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Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Vestibular disease affects mostly older pet dogs who are above 10 years of age. The symptoms of this disease are loss of balance, head tilting, and tripping. With effective treatments, your dog can recover from the vestibular syndrome without complications.
Vestibular disease in dogs is related to the abnormalities in the body movement and balancing mechanism. Based on the underlying cause, it is categorized into two types, viz. central and peripheral vestibular disease.
The former case develops due to disorders in the brain, whereas the latter is associated with abnormalities in the nerves that connect the inner ear and the cerebellum of the brain. In most cases, canine vestibular disease is peripheral in origin and recovers slowly.

Causes and Symptoms

Though this disease can affect middle-aged dogs, a majority of the pet dogs who face it are the older ones (12-13 years old). Hence, it is also referred to as old dog vestibular disease. As of date, there is no specific reason that is known to trigger it. At times, its signs develop all of a sudden.
Since it occurs without any apparent medical reason, it is known as idiopathic vestibular disease in dogs. Recurrence is quite likely with this type of syndrome.
The symptoms include a sudden loss of body coordination and balance. Other noticeable symptoms are the head tilting to one side, repeated falling, stumbling, and eyes rolling from one side to another. In some pets, the signs are so severe that they cannot stand properly without taking support.
These signs and symptoms may last for a few days to about 3 weeks. At times, mild residual symptoms, like the head tilt, tend to persist for several weeks.


For diagnosis of the disease, the veterinarian may conduct certain tests to rule out other dog health problems that mimic loss of body coordination. Some of the diagnostic methods include neurological tests, an ear canal examination, blood test, and urine analysis. Treatment for canine vestibular disease is advocated depending upon the test results, underlying cause, and the manifested symptoms.
In order to combat dizziness and loss of appetite, the vet may prescribe medicines for motion sickness. If your pet dog shows signs of ear canal infections, antibiotics and other infection control medications are effective for treatment.
Appropriate dosage of thyroid supplements is administered if hypothyroidism in dogs is the root cause. This way, effective therapeutic treatment of the disease depends entirely upon the medical cause.
For dog cancer related vestibular disease, surgical removal of the cancerous cells is imperative for recovery. Apart from the treatment options, as a pet owner, you need to spend quality time with your pet to soothe the uncomfortable symptoms of the disease. Make sure that your pet is comfortable and takes a lot of rest and sleep. Feed your dog its favorite food. If necessary, calm it down by supporting and lifting it lovingly.
Majority of the dogs recover from vestibular disease without severe complications. Nevertheless, if it does not improve with suitable therapeutic intervention, then further medical help is necessary to check for conditions like inner ear infections, cancer of the cerebellum, head trauma, and brain damage. With effective treatment options and proper dog care, your pet can recover successfully and lead a normal, cheerful life.