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What is vestibular disease in dogs?

What is vestibular disease in dogs?

At Zeeland Veterinary Service, our experienced veterinarians provide treatment for pets and guidance for pet owners noticing signs of vestibular disease in their dog. Today, our Zeeland vets tell us more about this common condition, including symptoms and how it is treated.

What is vestibular disease?

Canine idiopathic vestibular disease, often referred to as 'old dog vestibular syndrome', is a sudden disturbance of balance. This disorder stems from issues affecting the dog's vestibular system in the brain, inner ear, and middle ear.

The vestibular system is responsible for controlling balance, which is why dogs with this disease will experience dizziness and have problems walking in a straight line.

Symptoms of vestibular disease are often most severe during the first 24 - 48 hours, usually improving within 72 hours. Luckily, most dogs recover within 2 - 3 weeks.

What are the causes of vestibular disease?

Some potential causes of vestibular disease include ear infection, a perforated eardrum, hypothyroidism, injury or trauma, tumors, or sometimes a side effect of antibiotics. When no specific cause is uncovered, the condition is called idiopathic vestibular disease.

Some dog breeds, such as German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, are known to be more predisposed to developing vestibular disease. While this condition is commonly seen in older dogs, it is not exclusive to them; younger dogs can also be affected by vestibular disease.

What are the symptoms of vestibular disease in dogs?

While the following list is not comprehensive, it includes some of the more commonly seen symptoms in dogs with vestibular disease: 

  • Pronounced Head Tilt
  • Staggering or Stumbling
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Lack of coordination
  • Continuous circling in one direction
  • Unusually wide stance while standing
  • Unwillingness to eat or 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 – these symptoms might be an indication of a more serious issue. Based on your dog's medical history and overall health, your vet may suggest bringing your dog in for an examination or waiting to see if the symptoms begin to improve within a few days.

Is there a cure for vestibular disease?

Despite the usually-mild discomfort or motion sickness that your doing may experience, the good news is that it isn't painful or dangerous. The condition is likely to resolve itself without treatment within a few weeks.

During this recovery time, it is important to monitor your dog's symptoms carefully. If, after a few days, you notice that your dog's condition begins to worsen notify your vet. Your vet will conduct a physical examination to determine if there are other causes for your dog's symptoms.

If your dog suffers from nausea and vomiting because of vestibular disease, your vet may prescribe an anti-nausea medication. If your dog is having difficulties drinking water, your vet may provide IV fluids to hydrate your dog.

The usual treatment for canine idiopathic vestibular disease, however, is waiting and ensuring your dog is comfortable while they recover. 

How can I help my dog recover from vestibular disease?

You can help your dog stay comfortable while recuperating by providing a relaxing place to rest and easy access to water and food. Since vestibular disease affects your pet's balance, it is helpful to keep the floor clear of obstacles and block off stairs to keep your dog safe.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Concerned that your dog is exhibiting symptoms of vestibular disease? Contact us during clinic hours to book an urgent care appointment, or to speak to a vet for advice.

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