In April, I was working for a few weeks in New Hampshire, and a few days after I returned, my beloved Belgian Malinois presented with some scary symptoms. He kept falling, as if one side of his body were weaker, and he was vomiting. My first reaction was that he had suffered a stroke, and I went into a panic. I normally consider myself calm, cool, and logical when adverse situations occur, but my dog is my baby.
And I could not imagine what rehab one might do for a dog who had had a stroke.
We rushed him to a 24-hour animal hospital in Gilbert, AZ. He was diagnosed with "Old Dog" vestibular disease, also called idiopathic vestibular disease.
It is somewhat common in older dogs (my dog is now 12 years old), and most owners react exactly the way I did.
According to Dr. Jennifer Coates of website petMD:
- The vestibular system is composed of portions of the brain and ear and is responsible for maintaining our sense of balance. When something goes wrong with the vestibular system, it feels like the world is spinning.
My dog has had one other episode, which appears to have been longer lasting, but generally speaking, he has recovered well. But it was probably one of the more frightening things I've had to experience in a long time, and it took me a long time to calm down enough to communicate.
According to Dr. Coates, any or all of the following can present if your dog is affected:
- A head tilt
- They are unsteady on their feet and may fall over
- They circle in one direction or even roll across the floor
- Their eyes flick back and forth, up and down, or rotate in a circle (this is called nystagmus)
- An unwillingness to eat due to nausea
My dog has had several of these between the two instances, but knowing more definitely helped me deal with things better the second time around. I think the hardest part is being unable to explain to him what is happening, and that it will all be better soon. But he does get better, and in the end, that's all that matters, since there is nothing else to do. It is just a transient condition that can sometimes happen.
Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.