It is terrifying to suddenly see your dog having difficulty walking and showing signs such as a head tilt and jerking eye movements.

Older dogs can develop quick onset Vestibular Disease without any warning. The vestibular system is the part of the brain that allows us to know where our body is in relation to itself and our surroundings. It controls balance and orientation of the head and body. When this system is having problems the symptoms are very dramatic and worrying.

What Causes Vestibular Disease?

There are different types of vestibular disease depending where the problem is located, whether its in the brain which is Central or in the nerves around the brain and ear which is Peripheral.
Various causes are : deep ear infections, medications that damage the ear, brain tumors, infections, trauma and idiopathic.

What is the Most Common Cause of Vestibular Syndrome?

Canine Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome is the most common cause of these symptoms. This means that the specific cause is unknown. This would be the case when there is no history of accidents or trauma or deep ear infections.

What Does Vestibular Syndrome look like?

Vestibular disease is characterized by:

  • sudden onset loss of balance
  • falling over and disorientated
  • circling when walking
  • doesn’t want top walk or stand
  • head tilt
  • eyes moving quickly from side to side or in a circular motion

What is the treatment for Vestibular Disease?

Treatment is based on the cause. For ear infections a long course of antibiotics in indicated. Diagnostics such as bloodwork/ X Rays and MRI/CT scans can check for brain tumors and trauma.

For Idiopathic Vestibular Disease there is no treatment. The symptoms will resolve over days to weeks. Medication can be given for motion sickness and anxiety in the meantime and supportive care is important.

Keep the dog in a safe comfortable small area, provide water and food and assist with hand feeding if necessary. Keep them clean and free from sitting in urine and feces. Quiet calm environments are better for the anxious vestibular patient, no loud music or noises or bright lighting.

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to call us for advice or take your dog to your regular veterinarian for an examination.