Is your dog suddenly having problems walking straight, are they stumbling or falling down. Can dogs get vertigo, because this sounds much like vertigo. Yes dogs can get vertigo.
This is a new discovery for me, but one I am now well aware of, since my dog just got diagnosed with vertigo. It can be very scary when your dog can’t walk straight and it might have you thinking your dog is coming towards the end of their life.
Understanding Vertigo In Dogs
Vertigo in dogs is actually known as a vestibular disease. It most often affects older dogs, which is why it is often called “old dog vestibular disease.” Larger dogs are most often affected, but any breed or mixed breed is susceptible to getting vestibular disease or vertigo.
Vestibular refers to the inner ear organs. It is a neurological sign that occurs from a malfunction somewhere in the vestibular system. This system is responsible for balance and coordination. When there is a vestibular lesion, that is when your dog will experience the symptoms.
Many times it is unexplainable why it happens, but some times it may follow a recent ear infection.
There are 2 types of vestibular disease. The first one is central vestibular disease. It refers to a problem occurring inside the skull of your dog. It is possibly a tumor or a stroke. This one is pretty serious, and most likely will lead to having to euthanizing your dog.
The second type is known as peripheral vestibular disease. It is caused by something happening somewhere else in your dog’s body. This type is more common and has a better outcome in most cases. Luckily it is believed this is the type that my dog has.
Dog Vertigo Symptoms
There are several symptoms that you will start noticing if you dog has vestibular disease. These symptoms would be for both central vestibular disease and peripheral vestibular disease. Here is what to watch for.
- Slight tilt of the head. Although it can look cute when our dog tilts their head at us, this is a sign that your dog could have vertigo or vestibular disease.
- Rapid involuntary eye movements. You might notice that your dog’s eyes are flicking back and forth or they may appear to be squinting.
- Lack of muscle control. They will have a loss of coordination. You might notice that they are traveling more sideways, usually to the same side that they tilt their head. Your dog can’t walk straight.
- Falling and leaning to one side. Your dog will easily fall, and probably fall often. You might have to physical pick your dog’s butt up to get them back to a standing position.
- Reluctance to walking and standing. The more difficulties your dog is having walking, the more likely they are to giving up and will just want to remain in one spot.
- Nausea and vomiting. It is not uncommon for your dog to vomit when they have vestibular disease. They feel dizzy and can’t move in a straight line, so nausea is common. This doesn’t always happen though. In my dog’s case, there hasn’t been any vomiting, but there is a loss in appetite.
Central vestibular disease will experience a couple of additional symptoms.
- Tight circling. If your dog tries to keep moving in a tight circle, your dog could be experiencing a more severe case.
- Disoriented. Your dog might be slightly disoriented with the peripheral vestibular disease, but this will be more severe with central vestibular disease.
- Depressed Mental State.
- Poor interaction with people and other animals.
This is not my dog I have a Golden Retriever, but I wanted you to see what it looks like. It is too hard for me to film my dog with his symptoms, since it makes me sad.
Causes For Dog Vertigo
In most cases, the reason for dogs getting vertigo is unknown. It may never be figured out why your dog has gotten vestibular disease. It is still important if your dog is experiencing vertigo, that you take your dog to your veterinarian.
There may be underlying causes for why your dog got vestibular disease, and you would need to treat those causes before you will be able to relieve your dog of their vertigo.
Here are some causes of dog vertigo.
- A recent ear infection or a current ear infection. According to Ernest Ward, DVM, many times it is caused by middle or inner ear infections.
- Hypothyroidism. This is when the gland doesn’t make enough of a hormone that controls their metabolism. Your dog’s immune system attacks his thyroid. This is controllable with medications.
- Trauma or injury.
Treatment Of Vestibular Disease
When you first notice your dog doing the head tilt or you notice that your dog seems unstable on their legs, I would make an appointment with your veterinarian. If your dog is experiencing vestibular disease that is idiopathic vestibular syndrome, or no known reason for the symptoms, there probably isn’t much that your veterinarian will do for your dog.
If you bring your dog in right at the onset of the problem, your veterinarian might suggest some anti-nausea medications to help against vomiting. They might also recommend over the counter Meclizine (which is the same product humans take for vertigo) or a doggy dose of Dramamine to help with motion sickness.
If through the exam your veterinarian finds another issue for causing the vestibular disease, they will need to treat that first in order to help with the vestibular disease. That is why I strongly suggest that you get medical attention to make sure there isn’t a cause for the vertigo.
The worst of vestibular disease will start to improve in 48 to 72 hours, and in most cases it will be completely gone within 2 weeks. If your dog hasn’t greatly improved or it has gotten worst within 2 weeks, contact your veterinarian to see how they want to handle the situation.
Some dogs will be left with mild but permanent neurological impairment from this disease. That could consist of a slight head tilt, unsteady when they shake their heads, or slightly wobbly legs.
It can be very scary when you notice your dog can’t walk straight or your dog is walking like a drunk. The first thing that came to my mind was that my dog had a stroke, and I was preparing to say goodbye.
So, can dogs get vertigo, the answer is yes, and it is frightening to watch when it first happens. Contact your veterinarian at the first signs that you see. If what your dog has is idiopathic vestibular syndrome meaning no known cause for the disease, you will still struggle for about 2 weeks with helping your dog, but you will be relieved to know that their is an end in sight for your dog going back to normal.
Watch for the signs of the tilted head, wobbly legs, falling, walking sideways. These are easy to see signs, and signs that you need to get your dog checked out.
I wish you luck if your dog gets vestibular disease. As for me, I have about 1 more week to work through and then hopefully my dog will be back on track.
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