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Vestibular Disease in Pets

Vestibular problems and dogs


The vestibular system has an important role in the body. It is responsible for balance and spatial orientation. When there are problems with this system, a dog may display many different signs. Some of these signs may be cute, like holding their head at a funny angle. However, this can be a clue that there is something wrong with the system that controls balance in the body. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatments for vestibular disease.


What are the symptoms?

                  Since the vestibular system affects balance and spatial orientation, we should expect a lot of symptoms related to movement. These symptoms include:

  • Circling
  • Standing with a wide stance
  • Head tilting
  • Stumbling or staggering when moving
  • Head shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Motion sickness
  • And more

In addition to these symptoms, an owner may notice behavioral changes. For example, a dog may sleep on the floor rather than on a pillow or sofa. This is because the hard floor will help reduce the risk of being awakened by vestibular signals caused by subtle movements during sleep. If an owner notices one or more of these symptoms in a pet, there is a significant chance they may suffer from a vestibular condition.

vestibularWhat are the causes?

                  There are 2 types of vestibular disease – central and peripheral. The peripheral form is much more common. Some of its causes include ear infections, trauma to the head, stroke, tumors, hypothyroidism, and side effects to certain medications. In addition, elderly dogs may suffer from an idiopathic version of vestibular disease. This means that doctors are not certain of the actual cause. Central vestibular disease, the less common version, appears to be caused by infection, bleeding in the brain, loss of blood flow, and cancer.

What treatments are available?

When it comes to treating vestibular disease, the goal is to treat the underlying cause. For example, if an ear infection is causing the vestibular disturbance then doctors will treat the ear infection – typically with medication. Therefore, a trip to the veterinarian is an important step in managing these conditions. If they can identify the cause, the condition has a more favorable prognosis.

Fortunately, peripheral vestibular disease is the most common form. In most cases, it improves quickly when the underlying issue is addressed. If it is a central vestibular issue, the prognosis tends to not be as favorable. This is because it is likely that there is damage, particularly the brain stem.

To sum things up, our pets can suffer from vestibular issues just like us. Fortunately, if we can identify the underlying cause, then we can treat the disease. For example, if an ear infection is causing the vestibular disturbance, then treating the ear infection will typically bring about a quick recovery for our pets. One of the best ways to address ear infections and vestibular disease in animals is through visiting your certified animal chiropractor. Often times the root cause of these issues is structurally related. If there is misalignment in the cervical vertebrae this can put pressure on the brain stem and or the ear canals. Any tension on the spinal cord in the upper cervical region can lead to vestibular problems. Having your pet adjusted can help both prevent and or recover from vestibular syndrome! Feel free to contact us with more questions or concerns.








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