Sunday, May 15, 2011

Old dog vestibular syndrome

Just when I think I’ve seen just about every medical condition a dog could possibly suffer from, something new happens, and I am humbled by my lack of knowledge again.            

I have taken care of hundreds of dogs over the years, from foster dogs to boarding dogs and my own dogs too. Ask me about dermatomyositis in shelties, collie nose, cold water tail or exercise-induced collapse in Labradors. Ask me to explain arrythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy in Boxers. Skin problems, thyroid conditions, heartworm, snakebite, or pancreatitis– been there, done that. But I am not a vet, and I’ll never see it all.

My heart sank when I saw my sheltie Lily walking with her head tilted to one side. She was having trouble making it across the room in a straight line, and then she stumbled and fell. She tried to climb up the stairs to the couch (put there for my dachshund, Desi), but lost her balance and fell off. I knew something was terribly wrong.

Lily was frightened and panting, dizzy and vomiting. Her eyes darted from left to right. I thought she’d had a stroke. Off we went to the vet, who examined her carefully and gave me the diagnosis: old dog vestibular syndrome.

Her symptoms fit perfectly. Lily is 13 ½; it came on suddenly out of nowhere. She had been perfectly healthy. The vomiting is due to dizziness. Dr Singh said she feels seasick, and recommended an over-the-counter medicine that people take for the same symptoms. I was to give her one pill a day. He said it could take two or three days to recover, or up to five weeks.

That was good news. She would recover! She may or may not have a relapse in the future. Her symptoms calmed down immediately with the meds, and I discontinued the pills within a couple of days. I hand-fed her canned food because her balance was so far off she couldn’t get her head down to the bowl to eat.

Now, three weeks later, she is much better, though the head tilt has not gone away. She can climb up the steps to the couch with no problem. I still feed her canned food, but she can eat it without my help. All in all, she is getting along fine.  

This syndrome can strike any breed. Read more about it here at:

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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.


~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Because we foster senior dogs, I've seen this a few times, but the first time, I was like you--I really had thought my dog had a stroke...He had one mild relapse, and it wasn't nearly as severe. I'm glad your pup is doing well, and YOU are too!! :-)

Terry Albert said...

I'm discovering since I posted this that it is a pretty common thing. Lots of people have dogs who have been affected. i am relieved it is nothing more serious!