Old Dog Vestibular Disease
Wasn't quite sure where to post this, but I'm hoping it gets some attention here, rather then the "other pets" section which seems a bit unused.
Anyways, I wanted to post this because this "disease/syndrome" isn't widely known, and can sometimes be misdiagnosed by vets and lead to an unnecessary euthanasia, and a lot of panicking/stress/heartbreak for an owner. I speak from firsthand experience with my dog Blondie, who is roughly 13 years old. She's an 80 pound yellow Labrador, and my whole world.
Here's a link to an article about this, just so people can spread the word.
"Old Dog" Vestibular Disease | petMD
Blondie showed symptoms of this roughly 36 hours ago, and it was the most horrifying thing in the world. It was out of the blue, she woke up from a nap and could barely stand, she wobbled and kept falling, her head lolled to the side, and her eyes were twitching rapidly. She had been completely fine that morning, had walked normally, eaten breakfast, behaved as per usual.
Of course I rushed her over to the vet within ten minutes, and she had to be carried into the office on a stretcher. I honestly thought she wouldn't be coming back out again.
We were given three possible reasons. A deep inner ear infection, a brain tumor, or old dog vestibular disease. We had her blood tested (which came back as normal), and were instructed to bring her home and just wait and see. If she showed signs of improvement, it would be considered old dog vestibular, if not then further treatment/tests would have been taken.
I'll repeat this again-it is absolutely agonizing to watch your dog unable to stand and with their head hanging to the side. It's horrible, and it looks incredibly bad. I've read it described as "a very drunk dog on a sailboat", which is pretty accurate.
However, she is already starting to improve. She's eating, drinking, and able to walk short distances (with help, of course. One person on each side.)
I just want to encourage awareness of this, because of all the horror stories I've read of dogs being misdiagnosed and being put to sleep. While it will take time, Blondie should recover within the next few weeks.
Good article! One of my dogs recently had a bout of this, even though he's not particularly old (50lbs, 6 years old, and very much an active guy). Severe head tilt, had a hard time standing or walking due to dizzyness, and the left side of his face was paralyzed to where he couldn't blink that eye. It looked horrible - even my mom (who's a vet) was worried. Bloodwork ruled out some issues, and a trip to a specialist clinic for a spinal tap and MRI ruled out a brain tumor, stroke, or infection. Conclusion was that it was an idiopathic vestibular thing - we treated symptoms with eye drops for his left eye (how miserable would it be to not be able to blink?) and a steroid perscription. A couple months later and he's 99% better; just a bit of the head tilt remains, and you can only really tell when he gets really excited.
Best of luck for Blondie's recovery!
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