Dear Dr. Lisa,

Last week, we had to rush our 15 year old Husky to Northstar Vets, a specialty hospital. We thought our dog had a stroke. He had a head tilt and his eyes were moving a million miles a minute. He couldn’t stand and he was vomiting. The doctor there said he had vestibular disease. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t hear everything they said. What is vestibular disease?

Dear Overwhelmed,

Vestibular disease is very alarming when it first happens. I am sorry you and your dog had to experience it. The good news is that in most cases dogs recover very well with vestibular disease. Often with only a slight head tilt remaining. Dogs with vestibular disease will often appear disoriented, walk like they are drunk, and fall over. Basically, it is like doggie vertigo.

There are a number of reasons this can happen to a dog including: an inner ear infection, thyroid disease, inflammation of nerves that go to the inner ear, a blood clot goes to the cerebellum (the part of the brain that helps with balance), a brain tumor, meningitis (infection of the covering round the brain resulting in swelling around the brain).

Your vet will likely want to do a full blood panel on your pet. In most cases, the vet will recommend supportive care such as assisting the pet walk and eat and giving anti nausea medications for a few days. If symptoms worsen then the vet may recommend an MRI to look at the brain and inner ear. In most cases in 3-4 days the pet is doing much better.

I hope this answers some of your questions. Be sure to followup with a consultation by your regular veterinarian to review any bloodwork and to do a followup check on your dog.

Best of luck and have a great week! Lisa Aumiller, DVM

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