Dog Vestibular Disease: What To Do If Your Pet Has A Head Tilt


If your older dog has a sudden loss of balance, he may have a condition called vestibular disease. In this article I will go over the most common signs of dog vestibular disease, and the likely causes. Then I will cover the top 5 remedies that you can do to heal your dog’s vestibular disease at home.

The signs of vestibular disease all relate to loss of balance: stumbling and staggering, a head tilt to one side, an involuntary flickering of the eyes from side to side, circling, falling to one side, and possible droopy eye lids. In people you can liken this to Vertigo – you may lose your balance with a serious ear infection or head cold.

The Vestibular area of your pet is what controls balance. It allows your pet to walk without falling, sends the signals to allow your pet’s limbs and eyes to move correctly. The causes vary – it can be idiopathic (no known cause, only inflammation of the vestibular apparatus), it can be caused by a tumor, an inner ear infection, or an emboli (clot). Idiopathic or Geriatric Vestibular Disease is the most common cause.

If you have an older dog or cat which gets a sudden onset of Vestibular signs, then your pet most likely has Idiopathic Vestibular Disease. This condition will improve in 3 days, and likely fully resolve in 7-14 days. While the inflammation resolves, ensure that your pet is eating and drinking. It is a good idea to have a Veterinary exam. Your vet can rule out an ear infection, and discuss additional diagnostics.

Many dogs with vestibular disease lose their appetite, and can stop drinking. While the disease resolves, you need to support your dog ensuring they keep eating and stay hydrated. For water you can use a needle-less syringe or a Turkey baster. Insert the tip into the center of your pet’s mouth. Tilt his head back, hold his mouth closed and squirt in the fluid. If your dog is not eating, you can stimulate their appetite by warming the food, or force feeding a high calorie liquid nutrition such as ‘Hills Prescription Diet a/d’ or ‘Eukanuba Maximum-Calorie’.

A homeopathic remedy called Rhus Tox may be helpful in this condition. It is useful in geriatric conditions such as skin rashes, arthritis, and in vertigo too. Dose: 30C every 8 hours.

Herbs are often used in brain disorders, and the most important one in Vestibular disorders is called Gingko Bilboa is used for a variety of brain disorders, and may be beneficial here. It increases blood flow to the brain so may help in vestibular disease. The Ginkgo dose is 25 mg per 20 lbs twice daily.

There is a lesser known supplement called Vertigoheel which can also be used. It is useful for senior citizens with vestibular signs. It can be very helpful and has evidence in humans. A typical dog dose is 10 mg twice daily.

You should now have a good understanding of vestibular disease in dogs, and more importantly that it is usually a disease that resolves on its own. Don’t do anything sudden or rash, and give your dog time to heal himself. Consider supportive care, along with some of the holistic remedies such as Rhus Tox and Ginkgo Bilboa.

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