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Vestibular Disease in Dogs - Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Vestibular Disease in Dogs - Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Our Matthews vets understand that for concerned pet-parents witnessing the symptoms of Vestibular Disease or 'Old Dog Syndrome' can be very upsetting. In today's blog our CVS vets share some of the symptoms of vestibular disease in dogs, and how it is treated.

What is vestibular disease?

'Old dog syndrome' or canine idiopathic vestibular disease, 'vestibular disease' is a non-progressive balance disorder stemming from issues affecting the dog's vestibular system within the brain, including the inner ear, and middle ear. Although this condition is commonly seen in older dogs, younger dogs can also suffer from vestibular disease.

Your dog's vestibular system is responsible for controlling balance, which is why dogs with vestibular disease will have difficulties walking normally and experience dizziness. Symptoms of vestibular disease are typically most severe during the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours, with many dogs beginning to improve within seventy-two hours.

Symptoms of vestibular disease may look distressing but try to keep in mind that this condition is not fatal, and most dogs completely recover within two to three weeks. 

Common symptoms of vestibular disease in dogs include:

  •  Head Tilt 
  • Staggering 
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Continuous circling in a single direction
  • Standing with legs spread wide
  • Loss of appetite or unwillingness to drink
  • Loss of balance / falling over
  • Rapid eye movement while awake
  • Choosing to sleep on hard surfaces

If your dog shows any of the signs listed above call your vet for advice on whether you should bring your dog into the office for an examination. Based upon your dog's medical history and overall health, your vet may suggest waiting to see if the symptoms quickly improve without treatment.

That said, communication with your vet over these symptoms is essential. The symptoms listed above could indicate vestibular disease but they could also be signs that your dog is suffering from a more serious condition.

What are the causes of vestibular disease?

In many cases, the cause of vestibular disease is unknown and diagnosed as idiopathic vestibular disease. In other cases, the condition may be triggered by an ear infection, perforated eardrum, hypothyroidism, trauma, tumors or possibly as a side effect of antibiotics.

Dog breeds known to be more prone to developing vestibular disease, including Doberman pinschers and German shepherds. 

How is vestibular disease treated?

While vestibular disease may cause your dog to feel dizzy or nauseous, it isn't painful or dangerous and will likely clear up on its own within a couple of weeks without treatment. Monitor your dog carefully, if over the course of a few days your dog's condition begins to worsen then your vet may consider other causes for your dog's symptoms.

If your dog suffers from nausea due to vestibular disease, your vet may prescribe an anti-nausea medication, or IV fluids if your dog is having difficulties drinking from their water bowl. However, when all is said and done the main treatment for vestibular disease is waiting while your dog gradually recovers.

Can I help my dog to recover from vestibular disease?

To help your dog stay comfortable while they recover from vestibular disease provide her with a comfy place to rest, and easy access to water and food. Since vestibular disease is a balance issue, it is helpful to keep the floor clear of obstacles and block off stairs to keep your pooch safe.

If your dog is showing signs of vestibular disease contact your primary care veterinarian. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, contact your emergency animal hospital in Matthews NC. Any time you cannot reach your primary care veterinarian, our team at Carolina Veterinary Specialists are here to help with vet emergency services. 

Caring for Pets in Matthews

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews accepts new clients to our specialty services by referral only. Our emergency service accepts all clients.

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