Identifying And Treating Vestibular Syndrome

Came across something called Vestibular Syndrome recently when I was looking for treatments for dogs that had a stroke. I was researching it because someone had booked a dog onto a transport that had recently had a stroke, but the vet had cleared it to travel (which it did with no problems at all), and I thought that I should know more about the symptoms of a stroke, and how to react.

First thing that I learned was that it is very uncommon for a dog to have a stroke, and what most people think is a stroke is in fact a ‘vestibular event’, which basically looks like a stroke, but lasts about 10-15 minutes, generally occurs in older, larger dogs, and once it has passed the dog is generally OK to walk – albeit it with some assistance.

The reason that it is often confused with a stroke is because the symptoms come on suddenly, and can be drastic: dogs can stagger and stumble, roll, have head tilt, eyes that dart or roll, have facial paralysis, head tremor, and body weakness.

It is unclear what causes it although in rare cases it can be brought on by ear infections, tumors, cancer in the ear or brain tumors.

Basically the Vestibular System keeps the dogs head and body oriented with gravity. It includes sensors in the inner ear that provide a sense of balance and equilibrium.

So in a vestibular event your dogs brain is unable to recognize the information from the inner ear and the result is severe disorientation.

While your dog may suffer a few minor ongoing effects the episode seems to last 15-20 mins and afterwards the dog will be listless, off it’s food, and will struggle to walk.

Treatment is limited but one of the main things is to keep the dog still to avoid it hurting itself when it attempts to move. Ideally cage the dog in a quiet environment and hand feed it and make sure it is taking in water as it may struggle to drink on its own. Obviously the dog is going to struggle with its usual toilet habits so take that into account, and some sites recommend keeping a light on as that helps re-orientate the dog. The dog will lose it’s appetite so favourite foods are going to be required, and some people believe that 1-2mg (per kg) of Framamine every 12 hours helps.

Of course goes without saying that I am not a vet. This is general information that I have picked up online so you should contact your vet as soon as anything happens to your pet.

12 thoughts on “Identifying And Treating Vestibular Syndrome

  1. Sands

    Further useful information from Beryl Inch. This can also happen to cats:
    “Our old cat Dilly had exactly the symptoms you mention below for vestibular syndrome. We woke up one morning to see her eyes rolling in her head. She couldn’t stand and seemed totally out of it! So scary! She had been my best friend for about 15 years! We rushed her to the vet. They didn’t know what was wrong, but kept her in. When we got her home she was walking sideways and couldn’t get her head in the right place to eat, so I spoon fed her for a while. She made a full recovery after a few weeks and lived another 2 years with the help of the Spanish sunshine!”

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