Vestibular Disease in Dogs: Causes, symptoms and Treatment

Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Welcome to this comprehensive guide to Vestibular Disease in Dogs. As a dog owner, it is crucial to be aware of various health conditions that can affect your canine companion. Vestibular Disease is one such condition that can be alarming and distressing if you’re unfamiliar with it. In this article, we will explore what Vestibular Disease is, its symptoms, potential causes, and the available treatment options. Our aim is to provide you with reliable information and valuable insights to help you navigate this condition and ensure the well-being of your beloved furry friend.

What Is Vestibular Disease in Dogs?

Vestibular Disease in Dogs, also known as Canine Vestibular Syndrome or Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome, is a neurological disorder that affects the vestibular system. This system plays a vital role in maintaining a dog’s balance and spatial orientation. When it malfunctions, it can lead to a range of symptoms that may cause significant distress to both the dog and its owner.

Vestibular System: The whole vestibular system is contained within the middle ear, which is placed immediately past the eardrum. The inner ear is a smaller region within the middle ear that is made up of several interconnected components.

Vestibular Disease: Vestibular illness is defined as any abnormal function of the middle or inner ear (vestibular system) that produces symptoms such as rapid loss of balance and coordination. Because the inner ear is a component of the middle ear, any condition that affects the middle ear or particularly targets the inner ear might result in vestibular disease.

Vestibular disease in dogs is also known as geriatric or “old dog” vestibular disease or canine idiopathic vestibular disease.

Symptoms of Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Recognizing Vestibular Disease symptoms is critical for quick intervention and correct management. The following are some of the most prevalent symptoms of this condition:

  • Head Tilting: Dogs with Vestibular Disease may tilt their heads to one side or upwards.
  • Loss of Balance: You might notice your dog having difficulty standing or walking. They may stumble, fall, or have a drunken gait.
  • Rapid Eye Movement: Dogs may exhibit rapid and involuntary eye movements, known as nystagmus.
  • Vomiting and Nausea: Vestibular Disease can cause dogs to experience nausea and vomiting.
  • Circling: Affected dogs may repeatedly circle in one direction.
  • Difficulty Eating and Drinking: Due to their imbalance, dogs may struggle with eating and drinking.
  • Lethargy: Dogs may become lethargic and show a lack of interest in their usual activities.
  • Incoordination: There may be a general lack of coordination and difficulty controlling movements.

Is Vestibular Disease Similar to Vertigo?

Vestibular illness in dogs, like vertigo (dizziness) in people, is caused by an inner ear malfunction. Vestibular illness in dogs has symptoms comparable to vertigo in people.

Why Is It Called ‘Old Dog’ Vestibular Disease?

Idiopathic vestibular illness or syndrome occurs when the origin of vestibular sickness is unclear. This kind of vestibular sickness is especially frequent in older dogs, hence the name “geriatric” or “old dog” vestibular disease.

Causes of Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Various causes of vestibular disease in dogs include:

  • Ear infection that spreads beyond the eardrum into the middle and inner ear. Middle or inner ear infections are caused by a prolonged conventional ear infection or when an ear infection is left untreated.
  • Ruptured eardrum or trauma caused, for example, by using a cotton-tipped applicator during your dog’s ear cleaning.
  • Tumors or polyps growing around the middle ear.
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Some drugs, such as aminoglycoside antibiotics, metronidazole, or topical chlorhexidine, may induce vestibular dysfunction in dogs in exceedingly uncommon occurrences.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Your veterinarian will want to know your dog’s medical history, including current medicines, the onset and progression of symptoms, and any existing diseases or disorders, in order to diagnose vestibular disease.

A physical evaluation at the hospital will identify whether your dog has a vestibular illness. If vestibular illness is diagnosed, a neurological exam identifies whether the problem is central (tumor or polyp) or peripheral (ear infection).

Based on the findings of the neurological exam, your vet will determine the most appropriate test. Tests may include:

  • Ear cytology: A sample of ear canal debris is obtained to determine whether yeast, bacteria, or mites (or a mix of these) are causing an ear infection. Not all ear infections spread into the inner ear past the eardrum. Your veterinarian can evaluate if an ear infection is the likely cause of the vestibular condition based on the symptoms, physical exam, and test findings.
  • Complete blood count: Confirms or rejects the presence of other systemic illnesses or blood-related problems such as anemia, which might produce stumbling similar to vestibular syndrome.
  • Internal organ function or biochemistry test: Although it cannot diagnose cancer or the tumor site, it can indicate whether more cancer or organ dysfunction testing is required.
  • Urinalysis: Results, in conjunction with other tests, identify if an underlying condition may be the cause of the vestibular disease.
  • Advanced imaging: X-rays (radiographs) or CT (computed tomography) scans confirm the suspicion of polyps or tumors.

Treatment of Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Treatment for Vestibular Disease largely depends on the underlying cause. If the condition is idiopathic, supportive care and time may be the best approach. However, if there is an identifiable cause, targeted treatments may be recommended.

  1. Medication: In cases where there is inflammation or infection, antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed.
  2. Anti-Nausea Medication: To alleviate vomiting and discomfort.
  3. Motion Sickness medication Helps with symptoms like nausea and dizziness.
  4. Vestibular Rehabilitation: Physical therapy to improve balance and coordination
  5. Dietary Changes: Adjustments to the diet may be necessary if the dog’s appetite is affected.
  6. Supplemental Support: Nutritional supplements that support neurological health

Recovery and Management of Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Overall, the prognosis for vestibular disease in dogs is good if the underlying cause can be resolved.

Most dogs with vestibular illness begin to mend within one week and frequently return to normality within three weeks. Some people, however, may acquire a persistent head tilt or continue to suffer bouts of ataxia. It is critical to offer a peaceful and quiet atmosphere devoid of possible hazards such as pools, staircases, or anything else that may cause damage while recuperating at home.

Vestibular illness might recur, but it is unusual. Even when other symptoms have subsided, a head tilt or moderate ataxia may persist. Neither symptom, however, is life-threatening, and dogs can have a normal life.

When your dog’s vestibular condition is caused by an ear infection, resolving the ear infection typically results in the vestibular disease being resolved. When the origin of vestibular illness is unknown, symptoms often disappear within three weeks.

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