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Posted on 01-11-2013

Vestibular disease (loss of balance) is commonly and incorrectly referred to as a "STROKE." Strokes are caused by vascular disease, while common in people, it's rare in dogs.

The vestibular system, in a nutshell, is the neurological equipment responsible for telling the body of it's orientation. It determines if you are upside down, standing straight or falling, which informs the eyes and extremities how they should move accordingly. It also allows pets to walk and run on uneven grounds without falling, and allows the eyes to follow moving objects without becoming dizzy.

Vestibular disease is most common in older dogs.

Signs of Vestibular disease:

  • Ataxia - lack of coordination, staggering, stumbling
  • Motion sickness - nausea/ vomitingiStock_000000335713XSmall_1.jpg
  • Nystagmus - back and forth or rotational eye movements
  • Circling or falling
  • Head tilt
  • Lack/ Loss of appetite

The most common causes of Vestibular disease are:

  • Idiopathic - Unknown
  • Middle ear infection
  • Brain lesions
  • Trauma

TREATMENT

  • Most cases are treated as "outpatients" with supportive care and medications to control their symptoms, such as anti vomit and anti nausea drugs.
  • Activity should be restricted until the degree of disorientation and ataxia have stopped.
  • Usually diet changes are not needed
  • Severe cases may need to be hospitalized and require more extensive treatment such as intravenous fluids, medications and keeping affected dogs recumbant, warm and dry. In some severe cases they may require physical therapy.

With idiopathic vestibular disease improvement of clinical signs typically occurs within 72 hours. Most patients return to normal within 2-3 weeks. Although the initial signs can be alarming, the prognosis for recovery is excellent.

If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact us at Eagle Animal Hosptial (610) 458-8789 for further diagnosis and treatment. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.

Written by Vicki Guy, technician

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