitted by shannonb | August 14 2013 |

My dog has had 3 episodes in the past 4 weeks. Head tilt, nystagmus, unsteady gate. Her symptoms are lasting less then 24 hours though. The vet said everythong points to vestibular disease except the frequency. Between episodes she is a perfectly normal 13 year old. She is still quite active with minimal arthritis. Has anyone ever seen this kindof frequency before? He did say it may be a tumor but didn't seem to be presenting that way. Also he did not do blood work, should I get some done? If so what? Please help, I am feeling very helpless right now.

Submitted by Laraine | August 16 2013 |

My thirteen year old Shih Tzu is just recovering from vestibular syndrome. He's drinking but hasn't eaten if four days. I've tried hand feeding him but he's not interested. He does go to his bowl so I know he's hungry. His eyes have stopped twitching and his stance and gait are improving. How long can he go without eating?

Submitted by Jean S | August 16 2013 |

My 15 year old Cocker Spaniel developed Vestibular Disease. I came home from work one weekend and my boyfriend was in the yard with her. When I went to check on her, her head was tilted to the left, she tried to stand but would fall. I thought for sure that she had a stroke. I was devastated watching my baby struggle to walk. I took her to the vet the next day, by then she was able to stand and walk a few steps with out falling. Today is the 6th day, she is walking almost normal, shes goes up steps but is afraid to go down them and she is still experiencing the head tilt. She eats and drinks normally. She didnt have any problem eating or drinking on the 1st day it happened. In the process of the doctor diagnosing her, we found out that she might have Cushing's Disease and the dr is running blood work to confirm. I just wanted to share my story because when I first saw Sparkie in her condition, I was very upset. Hopefully, this puts some parents at ease. If your dog is experiencing Vestibular Disease they can still live a normal functional life =)

Submitted by Katie | September 1 2013 |

My dog was a german shepherd/border collie. I got her when she was 8 weeks old. She lived until she was 17 1/2 years old. I first experienced this was she was 12 yrs. old. My Vet said she had a TIA, which is similar to a mini stroke. He gave her a shot consisting of corticosteroid, thiamine and B-6. By the next day she was fine. I went on-line constantly to get more info about TIA's. It was probably 1 1/2 years later, when I stumbled across the "old dog syndrome". There was very little info available about this syndrome at that time.
Thank you so much for this article. I hate thinking of all the poor dogs that were put to sleep only because their owners did not know that if given just a few days their dogs would come out of it and be back to normal.... Very heart-breaking.
As I mentioned earlier, my (smart, wonderful, loving, happy) dog lived until last month. She was 17 1/2 years old. She did have a couple more episodes of this syndrome. During her last year of life, her balance was a bit unsteady at times. Maybe it was just old age catching up to her. I sure do miss her. My little shadow.....Forever in my heart...
To those that have medium to larger dogs. The best thing you can do to help them live a long healthy life is to: WALK/RUN everyday. 15-30 minutes is NOT enough. Repeat. 15-30 min is NOT enough exercise.
Also, ask vet for blood test every couple years when their young. Every 1-2 years when they're older. At my request, my vet would do a CBC (complete blood count), heartworm test and thyroid test every year after age 12. Luckily I had a healthy dog. I hope all of you do too...

Submitted by Mike | September 4 2013 |

My wife and I have a 13 year old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever that we have had since shortly after we got together. About a month ago he had an episode of vestibular disease, the symptoms were as outlined above. Our vet treated with prednisone and Dramamine. But he had already showed signs of recovery within about 30 minutes of the episode. By late that night he was fine. Well, the other night he was laying next to us on the floor and started crying. I got him up and sure enough he was having another episode. It only lasted about 30 minutes and later that night he was fine again. I took him to the vet and she recommended blood work and x-rays. This will likely run $500 plus. At this point, I am inclined to wait and see if he continues to have them. My questions are: Does the fact that he has had more than one of these episodes indicate anything? and secondly, am I making the right call to wait a bit longer? Could it be that he will just keep having them, recover quickly, and be fine? It's obviously concerning not knowing what is causing this.

Submitted by Diane Kerner | September 9 2013 |

My 13 year old lab-shepherd mix recently had this. It is amazing to me that we had never heard of it, given how horrifying an experience it is to watch you pet and think they're dying. At times, Reese looked possessed: upside down, her back arched, head upside down, legs flailing in the air. OMG it is so heart wrenching. That was a setback around day five. The original attack was the head tilt, eye movement, stumbling, circling, whining, and she was so panicked, as were we. Thankfully, we learned she wasn't dying and had something curable. whew! It's a long road, though. It takes a tag team of at least two because you really can't be out of reach in case she tries to stand up and walk (she will fall) - and that's around the clock. If you're lone with her, you can't go take a shower or be in another room. I was awakened by her panting a couple times each night and got up to give her water. She would only eat baby food from a spoon around day two. it was a week before she was able to reach around to clean herself and took her first normally beloved biscuit - her first hard food, fed by hand in small pieces. It's so nice to see her do ordinary things like lick her feet. We have stairs coming in and out of the house, and that is a problem, as she must be carried into the yard to relieve herself and take a little walk (using a sling, of course, but gradually just needed spotting). Anyway, carrying her can send her back into a spin, as can repositioning her if she lands half in/out of her bed. We learned to give her fair warning, verbally and tactilely before moving her. We learned she'd take almond butter, masticated baguette, organic broth, soft ginger cookies (good for nausea)... we just kept trying everything. I also had a bowl of water with a slice of fresh ginger and a couple of mint leaves in it. both good for nausea. I'd add a syringe-full to her water and she liked it fine. I also sprayed chamomile mixed with distilled water around her beds for calmness. just breathing the steam from chamomile tea can be calming. And she would eagerly take the Bach Rescue Remedy in pastille form (kinda like a gummi bear), which is for anxiety. Since she is on antibiotics for ear infection, I got her to take a little coconut yogurt, though I don't know that dogs stomachs need the same bacterial help that humans do. Still, it was more food she would eat. I'd say it will be around two weeks before we'll be able to leave her alone in the house again. I really feel like starting a support group or awareness campaign about this disease. reading all these posts, it is such a scary thing for all involved and it seems none of us had a clue this could happen to our pets. Good luck to all of you!

Submitted by Kathleen Barker | September 10 2013 |

I took my 11 year old Maltese/Dashund mix, Ralphie to the emergency vet on Sunday night & they diagnosed with nystamus. I've been giving him anti-nausea medication (they gave him a shot for nausea & iv fluids) but 3 days later, he has started to vomit again & hasn't eaten in 4 days...we have limited funds but make too much to qualify for a grant. Is there anything you can recommend? I want to stop the meds but haven't yet. I'm just so worried about him. It's my hubby & I & our two four legged children. I helped Ralphie's mother birth him. After reading your article, I have more hope. Thank you for writing it.

Submitted by Chris Massey | September 11 2013 |

I am so glad I found this forum/blog. We too are going through this - our 13 yr old Malamute presented with severe symptoms out of nowhere 72 hours ago. She seemed to get worse over the next 12 hours. 24 hours later the nystagmus stopped so i guess that's the progress you want to see as a sign that she might recover. We are now at 72 hours and she still can't stand, even refuses to try but is eating and drinking fine when hand fed. It is beyond heartbreaking to see her in so much distress- any forced movement sees her flailing around as she doesn't know which way is up. I can only assume any movement causes such a head spin. We are naturally starting to question our wisdom of keeping her going but reading this site gives me hope and the will to carry on. I spend every minute by her side and it's so exhausting. I am sure she is not in pain but must be so stressed out.

Submitted by jane | September 11 2013 |

5 days ago, the 8 yrs old pomeranian suddenly tilt her head to the left and panting heavily. Bought her to the vet, but was not told that it might be a vestibular disease. However she does have a mild ear infection on the left ear. What bother me is the X ray result shown her neck bone had curve shape.

Can someone tell me is it normal?

Also my dog tends to pant more anxiously at night only, usually after she wake up from her sleep.

Need some advise please. Thanks

Btw she only treated with antibiotics and ear drop for ear infection.

Submitted by Rcahel Bishop | September 12 2013 |

Very reassuring to read, BEFORE an expensive vet visit! Thank you! Hoping my 'Old Pup' will be with me for a while yet!

Submitted by Marcia | September 18 2013 |

We are having our second episode of this in our now 18.5 year old poodle/spitz mix...Gritz, the Mighty Boo Bear. Last time - 3 years ago - it took a very determined vet and 12 days to start to recover. This time, neither our trusted and tenacious vet, nor we are convinced there will be recovery. We are giving it some time - but not as much as 3 years ago. He has been a valiant little warrior - and a delight for all these years. We hope our 21yr marriage will survive not having him as part of it. Sad but ready.

Submitted by anonymous | September 19 2013 |

This also happened to my 14 year old American Eskimo last month. She used to have seizures but had not had one in over 5 years and this was definetly different. I took her to the vet the follwoing morning because I thought she had a stroke. My vet said she thought she did too but to take a wait and see approach without alot of tests considering her age. I started doing research on the internet and came across idiopathic vestibular disease. She had another episode last week which was worse than the first. She was acting like herself when all of a sudden she vomited, all four of her legs collapsed and she rolled over 7 times. After about 10 minutes she was much better. She now walks with a slight head tilt and sometimes falls when she's walking but that is improving. One thing I want to mention to anyone that has a dog dealing with this is to get baby gates to block stairways. That way you'll have peace of mind knowing they won't get hurt falling down the stairs if you aren't home.

Submitted by kristin | September 19 2013 |

My nearly 13 year old American Pitbull terrier recently had surgery to address Laryngeal paralysis - prior to this surgery he was showing minimal signs of weakness in his back end - and increased sensitivity to the "spot" on his neck that causes most dogs to crescent themselves or involuntarily move their back leg as if to scratch. Other than that - none of the signs of vestibular disease were present. Post surgery - he was treated with Cerenia to avoid nasueousnes which could cause him to aspirate - and there was evidence of a slight lean to the right. on day 11 (post op) the lean became severe - he is leaning all his weight to the right, tilting his head to the right - but there is no sign of the eye movement noted in all the descriptions ive read about the condition. My vet determined that he likely has either the central or idiopathic vestibular disease - we put him back on the cerenia and predensone to treat any potential immflamation that may be in the brain. He has been on these meds for 2 days now and i am not seeing any improvement. the thought is that if this condition was present pre-surgery - that the anesthesia could have exacerbated it - ear infection was ruled out. Based on my description - what would you recommend ? He is eating well, drinking is difficult but we are managing to assist him by bringing his water dish to him - but walking is becoming increasingly difficult as he seems unable to stay on his feet for very long- he is putting all his weight on the right side. He has a harness and we are helping him get around by supporting him - and i am going to purchase a "sling support" as well - I do not want to give up on him and reading your notes about how this disease can correct itself has given me hope - but i am unsure if the meds he is on will actually help him recover. there is always the possibility of a tumor - but at this time (after a very expensive surgery) the $2000 MRI is just not in budget - especially if it would only tell me that the end is eminent. I want to give this as much time as is reasonable given his current quality of life. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
thank you

Submitted by dee | September 24 2013 |

my four year old dog started with the head tilt. the vet found nothing wrong treated with antiobodics and she had gotten better. The head tilt was gone and she was back to herself. I came home from work on friday and she is now blind in both eyes. we see a neuroligist today and very afraid. I was told about vestibular but she is young. I guess i am hoping for answers. I tried to tell my vet I think something is wrong. Her ears were always clean but was told ear infection, or vestibuler, I read on that and usually happens in older dogs. On her check up I told vet her pupils looked big but was told her eys were fine. two days later she was blind.

Submitted by Brianne | September 25 2013 |

Thank you for this article. Our dog started showing symptoms this morning and I freaked right out; he's a geriatric dog with arthritis, recently started on cuprofen. I thought that he was either having a reaction to the new drug or a stroke. I called our vet and she let us come over for a walk in. She diagnosed vestibular syndrome within three minutes (she pulled down her pathology book and read through the information with me, and I was finally able to relax when I saw "often reported as stroke by owners" and that it usually resolves without treatment within 72 hours ). I went home feeling worlds better.

Submitted by Catherine | September 30 2013 |

My mini wirehair doxie developed vestibular disease, after treatment he returned to normal except that he has become deaf. He's thirteen and basically healthy. He used to be able to hear jelly fall on a cracker and now we have to shout to get his attention.

Submitted by pb | October 7 2013 |

my old buddy is now experiencing his third incident this year (first one - full recovery same day with steroids 1/13 second one took 4 days 5/13 This event- worst- cannot bear weight at all. At what point do I say enough is enough?
He's 15 and was a champion out door warrior. Tracking moose in Wyoming wilderness; backcountry ski trip partner, marathon runner etc.

Submitted by Rachelle | October 7 2013 |

My older CAT had this. My vet told me to euthenize him. Thankfully I didn't. I put him in a cage and started him on heavy antibiotics. He is doing great and that was several years ago. His eyes still dart back and forth though.

Submitted by Millie Brown | October 7 2013 |

Millie is a sixteen and a half year old Lhasa Apsos and just recovering from Vestibular Syndrome. She had all the symtoms and after the bloods came back OK the Vet said it was probably the VS. As we had never heard
of it before such a relief to find something that appeared like the worst case scenario, ie stroke, tumour
was only temporary.

Submitted by jlaass | October 14 2013 |

Dr. Cox,

Popper was 10 years old when she experienced a seizure just after Christmas of 2012. Since it was the holiday break from school, two of our daughters were able to sit with her, petting and comforting her. She recovered (eyes stopped moving rapidly side to side, balance improved, appetite returned, head tilt went away) to resume normal functions though she still has a loss of balance in her hind legs, circles often, and lost her bark. She had a minor episode a few months later, but now nearly 1 year later she is still full of a positive spirit and life. I've noticed that taking her to the park to run on grass vs the asphalt jungle of Tucson, AZ is great for her to exercise without experiencing the jarring effects of a hard surface. The jaunts in the park are very therapeutic for her as she runs past physical exhaustion and returns home with a big smile on her face to a very good night of rest.

Thank you for the very informative article.

Sincerely,

Jeff

Submitted by Connie Wilkinson | October 16 2013 |

our 12 yr old shepard /golden retriever mix Had a Spell two weeks ago On Oct 2 2013 we rushed him to the ER Vet and he was diagnosed with acute idiopathic canine geriatric vestibular syndrome , Buddy is 126 lbs and it has been a very Rough Two Weeks to recovery , but he is making progress everyday ,vet gave him antibiotics , pills for his dizziness, and tramadol for his pain because he could not walk or get up for the first week , the second week we were walking him around the house and out to do his business with lots of help and yesterday he got up by him self and this am he was walking around the yard still a little staggering so we will keep helping as long as we need too , but all in all so glad we waited it out because it was very scary to witness and we thought it was the end but he proved us wrong and I'm so glad we still have our Buddy he has been an amazing patient we hand fed him chicken and rice with chicken noodle soup poured over it had to hold his water bowl for him to drink , had to do daily and nitely baths if he had an accident , he was such a trooper through it all , LOve our Best Friend so don't lose hope !

Submitted by Lisa Jessop | October 17 2013 |

Our 6 yr old golden was diagnosed with vestibular disease. I thought for sure it was a stroke or a snakebite. Our vet was spot on but precautious.Thank goodness for the web. I was able to get information that kept us going. After 1 week of antibiotics and anti nausea medication he showed major tail wagging. I thought for sure we would have to put him down. Sharing is the key. Also YouTube videos

Submitted by Julie B | November 7 2013 |

Our 6 year old Golden started with these symptoms a couple of weeks ago. He was given antibiotics and since then his nystagmus has stopped, the slackness in his jaw has gone, he's smiling again and he's now back to his usual boisterous self. However, he's still got a lazy left eye and his head is still tilted. He goes back for his fourth visit to the vet tomorrow, but they're now recommending an MRI because he's still tilted. He's insured, so this isn't a problem at all but it's now got me worried in case it's something more serious, just after I'd calmed down a bit because he seemed to be responding so well to the treatment. Can anyone offer reassurance?

Submitted by Sharon Johnso | October 18 2013 |

Thank you so much for this information. My Chesapeake Bay Retriever is right in the middle of week two of this problem. For a while, I, too, thought she was tired of her 16 years and ready to call it quits, but she is progressing slowly. Scary presentation but it gets better and we are so lucky to still have her.

Submitted by linda miller | October 18 2013 |

this morning 10/18/2013 noticed my dog Chance 15/half year old dog, head hanging to the side eyes rolling like a drunk person, my first thought is omg he has had a stroke, called the vet. crying I told them I believe Im going to put him down..saying my goodbyes on the way to vet.after I got him there they soon after seeing him said he has the old dog vestibular disease.. he has inter ear infection.. waiting now for next few weeks..they think he will recovery just fine. but looking at him, makes me wonder if he will recover..feeding him by hand and holding drinking bowl to drink , carrying him to his potty pad to do his business..love my dog and do not want to see him suffer..but he is not crying.so praying for recovery!!

Submitted by linda miller | October 18 2013 |

this morning 10/18/2013 noticed my dog Chance 15/half year old dog, head hanging to the side eyes rolling like a drunk person, my first thought is omg he has had a stroke, called the vet. crying I told them I believe Im going to put him down..saying my goodbyes on the way to vet.after I got him there they soon after seeing him said he has the old dog vestibular disease.. he has inter ear infection.. waiting now for next few weeks..they think he will recovery just fine. but looking at him, makes me wonder if he will recover..feeding him by hand and holding drinking bowl to drink , carrying him to his potty pad to do his business..love my dog and do not want to see him suffer..but he is not crying.so praying for recovery!!

Submitted by Lisa Robinson | October 23 2013 |

I have a 16yr old papillon dog, otherwise healthy but just getting old she is now going blind with cataracts. I had her teeth cleaned 3 months ago in the past week I put her out for a wee in the morning and saw her take a couple of steps very wobbly and fall over sideways...this was sooo scary...this was last friday...now she is like she is drunk, wont eat or drink having to syringe food and water into her now, she is weak..standing with head down also going in circles. I am thinking vestibular maybe eyes are not twitching though...she cannot concentrate and is in a daze it is heartbreaking to watch has no appetite now...absolutely heartbreaking...all bloods were normal kidneys good and liver and no diabetes...looks like she has had a stroke.

Submitted by Becky | October 25 2013 |

BigDog is a kind, gentle, 13 year old rescue. He has been having significant arthritis issues and some imbalance. He has been going through his normal fall bout of allergies, only it seems worse this year. For the last 24 hours, it's like his hind end has "caved" in. Unable to walk for more than a couple of steps, and can't support himself in the rear. No bowel or urinary issues as far as incontinence. No rapid eye movement. He's on metacam and tramadol for the arthritis, and benedryl for the allergies (steroids have not worked well this time around). My husband is devastated...... but we've adopted a wait and see approach as I had another dog go through this same thing, recovered and lived for four years after........... however, I'm still not sure I'm doing the right thing by the dog despite the fact he seems in no pain... confused by his inabilities but not in pain........

Submitted by Elva Fig | October 25 2013 |

Yesterday, my pug Mimi on her 12th birthday suddenly woke up am hours with heavy breath and complete disorientation, eyes were darting all over, head/body tilted and inability to stand. ER vet visit revealed that they suspect Vestibular Disease. She has had a long history of ear infections and currently has a mild infection. Veterinarian suggested to wait and see if it clears up with treatment of the ear infection. She has drastically improved on her own within a few hours, I'm too concerned to just wait to see if it does not occur again. My sisters 13yr old pug recently and suddenly passed away with symptoms almost exactly the same. Going to see a specialist and possibility a neurologist as well.

This article has been tremendously helpful and so have the numerous posts of animal companions.

Submitted by Margie Thompson | October 26 2013 |

Our 8-yr-old Beagle, Dudley, experienced a stroke-like episode 2 wks ago. We suspected it was a resurfacing of degenerative disc -- a condition for which he was diagnosed and then underwent surgery for at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, MSU, in 2010. We were pretty sure it was his time to go, but then our vet suggested we hold off, as she suspected peripheral vestibular disease. She is currently treating him with dexameth., IM every other day, and also treated him with antibiotic ear drops, which seemed to do wonders for his ears. As of today, he has the same symptoms, but a dramatic decrease. There's always a chance, too, with his history that this is central vestibular disease. We're keeping our fingers crossed and saying our prayers that he improves and doesn't relapse. He's such a good dog, and we love him. Thanks for the informative article, Dr. Cox. It re-inforces what our vet (another MSU VTH Grad...we call her Dr. Sparty...)is telling us.

Submitted by Joanie Rogers | October 26 2013 |

I am currently going through this with my 12 yo Doodle (Dox/Poodle). She didn't start vomittiing right away but now she can't keep water down. Symptoms started about 18 hours ago, vomitting about 15 hours ago. She seems to be very thirsty. The emergency vet started her on meclazine. Any suggestions?

Submitted by Cleo | October 26 2013 |

Hi .. I'm not sure if you are still receiving comments on this. We just got back from the ER with our 12 year old dog tonight with this diagnosis, vestibular disease. We've had her since her rescue from an abandoned apartment at 3 months old. For the last 3 years she's been prone to ear infections but nothing this severe and the ER vet explained this was an inner ear thing. Her back legs bottomed out, she was shaking, vomiting and unable to stand. She's 60 pounds and a Chow mix so at times, a little hard to handle but I'm so glad she let me pick her up and get her in the car. It's something how adrenaline gives you that superpower strength when you need it! She's was given a shot of antibiotics and a shot for the nausea. She'll be on a 2 week course of Baytril, Cerenia for nausea and Meclizine for dizziness. She's sleeping now but favoring her right side, tilting her head. She drank a lot of water since coming home which I'm hoping is a good sign. It was suggested we wrap a towel underneath her as a hammock to help her get around which is actually what I needed to do to get her out of the car tonight.

She has an aggressive temperament and I had to muzzle her before going into the ER. It breaks my heart doing that but I know it's for everyone's best interest including hers. Thankfully though she let the ER vet and techs do what needed to be done and allowed the tech to carry her out to the car afterwards. It's hard taking her to the vet without sedating her and at her age, we're reluctant to do that and many a vet in the area is reluctant to take us on as clients. We've been through 4 I think. Sigh.

Any other advice as to what we should do aside from the meds and keeping her indoors and off steps would be greatly appreciated!

Submitted by Kristal F | October 28 2013 |

We have a 17 yr old Shiba Inu whose episode started at 9:30am yesterday morning. We were certain that this was the end until we read your article. We were dreading the trip to the vet as we were certain they would tell us to euthanize him due to his age. We are going to wait and see if his symptons get better as he will take water if you drip it into his mouth, but is unable to get up to eat, drink or go to the bathroom. We are keeping him calm and warm and making sure he knows we are with him. He is deaf, so we are stroking his side and neck. After doing some research, we realized that he is not in pain, he's not whining or yelping, which relieves us, but is there certain cases where they never recover?

Submitted by Laura | October 30 2013 |

Thank you for this great information, very informative! I am with a rescue that takes many older dogs. We have experienced this condition with several dogs over the years, the latest being an older cattle dog mix who just started showing symptoms last night which is how I found your post. She will be going to the vet this morning, but this information helped put my mind at ease, no matter how many times I see Vestibular Disease, it is always scary. I shared this post on our rescue's Facebook page, it is great information for all dog parents and I always hope it will help someone decide to give a dog the benefit of the doubt and some time before deciding to euthanize. Thank you!

Submitted by Ruby | November 12 2013 |

As a retired medical doctor who has fostered about 70 dogs in the last 25 years, about 1/3 of whom were seniors, I was surprised to not see a mention of vertical or rotary nystagmus as diagnostic signs. The first old dog of mine who developed Ideopathic Vestibular disease was a 15 year old 80 LB lab-golden mix named Sadie. Sadie suddenly fell over in the yard and looked like she was having seizures. I noticed her nystagmus but did not know at the time it was a diagnostic sign. I rushed Sadie to the vet and he diagnosed the vestibular disease. It took over a month to resolve. Anti-nausea meds and massage helped her maintain her composure and appetite long enough to recover.

Since Sadie developed it, I've had 4 other elderly dogs develop this. I've had 9 dogs live to be 15 or older. Most were fosters who never found homes. This is less of a problem now, but I started living with 4-8 dogs at a time in the late 1980's. Mandatory spay/neuter and rescue have made a huge positive benefit.

4 more old dogs living with me have developed this disease. About 1 out of 3 of the elderly dogs who have lived with me have developed this, usually only a mild case. The nystagmus can be hard to catch as it is sometimes quite transient. For two of my dogs, only I saw the nystgmus; it was never present when the VMD examined my pups.

One thing I have noticed in human medicine over the last 40 years is that doctors are becoming less proficient in physical examinations. There is so much more scientific information to learn and the time with each patient has been drastically reduced by through the monopoly practices of the for-profit insurance companies. (Insurance is the only industry specifically exempted from federal anti-trust laws. This occurred in 1946 with the McCarran Ferguson Act.)

I am wondering if the same thing is happening with veterinarians--do they have less time and are they becoming less proficient with physical exams?

Submitted by Scott | November 16 2013 |

Our 11 year Shar-pei has been experiencing some of the same issues. She has no balance, walks/leans to her left, and isnt really controlling her bathroom duties. We took her to the vet and he gave her a shot for nausea because she had vomitted some and wanted her to start eating. She did eat some but now two days later she is once again walking funny, running into stuff and acting very weird. We are going to take her back to the vet in a few hours, hopefully it is something like this and not a tumor but you never know.

Submitted by Colleen | November 16 2013 |

I have a 13 yr. old flat coated retriever, she was diagnosed 2 wks ago with vestibular disease, we were back a the vet's a couple of days ago & she is now on antibiotics, but they did a thorough ear cleaning & she has gotten much worse. She can barley walk & keeps looking at me with the saddest eyes & I can't seem to help her. We go back on Wednesday & the vet had said that this was the last resort with the antibiotics. This is breaking my heart, I don't think have any options left to help her.

Submitted by Jenna | November 23 2013 |

I have a cocker spaniel that I got in the year 2000 and have never really had any problems with her health until about two weeks ago when she got very sick throwing up badly and diarrhea.. She got better after two days but now tilts her head to right side and almost seems like she is wondering around... It breaks my heart to see her like this I got her when I was 10 and is the only dog I have had my whole life.. I don't really have the money to take her to the vet so here I am asking for your opinion.. If it is serious I will do or sell whatever I have to to take her to the vet and get the right treatment... please help :(

Submitted by Sunray | December 13 2013 |

My 16 years old pekingese had been diagnosed with peripheral vestibular disorder 4 days ago. At first we were devastated because we were sure that he had a stroke due to his old age. He was completely unable to move, his had tilted to his left extremly, his eyes kept moving up and down uncontrolablly, he vomited for several times. His vet kept him under IV, antibiotics, steroids and vitamins for 3 days and yesterday we were allowed to take him home. Appart from vestibular disorder he is perfectly healthy dog, all his organs are functioning perfectly, the vet did a full diagnostics and a blood work. He is still unable to walk or even stand and we have to feed him ang give him water with a syringe. He slleps most of the time, but when he is awake he gets very frustrated with his innability to move. It is extremly hard and stressfull to see your best friend in this condition but we hope for the best.
I want to thank everyone who posted their comments and shared their experience, just reading these has been really helpfull and comforting.

Submitted by amber | December 14 2013 |

 Hi. My dog was diagnosed 2 days ago with this. She's an 11 yr old corgi mix. The vet clinic sent her home on prednisone. She has about 7 days left with her meds. I saw major improvement the day I picked her up and was about the same yesterday. Late last night, I knew something wasn't right. Her eyes were all glossed over and she was staring off into space. She was having more trouble with her legs. After putting her in her bed about 10 mins later she had an episode. Just like the night i took her to the clinic.She laid there and went to sleep after she was able to relax, but she had 2 more episodes over night. 3am and 530am. She doesn't seem to want to lay down. I have to lay her down so she doesn't fall over sideways. Her head goes back and get stiff. One of her front legs gets drawn up towards her face and her back legs are really stiff. After about 5 mins or so she will start panting and she feels hot. Shell get right back up and try to walk around and immediately after an episode she does not walk well at all. Does anyone elses pet show these signs? Almost like a seizure? I was wondering if anyone else has tried using natural remedies and how they work. She needs something to help her relax. I was also wondering if anyone else has medication they give their pets to prevent such episodes? Or should I just give it time? Its so heartbreaking to watch her like this and I feel like there is absolutely nothing I can do for her.I'm not getting really good info from any other forum/sites.Thanks a Bunch!Reading everyones posts have given me a lot of hope :)

Submitted by jeanne | December 16 2013 |

Our dog was diagnosed with this disease on Saturday due to an episode that looked to us like a seizure. An antibiotic injection was given along with cortizone as well as a perscription for valium. After 72 hours there has been little progress. Mag is a 12 year old lab. She is still very alert and happy, but will not attempt to get up. She did raise the top half of her body to greet her dad and barked at the pup yesterday. Could a longer use of an antibiotic be of help?

Submitted by Kelli Kurtz | December 18 2013 |

My 5 yr old King Charles calvelier spaniel, Abbey, has been in good health. However approx 3 mos ago she had several, what I characterized as some type of seizure. She 1st looked like she had something wrong with her front paw and it proceeded to a clumsy collapse, medium shaking and then came out of it after a few minutes but then panted heavily. I couldn't find anything wrong with her after she recovered. Later that day or maybe the next, she was playing ball with us and she was having a great time. She went into the house for some water and then came back out looking for me with a scared look on her face and started with the paw and then started stumbling towards me. It was weird the way it starts with a paw and then other limbs become involved. I would try to comfort her and then she was ok. But she sat next to me the rest of the day. Then the next day, she was laying next to me while I was reading and she started to get up and the same type of process occurred. It is very scary. I try to remain calm and comfort her but I feel helpless.

I contacted the breeder and we reviewed genetic type problems common with the breed and decided none of them fit. We took her to the vet. The vet thought she looked fine but did a blood work up which all came back normal. The vet offered anti-seizure Meds but we decided to wait and see.

Then every thing seemed normal for a couple of months. My husband found some website which mentioned putting an ice pack on the upper vertebrae during a seizure to help minimize and shorten the duration.

A few days ago, she started with the same type symptoms. We tried the ice back with a towel and thought it helped. Last night she woke up while we were sleeping. I thought she might need to go potty. As I was sitting up, she was kind of stumbling on the bed and before I could reach her, she fell off the bed. I proceeded to take her out and sat her on the grass. She looked ok for a moment and then started stumbling and kind of sat/fell. I picked her up and brought her in the house and comforted her with the ice. The episode lasts for only a couple of minutes but then she pants heavily and wants to lick. She will lick me, furniture or comforter. Then she will go back to sleep. BUT, later last night I heard her nails taping the wood floor in the living room. I didn't hear her jump off the bed. I listened and noted it was not her normal gait. I jumped up and found her having another clumsy/drunken sailor episode. I again comforted her, but she didn't seem to want the ice on her back. We both slept in this morning.

Later today she had another episode.

It amazes me how she can seem so normal and the next minute she has this episode that only lasts a couple of minutes.

She doesn't appear to be in any pain during the episode, but she looks scared and wants me. She does her best to find me when she has one of these episodes.

I'm not sure what the problem is. All Meds have side affects so I have avoided them so far, but things have gotten bad the past few days. Again she is otherwise in good health, perfect weight, no people food with loving family. I'm sorry to ramble but haven't really found the info I need. This blog was the closest and i don't think this is it either.

I would greatly appreciate and input. Many thanks in advance!
Kelli :(

Submitted by Kelli Kurtz | December 18 2013 |

My 5 yr old King Charles calvelier spaniel, Abbey, has been in good health. However approx 3 mos ago she had several, what I characterized as some type of seizure. She 1st looked like she had something wrong with her front paw and it proceeded to a clumsy collapse, medium shaking and then came out of it after a few minutes but then panted heavily. I couldn't find anything wrong with her after she recovered. Later that day or maybe the next, she was playing ball with us and she was having a great time. She went into the house for some water and then came back out looking for me with a scared look on her face and started with the paw and then started stumbling towards me. It was weird the way it starts with a paw and then other limbs become involved. I would try to comfort her and then she was ok. But she sat next to me the rest of the day. Then the next day, she was laying next to me while I was reading and she started to get up and the same type of process occurred. It is very scary. I try to remain calm and comfort her but I feel helpless.

I contacted the breeder and we reviewed genetic type problems common with the breed and decided none of them fit. We took her to the vet. The vet thought she looked fine but did a blood work up which all came back normal. The vet offered anti-seizure Meds but we decided to wait and see.

Then every thing seemed normal for a couple of months. My husband found some website which mentioned putting an ice pack on the upper vertebrae during a seizure to help minimize and shorten the duration.

A few days ago, she started with the same type symptoms. We tried the ice back with a towel and thought it helped. Last night she woke up while we were sleeping. I thought she might need to go potty. As I was sitting up, she was kind of stumbling on the bed and before I could reach her, she fell off the bed. I proceeded to take her out and sat her on the grass. She looked ok for a moment and then started stumbling and kind of sat/fell. I picked her up and brought her in the house and comforted her with the ice. The episode lasts for only a couple of minutes but then she pants heavily and wants to lick. She will lick me, furniture or comforter. Then she will go back to sleep. BUT, later last night I heard her nails taping the wood floor in the living room. I didn't hear her jump off the bed. I listened and noted it was not her normal gait. I jumped up and found her having another clumsy/drunken sailor episode. I again comforted her, but she didn't seem to want the ice on her back. We both slept in this morning.

Later today she had another episode.

It amazes me how she can seem so normal and the next minute she has this episode that only lasts a couple of minutes.

She doesn't appear to be in any pain during the episode, but she looks scared and wants me. She does her best to find me when she has one of these episodes.

I'm not sure what the problem is. All Meds have side affects so I have avoided them so far, but things have gotten bad the past few days. Again she is otherwise in good health, perfect weight, no people food with loving family. I'm sorry to ramble but haven't really found the info I need. This blog was the closest and i don't think this is it either.

I would greatly appreciate and input. Many thanks in advance!
Kelli :(

Submitted by Caroline | December 19 2013 |

Thankyou so much for this article. Our boy Eddie suddenly got very sick with this illness.
We took him to our local vet, who pretty much took away any hope we had for his recovery. I was completely distraught until I read this article and realised all is not lost.
I am happy to say his condition pretty much was the same as everything you described in here and he made a complete and full recovery. He only head tilts ever so slightly if he is tired.
It helped knowing that he was not suffering, just extremely uncomfortable (I would rather know he wasn't suffering).
You truly helped! You restored my hope and educated us in what to expect.
There are not enough ways to say Thankyou.

Submitted by Eric Anderson | December 20 2013 |

Sounds a lot like Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo in humans. Basically "Rocks in your head". Restated: calcium deposits in the inner ear (vestibule) break loose and enter one of the semi-circular canals. It brushes against the cilia, causing the brain to think you're spinning in that direction. The rapid eye movement is an involuntary reflex to this perceived movement.

Treatment (in humans) involves determining which semi-circular canal has the rock. The direction of the eye movement tells which. The eye movement will be one of: Left to right, right to left, lower left to upper right, lower right to upper left, or down to up.

Treatment is: resting on a table with the head hanging back. Rotate left or right according to the canal established, and allowing the rock to exit the canal back into the vestibule, where it does not affect balance. This is temporary to permanent.

If you bend over too far, you could get the rocks back into the canals and have to re-treat.

Or, it could be a brain tumor.

Submitted by bryan | December 23 2013 |

we just had our dalmation collie dog age 9 go so severe she couldn't stand and was completely unware of us in the end we had to let her go... the cost of initial diagnosis blood work chem screens xrays... the wait 72 hours approach was to hard on us we were at 48 and while she had been able to start tracking us she couldnt eat much or drink much with lateral nystigmus it was sad day that we couldnt wait but 200 a night was to much

Submitted by Marissa | December 25 2013 |

My pug Sam is 10 yrs old and started showing symptoms of Idiopathic vestibular disease Dec. 23,2013. Both my dog sleep in my room and I woke up at 7 in the morning hearing my trashcan being shuffled around. I knew it was Sam because he is the only one that sleeps on the floor. When I saw him he was on his side, arms stretched out, entire body curved to the left, looking out into nowhere with his eyes twitching. He's a strange dog and sometimes I catch him barking at his own shadow for no reason and, so I didn't think much of it when I seen him like that. Later on he tried getting up but kept stumbling and fell back down and wouldn't eat or drink anything all day. The rest of the day he was sleeping and and didn't move until I had to take him outside to bath him because he had urinated himself. I was scared and told my mother when she got home from work and, she told my brother and my older sister called the emergency vet and we took him in. The vet, she examined him and said it could be vestibular disease, a tumor, or brain cancer. She also suggested putting him down and to me that wasn't an option when 10 years is still young to me. I felt that I couldn't put him down when the the problem could be medically treated. After discussing our options, we took him home with medication and the vet gave him a dose of anti-nausea medication. When we got home he wasn't moving and he couldn't even raise his head, we gave him his pill with water and he slept through the nght. Yesterday he was was doing better. He wasn't standing but he would pick up his tilted head, and his eyes stopped twitching and was more responsive to his surroundings. He also started eating and drinking, thankfully. We put him in the shower in case he had to urinate and bathed him after he did. Today he is doing better. He's still not standing or walking but he is responsive to everyone around. He's eating more and drinking more water and we're giving him his medication as recommended. What bothers me is he hasn't defecated and we're feeding him small portions because he hasn't defecated. How do I get him to do so? We're taking him to our regular vet tomorrow to get more help with him. I'm not ready to let go of him yet and I just want him to get better.

Submitted by Judy | December 29 2013 |

A couple of days before she turned 9, my Great Pyrenees mix was walking like a drunk out in the yard. I took her to the vet. They said she'd had a seizure. Within a few hours she was waking better, but exhausted. By three days later, she was fine. They said she could have thrown a blood clot or could have a brain or spinal cord tumor. Here we are almost a year later, and it happened again. Drunk walk, eyeballs jerking up and down a couple of millimeters...lasted for an hour. Within a few hours, she was fine...wanted to play! Does this sounds like old dog vestibular disease?

Submitted by Alma | December 30 2013 |

My 13.5 yr old kelpie/lab x was diagnosed yesterday with Vestibular Disease. I was so grateful it wasn't a stroke. it was a long night waiting for the vet service to open for emerg but now we begin the road to home support. I am happy to help her as she has given me more than I can ever do for her.

my question is: she is eating and drinking but has not voided in 24 hours. should I be concerned? we are supporting her with a sling made from a towell but wondering if we should just let her wobble around on the lawn. she falls over a lot.

Submitted by M.W | December 30 2013 |

This happened to my family dog on the 21st November, she is nearly 15 years old and a border collie. It was completely devastating at the time and similar to many people I thought this would be her time.

It started with a mini episode on the Thursday which she had completely recovered by the next day and the vet was amazed and she was not given any medication however on the way home she had, had a more severe one. This one left her with a severe head tilt, very rapid nystagmus, loss of balance to the point by saturday she was unable to walk and had to be carried to the toilet. At night she was less continent, she had to be hand fed, sometimes helping her to swallow by rubbing her throat as she had lost the ability to chew.

She was then prescribed vivotonin, by day 4 she was back on her feet, the eyes were visibly a lot slower, she was regaining her appetite slowly, her balance was still very poor and any sudden movement made her collapse on the floor, she also walked in a half circle as her head tilt remain quite severe, she couldn't shake and she did not bark. I massaged her neck regularly hoping that this would help in the long run.

As i do not live at home where she is, I came back 4 days later and she was a lot more alert, recognizing voices, wagging her tail and responding to commands such as "kiss", although still sad because she thought she could still do all the things she had done previous to the episode and desperately tried to run out with the other dogs to play ball, her balance was still poor and seemed to display some weakness in her back legs.

We weren't sure at this point to what extent she would regain all the things she use to do. I came back to visit two weeks later and was amazed at the progress she was doing daily short walks on a lead, her head tilt was much better and her balance was improving.

Fast forward to week 5 she is now almost back to her old self, her head tilt has completely gone, the vivotonin seems to have given her more energy, she recently went on a 2 and half mile walk no problem, she can now run for the ball again apart from the slight doggy dementia we think she has (which she had before), it is impossible to tell that she had this episode 5 weeks ago. The only thing is that she has lost her confidence around the other dogs in the house and will only go for a walk if she is on lead as we think she is worried they will knock her over.

I'm not saying all dogs will recover and I realise that dogs are now more susceptible to more episodes after having one however it is worth being patient if improvements are being made, however small they are. She's 15 now and I am just glad that she's had this extra time with us whether that will be for a few more months or another couple of years, I'm just glad we waited. I hope that anyone who is currently going through this that their dog too will recover. I found it helped to record our dog daily as it was easier to see the improvements. I have videos but I'm not sure how to post.

Submitted by Nancy Nardella | January 2 2014 |

Wow..I'm hoping this is what my 12 yr old golden has. Headed to the vet right now...he went from fair to worse in 3 days. His eye seems to have shifted..and when I try to pat him on the head he turns away...

Submitted by jim | January 5 2014 |

My 12 year old Lab suffered these symptoms on New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, he was absolutely fine, playing ball in the snow. He is old and a little arthritic, but still loves a good game of fetch. On NYD I woke up to take him out and he was somewhat off. By 1030 a.m. he was reeling and unable to get to his feet. He stumbled around and fell down while trying to urinate outside. Walked in circles and up close to the house, like he was trying to hug the wall.
I took him to the 24hour emergency vet and she diagnosed him as either having a brain tumor, a stroke or the Old Dog Vestibular. She offered an MRI but told me it was unlikely to be worth the investment. I took him home and made him comfortable.
Next day I took him to the regular vet, mentally prepared for a one-way trip. Thank God she talked me down and spent some time examining him. She explained that he is effectively sea-sick and prescribed Prednisone (in case it is a tumor or brain issue) and Cerenia, an anti-nausea drug. I took him home and got him to eat some and hoped for the best.

Day 3 we woke up and went out and he was able to come in and out of the house with me lifting his back end up with a sling. He stumbled around a bit but was able to urinate without falling over. I had to hand feed him (he seemed afraid or confused by his big metal bowl) from a little dish and he ate some cat food, some scrambled eggs and some liverwurst. His sense of smell seems to be off, as only really stinky food is attractive to him. He will eat Salami, Liverwurst, cat food, but not his regular dog food.
Day 4 he is much more steady, although he lurches a little and is starting to cock his head to one side. He has slipped a couple times on the hardwood floors but is pretty good on the carpet. And he has only slipped once in the ice/snow that is left outside. We were able to walk down the block and back.
Day 5 I will return to the vet and let her review his progress, but so far I consider his recovery to be miraculous.

Submitted by Renea | January 7 2014 |

My 15 yr old shepherd mix was diagnosed with this about a month ago. She received fluids and anti nausea shots twice as well as pills for home. We took her out using towels as slings. I had to crush her pills and put them in a plunger with water because she was refusing water and food. Her balance did improve after the first week and she would drink a little although still refused to eat. She lost 4 lbs. Finally she started to eat. I just kept offering different things. Her first response was to a milk bone oddly enough although these are her normal treats. She is not back to 100 percent after a month and just had a minor setback with an eye infection but I am happy that we got to bring her home. I also thought it would be a one way trip to the vet for her.

Submitted by Kolene | January 17 2014 |

Our 14 year old lab mix woke up one day last month unable to make it down the hall without falling into the walls. Every few steps he'd lose his balance and end up on his back or splayed out. I bawled all the way through making necessary calls to take him in but just thought I'd check his symptoms online real quick. I was so relieved to find this article and I did give it time as he didn't appear to be in any pain. Within a day or two he was much better but he did have a head tilt and has been less steady every since. His appetite has been fine and he's had no accidents... but he died in his sleep last night. The last few nights he wandered a lot at night and he was panting before he passed but there were few signs (he never would complain.)
I'm just wondering... did he eventually die from his earlier episode?

Submitted by Maggie Springett | January 22 2014 |

Hi, Our 13 year old Border collie Scampi is having her second bout of this disease in 4 months. She recovered well and was enjoying her walks and food. Having read this site it has given me some hope after it was suggested this morning that a tumour may be present. She seems to have great difficulty eating and has really gone off her food, water by syringe. I would appreciate any comments. We lost our Border Collie Chip 8 weeks ago to a spleen tumour at 14 so this is once again proving to be an emotional journey. She is sleeping peacefully on the sofa at the moment. Thanks once again for all of the amazing heart felt comments.

Submitted by Andrea | January 22 2014 |

I am hoping someone can help me figure out if my 7-year old Weimaraner's diagnosis of idiopathic vestibular disease seems accurate or if there is possibly something else going on. Until Jan. 1st he was the picture of health. He started pacing in circles, drooling, and falling over suddenly. I rushed him to the emergency hospital within an hour and by the time we got there he could not stand at all. He was admitted to the hospital for a week and had an MRI to confirm there was nothing wrong with his brain. The neurologist on staff advised me he had VD and he would just 'need time' but would recover. She mentioned he might have some permanent damage but overall would be fine. She prescribed prednisone, meclizine, and eventually baytril (he had a urinary tract infection while at the hospital). I am now on day 22 and he still cannot stand or walk and is starting to bark, as if in frustration. He does try to stand when motivated with food but it doesn't last more than a few seconds. His appetite has always been fine and he will drink water too (I need to help him with both still). He pees lying down on the grass outside and I have to hold him by his harness to get him to poop (he won't even try to stand during this). I am extremely frustrated by the lack of improvement Smokey is experiencing and it is quite exhausting for my husband and I both. Has anyone heard of the symptoms still existing this long after the initial diagnosis? At what point do I have to accept the possibility that he might not walk again? I want to do the best thing for Smokey and don't want to euthanize but I feel like there might be a quality of life issue forming with him. Help please! Thank you.

Submitted by Sam | January 23 2014 |

My 14 year old German shepherd dog who lives with my nan was put to sleep yesterday. We were told about 3 months ago to have her put to sleep as she had nerve degeneration in her back legs and couldn't walk but she pulled through and got her mobility back. She did have arthritis in her front legs and was on loxicom for that. She had hip dysplasia but it was not effecting her. Last Thursday she was sick twice, then again on Friday twice along with constipation, eyebrow twitching, leaning to the left whilst walking and disorientation. After talking to the vet on the phone they told us to keep her off her medication as it could of been causing stomach lining damage or an ulcer. I was next informed Tuesday by my nan my dog had not moved from the same spot since Friday sadly. I wish I had been told sooner. She was constantly tilting her head to the left, her eyes kept rolling sideways, she was refusing food, wetting herself, nose was dripping, outer corner of the left eye was weeping due to her tilting head. I could tell she was very uncomfortable and unhappy. To move her three of us scooped her up in a blanket to get her in the car to get her to the vets. She was very distressed and crying and barking. She wet herself in the car and was very scared on the way. Although I had read into canine vestibular disease I was expecting the worst news from the vet as I sensed something more serious. When we arrived the staff took her straight to the private room on a stretcher as she was very disturbed. I explained what had been going on to a vet whilst my dog was looked over in the theatre room. A vet burst in and confirmed the worst that she should be put to sleep for quality of life as she is suffering. She said it's either a stroke or a brain tumour. I knew I had to do it as she was unhappy I owed it to her. I did ask about canine vestibular disease but the vet expressed her condition was basically the same but too bad and ongoing for this long was cruel and more than just the disease most likely a stroke. Although it is too late I am a little worried if tests were done maybe there could have been treatment but they are experienced professional and I could see she wasn't herself. She wasn't eating or moving and the look in her face was sadness. I do feel guilt but at the same time I would have felt more guilt to prolong it and have her suffer more. Il never know if she could have pulled through but I know looking in my dogs eyes she'd had enough.

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