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Is your older dog suddenly disoriented, unbalanced, and confused?
A good friend of mine gave me a call today to wish me happy birthday. While catching up he told me about his thirteen year old German Shepherd.
Apparently while he was on vacation in Hawaii his German Shepherd became quite ill.
Fortunately, their dog was diagnosed and treated for a disease know as Canine Vestibular Disease also known as Old Dog Vestibular Symptom.
What is Canine Vestibular Disease?
Some commons symptoms of this disease are leaning toward one side, shaking of the head, and walking around in circles.
Vestibular means a problem with the connections between inner/middle ear and brain causing ataxia.
Dogs with ataxia stand with their limbs braced, they walk with difficulty and have a “drunk” type of motion because they have lost their sense of balance.
When the vestibular nerve, which travels from the inner ear to the brain, malfunctions. It disrupts the animal’s sense of balance and orientation.
UPDATE AND RECOMMENDATION: Unfortunately, in his final days Linus was having trouble walking and the vet diagnosed him with vestibular disease. We never had the chance to use them, but two things we thought might help him were these Pawz Dog Booties to help him better grip our concrete floors and the Gingerlead so we could support him when he was trying to walk around.
Read more about Linus in our updates below.
Can My Dog Be Misdiagnosed?
It has been suggested that there is a correlation between old dog vestibular syndrome and hypothyroidism so blood work should be done to rule out this problem.
The ears should be thoroughly examined because the same symptoms can result from a severe ear mite infection. Also certain types of antibiotics such as streptomycin and gentomicin can cause vestibular syndrome.
Please note that a serious inner/middle ear infection—which can occur without the customary smelly ear—has the same severe and frightening symptoms.
Because of the sudden nature of this disease it can often be misdiagnosed as a stroke.
What Should I do?
As in the case of my friend’s dog after a couple weeks the animal learned to compensate for old dog vestibular syndrome and began moving around the house like a normal dog.
Try and keep your dogs feet firmly on the ground and eyes facing the horizon to help the dog gain his/her orientation. This disease is not fatal and recovery just requires patience and tender loving care.
Story about our Lab Border Collie Mix
Back to my story…fortunately for my friend his dog received the proper diagnosis. After rushing back from Hawaii they noticed their dog’s head was cocked to the side, but after two weeks he was back to normal.
Now that I think back to our old family dog, a lab border collie mix, I think that he may have suffered a similar affliction.
We assumed he had a stroke (also the assumption of our vet) and he was disoriented, unbalanced, and confused.
He walked around in circles, but we think this was due to part of his body being partially paralyzed. Hmmm….but then again he did recover in about two weeks…
I’d love to hear what you have to say. Have you ever encountered this situation with your dog? Is your dog currently experiencing being disoriented, unbalanced, and confused?
If so, your dog may have Canine Vestibular Disease. Perhaps your dog is sick with other symptoms…if your dog is gagging and coughing then take a look at my article My Dog’s Got Kennel Cough…Now What?
Fortunately my two dogs are four and two years old so hopefully I won’t have to deal with Canine Vestibular Disease any time soon (if at all). UPDATE: I can’t believe this was originally written when Linus was only 4 years old.
My third dog is 1 years old and is in guide dog training (actually he’s technically not my dog he belongs to the guide dog school).
UPDATE #1: I’m amazed how long I’ve been writing to this blog. My two dogs are now seniors at 11 and 13 years old! I’ve been fortunate that neither has yet to experience canine vestibular disease, but they are slowing down and not walking as gracefully as they once did. As I mentioned earlier the Gingerlead is something that would be very helpful if your dog is experiencing vestibular disease.
UPDATE #2: I’m sad to say that at 13 1/2 years old Linus was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Less than a week later he was diagnosed with canine vestibular disease. And a few short days after that he passed away. I’ll have some more detailed updates when the pain of his loss has lessened.
UPDATE #3: It’s tough reading back through these old blog posts. I hope our experiences help others. I was reading through this post today and started feeling ill thinking about my Linus. I still miss him dearly…
Parts of this information were summarized from http://www.peoriahs.org/vestibular.html
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and would advise that anytime you notice symptoms in your dogs health you should take him to your local veterinarian for treatment.