How to Treat Vestibular Disease in Old Dogs

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Vestibular disease in old dogs is typically treated with an anti-inflammatory to decrease swelling in the infected area, as well as a good antibiotic. Learn about the physical symptoms that vestibular disease can cause with help from a veterinarian in this free video on dog health and vestibular disease.

Part of the Video Series: Dog Health
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Video Transcript

Hi I'm Dr. Greg McDonald. I'm a veterinarian in southern California. I own McDonald Animal Hospital in Santa Barbara. I wanted to talk a little bit about a common disease of older dogs. It's called old age vestibular disease. And oftentimes people think that when this has happened to their dog that it's a stroke. What happens is an animal suddenly gets sick. They hold their head to the side and if owners are watching real closely they'll see that their eyes are slashing back and forth like this. They call it a horizontal nystagmus. Both eyes are just moving back and forth rapidly like that even though the dogs head is still. It's called a vertical or a horizontal nystagmus. And then the dog will tilt his head to the side. Some of these dogs get so severely affected that they can't stand up or they may shake and fall down. They lose control of their balance. And again, they sometimes are nauseated because this is in the middle ear and it makes the dogs nauseated and so they start to throw up. I've seen it so severe that the animals can't control their balance and they start rolling in their kennels and we've had to tie them down or sedate them. But the good news with this disease is that animals almost always get better and usually it's pretty rapid. I've had some of the most severe cases with proper treatment suddenly get normal the next day. I've had some of them that slowly get better over a weeks time period. I've had a few of the, all of them have gotten better by the way, but I've had a few of them that have retained head tilt. Everything was normal except the head was held off to the side for the rest of the dogs life. But owners are really upset by this because it almost always happens in older dogs. And if your dog is aged and already showing some signs of old age and you see this happen you think it might be time to put them down. But in my hands this is, I've always been able to get the dogs better. The way we treat these is to first make the accurate diagnosis with the history and the signs that we just talked about. But then also it's good to do some blood work to be sure there isn't some other underlying disease that is causing this. We also like to get them started on an anti-inflammatory. I usually use a short acting steroid to decrease swelling in the area that's been affected. And we also like to get them on an antibiotic. In the event that there is an infection in the middle ear it can mimic this same disease and it's so important to get a really good antibiotic on board. All dogs in my hands have always gotten better and so even though it's your older dog you might be able to get him back on his feet again.

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