One morning my mom called me frantic, telling my father had just rushed our beloved, 14 year old Golden Retriever, Annie, to the veterinarian. She was certain she wasn’t going to be coming back alive.
She said they woke up and went to let Annie outside to go potty, when they noticed her weaving back and forth, her head tilted, and having a hard time standing. My dad tried to help her up and out the door, thinking it was just a little bout of old dog waking up… but upon further inspection, he saw her eyes were jerking back & forth and she started drooling, barely able to stand. Thankfully, my parents live just a few houses down from their veterinarian, who was in and able to help Annie quickly.
The next phone call I received from my mom was one of relief, explaining to me Annie was doing better, getting IV fluids, on some medication and the veterinarian saying she had something called, “Canine Vestibular Syndrome”, not a stroke after all, and she should be just fine! What a RELIEF!
I started looking up Canine Vestibular Syndrome (also called Old Dog Vestibular Disease), to find out what it was all about. Turns out it is much more common in older dogs than many people think. Many people find their dog doing things like this, and immediately think the dog is having a stroke and sometimes don’t do anything for them! In fact, Annie had not one, but two occurrences of this in her later years, but came out of them fine. She did develop a couple strange “ticks” – one was that she would lift her right paw up if she was sitting about every 5 minutes. The other was a bit of a tilt of her head. But other than that she was perfectly healthy the rest of her years.
Here are some symptoms of Canine Vestibular Syndrome:
• Loss of balance
• Head tilted and circling
• Rapid eye motion
• Sometime nausea (may see drolling) and vomiting
The symptoms occur when the nerves connecting the inner ear and the cerebellum are inflamed, causing a balance issue in dogs. There is usually no indication that this is about to happen, and most dogs come down with it just out of the blue. It is more common in older dogs. Most dogs recover fine, though will need to be hand fed and helped along for the week or two it may take for them to recover. Annie recovered rapidly and didn’t have much trouble eating after a couple days.
So, if you see this happen to your pet, or hear of a friend’s pet – now you know and don’t have to be petrified your dog is dying. Head tilt, though, should be considered serious and you should have your dog examined as soon as possible. Being informed about common ailments in pets is one of the best ways to be a responsible pet owner. And, as always, consult your veterinarian immediately if your pet seems be suffering from ANY discomfort. Better safe than sorry…
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