Health & Diet

Vestibular Syndrome in Border Collies And Different Dogs

It’s the job of the vestibular system to provide balance to the body. The system does it by relaying information about body positions that enable for quick mobility. This is in response to external or self-induced forces.

What Is The Vestibular System?

The vestibular system comprises of two structures with a puzzle-like shape in the inner ear. These structures are the semicircular and vestibule canals. These are responding to gravitational forces. Hence, they’re referred to as gravity receptors.

The vestibular system plays a critical role whether it is in humans or animals. It supports the being in performing essential tasks. The system activates several reflexes of the body that are in charge to locomotion. Furthermore, it’s function extends to helping the body make necessary adjustments depending on the situation.

What Is Vestibular Disease in Dogs?

Border Collie upright

Vestibular syndrome disrupts the vestibular system. This system is responsible for balancing. There are several signs of vestibular syndrome in dogs and cats. Some of which are abnormal flickering of the eyes, general wobbliness, loss of balance, rolling over and falling.

An imbalance of equilibrium is referred to as vestibular disease. It occurs in older dogs and is also known as old dog vestibular syndrome and idiopathic vestibular syndrome.

Vestibular disease in canines are characterized by vertigo, disorientation, head tilt, and jerky eye movements known as nystagmus. Many, but not all dogs with vestibular disease will not stand or walk depending on the gravity of their condition. In some instances, their environment could be the cause why they’re struggling to walk or stand. Most dogs either fall or lean on where their head is tilted.

Is Vestibular Syndrome in Dogs Similar to Vertigo in Humans?

Vertigo and dizziness are prevalent symptoms of vestibular balance disorder. Because of the nature of this condition, it’s comparable to vertigo in humans. Like with humans, vertigo and vestibular syndrome in dogs are likely to strike to its unsuspecting patient in the later stage of life.

Our ears are often taken for granted. The truth is, this houses the cartilage and complex bone systems. It has sensors that are sending vital information straight to the brain. The information passed is what helping you or your dog to stay balanced.

What Is The Cause of Vestibular Disease in Dogs?

The reason for your dog’s vestibular disease may be any of a variety of factors:

  • Trauma
  • Tumors
  • Ear infection
  • Perforated eardrums
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Antibiotic side effects

These are the common causes why your pet might suffer from old dog syndrome. Your next best move is to have your dog checked by a vet. They will perform examination on your dog. This is to identify the best course of action to take in treating your dog’s condition.

On the other hand, if none of the causes are traced back to your dog’s vestibular disease, then it will be ruled out as idiopathic vestibular disease.

What Are Signs & Symptoms of Vestibular Syndrome In Dogs?

drooling as a sign of vestibular syndrome

In cases of vestibular disease in old dogs, symptoms appear out of nowhere. These symptoms do not worsen or progress over time. Your dog will display the most severe signs of the disorder in the first 2 days. Oftentimes though, their condition generally improves during 14 to 21 days. Notable signs and symptoms of vestibular syndrome in dogs are:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Stumbling or staggering (ataxia)
  • Rapid eye movement (nystagmus)
  • Lack of coordination
  • Walking in circles
  • Head tilting

You must know as well that the balance center is fairly close to the brain that’s controlling vomiting. Therefore, animals affected with such condition may likely feel sick or nauseous.

The balance and hearing sensors in the ear are close to each other. It’s also near in the ears, lips and eyelids. Because of this, dogs that are suffering from vestibular syndrome might be susceptible as well to drooping of facial muscles and loss of hearing.

Likewise, any diseases that impair the balance system in the brain is capable of damaging other areas of it too. When this worsens, it can escalate to weakness, seizures, loss of vision or even a dog that struggles to drink and eat.

How To Diagnose Vestibular Syndrome In Dogs?

vet diagnosing disorder

A vestibular condition may be the initial diagnosis after a sudden onset of symptoms. A neurological examination, however, is key in determining whether the condition is peripheral or central. Sooner or later, this is going to help in identifying the best approach for treatment.

Of course, the vet will do everything to properly diagnose your dog’s condition. Expect them to ask what you observed on your dog’s symptoms and medical history. It’s normal for them to request a urine test too.

There are instances though in which the diagnostic tests will require them to take head x-ray. The purpose of the head x-ray is to have an unobstructed view of the inner and middle ears. An MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging and CT scan or Computed Tomography will be done to check if there’s tumor in your dog that could be causing their imbalance.

How To Treat Vestibular Disease in Dogs?

In the event that there’s an underlying cause of vestibular syndrome in dogs, the treatment will be concentrated to resolve it. Because of this, the treatment options vary depending on the problem identified.

  • Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome – here, the treatment will require supportive care. This is until all the obvious signs wear off. Majority of the dogs are able to recover from their worst symptoms in just two days. Veterinarians likely prescribe anti-vertigo medications similar to meclizine. This is given together with anti-nausea drugs. On the other hand, if you’re expecting a full recovery, that would take months. Unfortunately, there are some dogs in which head tilt becomes permanent.
  • Trauma – for dogs that experienced trauma-related vestibular syndrome, their condition can improve via supportive care. There are other dogs that are candidate for surgery in an effort to repair any brain damage. Supportive care is required in the first few days or weeks until the medication takes effect.
  • Secondary Condition – there are times in which old dog syndrome is only secondary to hypothyroidism. In this case, your vet will initiate thyroid supplementation. Similar with trauma-related conditions, supportive care is needed until the medication kicks in.

For more serious cases, supportive therapy is introduced. These include but not limited to IV fluids as well as hospitalization. The treatment’s duration will last until the dog can finally walk and eat on its own. In more serious cases where the dog is ataxic or seriously disoriented, they may be sedated to relax.

Is There a Cure For Vestibular Disease in Dogs

The advancement in medicine has led to finding a cure for vestibular disease in dogs. This is great news for dog owners who have dogs that are affected by such condition. Luckily, vestibular syndrome in dogs is not fatal. Although, it’ll be better to have your dog checked by a vet ASAP. This condition can cause motion sickness or mild discomfort to your dog. The relay to your pet’s situation, the thing you’re feeling when having motion sickness is the same to your pet.

The only good news about this is, it’s neither dangerous nor painful. Also, it’s usually goes on its own without undergoing any treatments after a few weeks. However, it’s not enough reason to disregard the disorder. As their owner, it’s your job to monitor them and see if the symptoms get worse.

If in case that things go south with your dog’s condition, immediately call your vet. This way, they’ll perform a thorough assessment. It’s going to determine if there are other things that are causing the symptom/s.

What Is The Prognosis of a Dog With Vestibular Syndrome?

A dog with idiopathic vestibular disease has an excellent prognosis. Most are able to make full recovery within days to months. Treatment of other causes of vestibular dysfunction determines the prognosis. For example, hypothyroidism and ear infections can be dealt with medications. However, dogs that happen to have tumors, severe trauma or stroke often have poor prognosis.

don't carry dog with vestibular disease

According to experts, it is never a good practice to carry dogs that have such condition. This may make owners think that they’re only helping. But they’re doing the opposite. Carrying the dog only prolongs the condition.

Truth is, the more your dog can function on its own, the faster its inner ear can fix itself. The best you can do is to provide sufficient lighting. This helps your dog to see clearer on its surroundings and recover quickly.

Can Vestibular Disease Be Fatal?

Indeed, symptoms for vestibular syndrome in dogs may cause a lot of distress. But always remember that this condition isn’t deadly. As what we’ve mentioned, majority of the affected dogs are able to make full recovery in just a span of three weeks.

Can Dog Fully Recover From Vestibular Syndrome?

Vestibular disease hits by surprise. Depending on the triggering factors, it typically resolves itself. Most of the time, dogs affected by it begin to see improvement within 24 to 48 hours. They can get a full recovery in just a span of 4 weeks. As for more serious cases, recovery could take up to 6 weeks. Most alarming signs of this condition becomes evident within 1 to 2 days.

Veterinarians often suspect a more serious cause if the dog shows no sign of improvement. In such a case, a request for CT scan or MRI is called for. These grave causes are usually under an umbrella of “central vestibular disease”.

On the other hand, a concern that vets worry the most is brain lesions. This can be anything from blood clots or stroke, inflammation to tumor. Any of these are enough to damage the neurons that are involved in proper functioning of the vestibular system.

How Long Do Dogs With Vestibular Disease Live?

The old dog syndrome is not a fatal condition as we have learned earlier. We also learned that dogs that were affected by this condition can have a full recovery in just a month. With this being said, it is safe to say that dogs with vestibular disease can still live pretty long.

If owners have given them proper care, they’d have a chance to have quality and happy life. With the question of how long do dogs with vestibular disease live, the answer will lie on your dog’s expected lifespan.

How To Help My Dog During Recovery?

Full recovery from vestibular syndrome in dogs can be as fast as 4 weeks. While this is true, the entire process is a combination of things for it to become effective which include:

  • Rest
  • Treatment
  • Medication

Of course, for the recovery to be super effective, you have to follow your vet’s instructions. And as part of the treatment, your vet may also suggest physical therapy.

physical therapy for sick dogs

For the therapy exercises, there’s a great chance that your dog is still under medication when you start. Some dog owners feel kind of anxious about it but it is totally fine. So long as there’s visible improvement and your pet’s condition is getting better, it should be okay. Else, your vet will stop the therapy and think of another treatment. To get started with the exercises, check out the tips below:

Think of ways you can help with your dog’s day-to-day activities

  • Limit the mobility to an enclosed, safe area
  • Offer support for rest and sleep
  • Provide a well-lit area and cushion to hard-surface area
  • Provide support for mobility
  • Steer clear of water therapy
  • Incorporate core exercise (this enhances abdominal strength)
  • Try standing balance exercise
  • Consider the tail-pull exercise

Border Collie and Vestibular Syndrome

One thing that you should know about old dog syndrome is it can affect any dog. Any dog can be affected by this disorder. So, whether you have a highly energetic dog that loves exercise similar to a Border Collie, they could still be a victim.

Fortunately for your Border Collie, they are generally a healthy dog. Feed them with quality dog food and regular exercise and they should live happy and long. If ever you are scared that your Collie might have vestibular disease, a trip to a vet will always clear anything that you are worried about.


caring for Border Collie pup to avoid sickness

The vestibular syndrome in dogs is not a fatal disease. Though, this is not enough reason for owners to take it for granted. Indeed, dogs that are suffering from it can feel health improvement in as fast as 2 days. While a full recovery is expected within 4 to 6 weeks. Still for best practices, consider meeting your vet.

These professionals will perform health assessments and check your dog’s medical history to find out underlying conflicts It doesn’t matter what kind of breed you have; be it a Labrador, a Dalmatian, German Shepherd or even a Border Collie, none of these breeds are safe from this condition.

With a professional’s assistance, they can guide you the best way to take in ensuring that your dog leads a healthy and fulfilling life.

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