Symptoms of Vestibular Disease in Dogs
Why Is My Dog Acting Dizzy and Can't Walk Straight?
As a dog owner, have you ever wondered how your dog is able to move about, run, jump and play without falling to the ground? Ever wondered how your dog can run around in circles without getting dizzy? Perhaps not, because we tend to take these things for granted.
However, all of this is accomplished thanks to the dog's vestibular system, a complex and effective mechanism that originates in the dog's inner ear allowing the dog (and even us humans) to have good orientation skills. In particular the vestibular system allows dogs to well balance themselves and coordinate their eye movements with their head.
All these great features that allows dogs and humans to walk and lead everyday normal lives go unnoticed generally until problems start to take place. When this happens, often dog owners are therefore quite startled and often really cannot get a grasp of what is going on.
An Uncoordinated, "Drunk" Gait May Suggest Vestibular Disease
The most common reactions to vestibular disorder in dogs are:
''I think my dog just had a stroke.''
''Something is really wrong with my dog.''
''I think my dog is having some sort of seizure.''
Indeed, it can be quite scary.
Symptoms of Vestibular Disease
- Head tilt
- Eyes darting side to side (nystagmus)
- Falling to one side
- Staggering Gait
- Loss of Appetite
- Pain Chewing or Yawning
Causes of Vestibular Disease in Dogs
Owners of dogs affected by vestibular disease of course are very alarmed when their dog starts exhibiting these scary symptoms. More often than not, they will rush their dog to the emergency room thinking their dog just had a stroke and imagining him paralyze for the rest of his life.
Fortunately, often the causes of vestibular disease are not so grim most of the time. In most cases, vestibular disease is due to some problem located in the inner ear (peripheral vestibular disease). However, it is best to have the dog checked out by a veterinarian to rule out problems located in the brain (central vestibular disease).
Other Possible Reasons Your Dog Is Dizzy
Because the inner ear is responsible for a variety of important functions such as balance and coordination, when a dog develops an ear infection he or she may start exhibiting symptoms of vestibular diseases. This is because in some severe ear infections, the infection may spread from the external ear to the middle ear and then into the inner ear, negatively affecting all these important balancing functions.
Canine Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome
Unfortunately, in some cases the cause remains unknown (idiopathic). This often takes place when the dog reaches its senior years, indeed often it is called ''geriatric vestibular syndrome''.In this case, for unknown reason the nerves connecting the inner ear to the cerebellum become inflamed often resolving on their own after a few days or a few weeks.
In some cases, low thyroid levels may cause vestibular disease issues.
Sometimes medications placed in the dog's ears may cause sudden acute vestibular disorders. Known culprits may be the following products: gentamycin, streptomycin, neomycin, erythromycin, polymyxin and ear products containing alcohol. Metronidazole has also been know to be a culprit.
Tumors in the inner ear or in the brain may cause vestibular disease symptoms.
This term depicts brain infection and may cause symptoms of vestibular disease. Causes may be canine distemper, toxoplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Erlichiosis, blastomycosis, coccidiomycosis .
In order for the treatment to be effective it must take care of the underlying cause.Thyroid medicine may be prescribed for hypothyroidism, ear infections must be cleared and the administration of toxic ear drops must be stopped.
In most cases, vestibular disease resolves within two months. Often after 4-5 days the nystagmus episodes should subside. However, in some cases the head tilt will remain. Dogs are often prescribed medications that reduce dizziness such as Diphenidramine (Benadryl) or Meclizine (Antivert).
- Affected dogs should be helped to eat, because of disabled motor skills they may be unable to eat from the food bowl. Hand feeding therefore is helpful.
- Dogs with vestibular disease should be kept away from stairs and safe from bumping into furniture.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
What sort of toxins could be found in a yard that could affect motor functions in dogs?
There are several toxins in the yard that can cause neurological disorders. Examples include poisonous plants, toxic mushrooms, some types of rat poison, blue-green algae (found in fresh and salt water in warm regions), cocoa bean mulch, slug and snail baits and chemicals such as herbicides, fungicides, pesticides etc.Helpful 14
Could my dog be poisoned if he ate a stick from a yucca plant? He's a 115 lb Golden Retriever.
Yes, yucca is categorized as toxic. The more that is ingested, the more likely the symptoms can worsen from vomiting and diarrhea, to possible liver toxicity.Helpful 13
My dog had a bleed in her brain and it is now day 7. She still can't balance or walk. Will she ever walk again?
Has your vet actually confirmed that your dog had a stroke? Usually, a stroke can only be confirmed through an MRI which can be quite costly. Strokes are not common in dogs as in people. If truly a stroke, it is difficult to predict whether your dog will regain function of her limbs. Only time and the right medications can tell.Helpful 5
Would vestibular disease cause dogs to run almost non-stop?
If your dog is running around in circles, it may be a sign of a vestibular problem, but there may be other problems at play. A neurological/brain issue may be possible. Dogs can have strokes, brain tumors, or even just canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Liver failure and kidney failure may also cause strange behaviors at the result of toxic waste being released in the bloodstream. A vet visit is in order to determine the underlying cause.Helpful 2
My 2 yr old American bull boxer mix was outside going potty and I noticed after going she was walking by a bush and her whole body slowed down dramatic as if she was walk slow motion frame by frame. Is this behavior normal for my dog?
Is she a bull terrier mix? I wonder if you may have witnessed an episode of trancing? You can read about it here: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Why-do-Bull-Terriers-a... Of course, if you notice anything else concerning, please see your vet.Helpful 1