Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(28) "Dog,Dog Vestibular Syndrome," }

There is a syndrome, variously referred to as Canine Vestibular Syndrome, Peripheral Vestibular Syndrome (the current “preferred name”), Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome, and . Vestibular syndrome is usually a rapid-onset attack that causes a head tilt and loss his balance. The disorder is more common in older dogs and thus the name “Old Dog” or Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome — but it can occur in middle aged dogs, too, so the name was changed. It is not a life threatening condition. It has been suggested that there is a correlation between old and hypothyroidism, so blood work should be done to rule out this problem.

What it is

Vestibular diseases can be classified into three major disease processes: idiopathic vestibular disease, , or central vestibular disease. Vestibular means “a problem with the connections between the inner/middle ear and brain” causing ataxia. Generally, it is an inflammation of the inner ear, the vestibule being a cavity at the entrance to the cochlea of the inner ear. Vestibular disease will clear up without treatment in most cases, but it may be sometimes coincidental to other illness.


The disease normally affects dogs that seem normal up until the signs appear. At first, the symptoms can be very subtle, almost unnoticeable to the owner. If you take a closer look you will notice that the eyes shoot rapidly from side to side, the head is cocked to one side and these, together with the drunken staggers and vomiting lead many owners to the fearful conclusion that their pet has been poisoned. The owner sees an apparently healthy dog fall over, try to get up, fall over again and then wander around if it is willing to make the effort to walk, but staggering like a drunken sailor.

Dogs that suffer this syndrome show many of the same symptoms that are associated with a stroke victim. There is sudden loss of balance with many dogs unable to even stand up. Dogs may be nauseous from the “sea sickness” effect of vestibular disease. are often distressed, and their owners fear they will never recover.


Routine treatment includes the administration of intravenous fluids and electrolytes. No treatment can hasten the recovery, but medications can make the dog more comfortable while convalescing. Some vets may prescribe antibiotics if they suspect the possibility of infection. Vestibular disease will clear up without treatment in most cases but it may be sometimes coincidental to other illness. Keep in mind, the most common cause of treatment failure is not treating long enough.

Drugs that might be used to treat old dog vestibular syndrome include Cholodin Tabs and Winstrol V. Rimadyl has been used with some success, but veterinarians do suggest that owners should get regular liver function tests for any dog on Rimadyl.

For owners

Remember these signs of peripheral vestibular disease and consider it as a possibility if your dog exhibits these symptoms: A well dog that staggers and falls with no prior sign of sickness. It is important to note that there are no warning signs which may lead to the conclusion that it is a stroke. A few dogs have residual signs beyond this time, such as a head tilt, but with proper care and love, almost all dogs will recover.

You May Also Like These Topics...

Food Intolerances in Dogs

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(36) ",," }

  Food intolerances can affect many people in many different ways and the list of causes is endless. It’s no different for our furry friends, and food intolerances in dogs can often go undiagnosed. Food intolerance can be defined by its uncomfortable physical effects, it can also mean that a particular food may not be […]

7 Best Calming Solutions for Dogs with Separation Anxiety

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(31) "anxiety in dog,," }

1. Kong Wobbler A lot of dog owners have reported positive results using a Kong Wobbler. The toy is designed to be filled with dog treats or kibble. The design makes it virtually impossible for your dog to get the treats out of the toy, which can help prevent separation anxiety. It takes a little […]

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Dogs?

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(21) ",," }

Before I explain what a Bully Stick actually is (you might be surprised!), let me first address the “why” of Bully Sticks. Dogs can, at times, be a pain in the backside. Dogs – especially those dogs who normally get a lot of attention – tend to get very bored when you are away or […]

Most Asked Questions about Your Cat and Dog

array(2) { [0]=> string(0) "" ["keywords"]=> string(25) ",," }

What vegetables can I feed my dog? Dogs can digest most vegetables. Many veterinary surgeons agree that so long as a dog has plenty of exercises he can eat potatoes without deleterious effects being discernible. Yet we must again emphasize that dogs are mixed feeders, and too much concentration on any particular food is not […]

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Previous Post

Rednose Pitbulls – They Mean Business

Next Post

Boxer Dog in Training At DarnFar Ranch


    • Angel waits
    • September 27, 2008

    My nearly 15 yrs old Chow mix staggers just for part of a second, then is fine. Has been going on for a couple of months, staggers seem more frequent recently. Doesn’t fall over, just shakes a bit, seems a little disoriented when it’s over.
    Other health is good: nearly deaf, some joint pain.
    Was knocked rolling by a car years ago; not run over, just sent flying. Dog seemed to be ok when i caught her.
    I’m afraid she’ll stroke out.

Leave a Reply