What is Vestibular Disease in Dogs and How is it Treated?

The vestibular system plays the most important part in maintaining balance for most mammals. As a result, vestibular disease in dogs is defined as a sudden disturbance of the dog’s balance that is non-progressive in nature, meaning that it doesn’t get worse and worse over time. Since older dogs tend to have higher chances of getting vestibular disease, the medical condition is sometimes called old dog disease.

Generally speaking, the symptoms of vestibular disease in dogs can look pretty concerning, not least because they can look like the symptoms of something even more serious such as a stroke to dog owners. For example, an affected dog might suffer serious disorientation, which makes them either unable or unwilling to stand up and walk about. Likewise, an affected dog might suffer nausea, which can result in vomiting. Other potential symptoms range from irregular movements of the eyes to head tilts that can see the dog’s entire body leaning in the same direction.

There are numerous potential explanations for vestibular disease in dogs, which is why it is so important to get an affected dog looked at by a veterinarian sooner rather than later. Some examples include ear infections, ear trauma, medications that are bad for the ear, tumors situated in relevant places, and even other medical conditions. Sometimes, there is no clear cause for the vestibular disease that can be found even once the veterinarian has looked over the dog’s medical history, checked their clinical signs, and run the relevant tests. When that happens, the vestibular disease is called idiopathic vestibular disease, which just means that the veterinarian isn’t sure what is causing it. Something that can happen when humans suffer a hit to their sense of balance as well.

How Is Vestibular Disease in Dogs Treated?

First and foremost, when dog owners see the symptoms of vestibular disease, they should bring their dog to their veterinarian as soon as possible. This is because as stated earlier, the symptoms of vestibular disease can look a lot like the symptoms for something even more serious, meaning that every minute counts. A veterinarian can tell whether a dog is suffering from vestibular disease or something else by performing the right checks and running the right tests, which can have very important consequences for the eventual outcome.

Once a dog has been confirmed to have vestibular disease, the dog might be either hospitalized or sent home depending on the exact problems that they are suffering from. For example, if a dog is vomiting so much that it is actually at serious risk of becoming dehydrated, they might end up getting hospitalized so that they can get IV fluids. Likewise, it can be something of a challenge for dog owners to help bigger dogs stand up so that they can go to the bathroom when they are incapable of doing so. In which case, hospitalization might be the better solution there as well. With that said, most dogs suffering from vestibular disease should be able to go home, though chances are good that veterinarians will prescribe them something to help with their sense of nausea as well as their sense of dizziness if those are applicable.

At home, the dog owner needs to monitor the condition of their dog with care and consideration. For example, they can’t let their dogs climb the stairs because a fall because of a loss of balance can lead to broken bones as well as other serious injuries. Likewise, dog owners will need to pay close attention to their dog’s nutritional needs as well as their hydration needs because a sense of nausea means that their dog might not be that interested in eating.

Fortunately, most dogs are known to recover from vestibular disease within a few days, meaning that they will be able to resume their normal patterns within no more than a relatively short period of time. However, there are cases when a dog will have lingering symptoms because of its vestibular disease. As a result, it makes sense for dog owners to bring their dogs to their veterinarians one more time just to make sure that their beloved companions have really recovered because it is better to be safe than sorry in such cases.


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