Statistics show that 89.7% of households in the U.S. have dogs.

If you’re one of those households, then it’s only natural that you’ll be concerned if you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior.

Has your dog been staggering or stumbling while walking lately?

If you’re concerned that your dog may be ill, then you have every right to be. Stumbling and staggering especially in older dogs is usually a sign that your dog is suffering from a vestibular disease.

The good news is that vets treat this kind of illness in dogs all the time and are quite capable of helping your dog recover in most cases.

Here is what you need to know about canine vestibular syndrome and what can be done about it.

1. What Exactly Is Canine Vestibular Disease?

This disease is also referred to as old dog vestibular syndrome or canine idiopathic vestibular syndrome. No matter what it’s called, it refers to a sudden inability to maintain balance.

The vestibular system sends messages to the central nervous system in your dog’s brain to ensure balance. The peripheral components of the vestibular system are in your dog’s middle and inner ear. When something goes wrong with the vestibular system, the result is stumbling and a loss of balance.

2. What Causes Vestibular Disease in Dogs?

Vestibular disease in dogs is classified into two types. Peripheral Vestibular disease and Central Vestibular disease.

Here is a short list of some of the main causes of peripheral vestibular disease:

  • Chronic ear infections
  • Damage to the eardrums from cleaning
  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Head injury

Here are the major causes of central vestibular disease:

  • Cancer
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Head trauma
  • Infection
  • Disturbance in blood flow

Dogs may sometimes be born with the condition. However, more often than not when your puppy has the disease, it’s a result of an infection of the inner or middle ear.

Older dogs, on the other hand, are more likely to get the disease due to a brain tumor, bleeding in the brain, or cancer.

3. Symptoms of Canine Vestibular Syndrome

The most common symptoms of vestibular disease are staggering and imbalance. There are several other signs that you should be aware of because they will often present themselves:

  • Tilting of the head
  • Falling in the direction that the head was tilted
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hesitation when standing or walking

These symptoms may occur by themselves or may be combined.

4. What Is the Treatment for Vestibular Disease?

First, your vet will identify the underlying cause of the disease.

If your dog is severely incapacitated and won’t eat or drink then supportive therapy is often given. Supportive therapy involves the use of intravenous fluids. This is usually done through hospitalization of your pet.

Sedatives may also be given to help your dog relax where there is stumbling or an inability to walk or stand. Antibiotics may be administered if an ear infection is the cause of the disease.

Nausea and motion sickness medications are also administered in cases where these symptoms are present.

Final Thoughts

If your dog is diagnosed with canine vestibular syndrome, the best thing you can do is to make them as comfortable as you can. Recovery is possible, especially with the peripheral form of the condition.

Even if your dog has central vestibular disease, the best thing you can do is follow your vet’s advice and try to remain calm as your pet is treated. Remaining positive and calm is essential since your pet will pick up on your anxiousness or fears and this can make the situation worse.

If you suspect your dog has vestibular disease or would like more information about it, please contact us.