Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Vestibular disease occurs when there is a problem with the nerve connections of the inner ear to the brain, causing ataxia. Ataxia is the inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements; a disturbance or loss of balance, producing unsteady movements and staggering gait.

It has very similar symptoms to that of strokes in dogs, which include: head tilting, loss of balance, disorientation, etc.

Vestibular disease in dogs, head tilt
The condition is sometimes referred to as the old dog syndrome because it mostly affects older dogs, however, it can suddenly show up in middle age dogs as well. The most common form of the disease is Peripheral Vestibular Syndrome.

This article will provide you with a better understanding of this disorder, including:

CausesSymptoms & • Treatments.


Causes of Vestibular Disease


There is no known cause of this condition per se, but it is assumed to be stress or trauma related. The onset occurs when there is an inflammation in the nerves connecting the inner ear to that part of the brain responsible for balance control.

Contributing factors that could cause such irritation of these nerves include:
  • ear infections
  • chronic use of antibiotics
  • low thyroid function and thiamine deficiency
  • trauma or head injury
  • stroke
The most common reason for an onset is an infection of the middle ear and precisely why dogs with constant ear infections are thought to be more prone to suffer with it. Yet one more reason to maintain your Schnauzers ears.


Symptoms and Diagnosis


If an apparently healthy dog begins to wander, keeps falling over, and has trouble standing on his own as if he were drunk, he's probably suffering from vestibular disease. Once you recognize any of the following symptoms in your Miniature Schnauzer, a trip to your vet is needed.

  • Head tilt
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Facial changes like muscle twitching
  • Stumbling and falling over

Many dogs suffering from this condition may become nauseous and inclined to vomit. They may be reluctant to eat or drink as the dizziness makes it that more difficult and uncomfortable for them. Especially with geriatric or older dogs.

Owners often think their dog has suffered a stroke since the physical symptoms are similar. But a physical examination of your Miniature Schnauzer should be conducted by a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Treatment and Care


Since the dizziness may bring about nausea and bouts of vomiting, it is important to ensure your Mini Schnauzer keeps eating and stays hydrated. Until your Miniature Schnauzer improves, you can help the situation by hand feeding your dog tasty, soft foods. This may help your Schnauzer feel less nauseous as opposed to having to bend over to eat. To encourage eating, small pieces of cooked chicken should entice your dog to eat and be easier to take in than having to chew on hard kibble.

It is equally important to keep your Miniature Schnauzer hydrated during this time. If he refuses to drink, use a turkey baster to squirt water in his mouth. And/ or use chicken broth with unflavored Pedialyte for oral re-hydration and nutrition.

Your vet will probably treat your Miniature Schnauzer with intravenous fluids and electrolytes. For more severe cases of vestibular disease your vet may prescribe motion sickness drugs to help combat the symptoms of nausea in your Schnauzer.


Ear Care
Once and if an underlying cause can be determined, your veterinarian will provide an appropriate treatment. For example, if it is determined the onset is due to an ear infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.

The good news is peripheral vestibular syndrome is a common condition and not life threatening. It will usually improve on its own in a matter of a few days (although it can last for several weeks).

Your goal during this recuperating period is to make sure your Schnauzer is as comfortable as possible and well nourished. And most importantly, be sure that your Miniature Schnauzer feels safe and loved.

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Related Topics:
Schnauzer Dog Care
First Aid for Dogs
Schnauzer Health Care
Strokes in Dogs

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