Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Old Dog" Vestibular Disease

This particular post is a little bit more about Ginger and "Old Dog" Vestibular disease. Special thanks to for making this post possible.


I've been thinking a lot about this, and many folks that I mention "Old Dog" Vestibular disease to seem to not really know what I'm talking about. That is, unless they've had a dog with it. At risk of repeating myself, I thought I might explain a little more about what's been going on.

The day Zippy went to the bridge I came home and noticed that Ginger seemed wobbly on the back end. It was so vague that I thought maybe she'd injured herself somehow. I even mentioned to Robin that I thought maybe her back or one of her legs was hurt. It would have been very easy to miss as it was very subtle.

That very next morning, however, Ginger was falling down on the floor. In some cases she'd actually fall and roll over several times (also referred to by some as gator rolling). Robin had mentioned the idea of it being vestibular related, so I immediately started reading up. The first clue? Her eyes. I took a look, and sure enough her eyes were tracking side to side - known as nystagmus. She was wobbling all over the place, and sometimes walked with her legs slightly splayed to the sides as if trying to get as low to the ground as possible. Her head was tilted to the side, too.

Days two and three she could barely stay on her feet. She (fortunately) was able to eat and also able to keep her food down, but she was clearly in trouble. Many dogs are unable to eat, or throw up what they do eat. I took her to our vet, and had a full blood panel and examination done. His diagnosis matched up with what I was thinking.

She was very slow to recover - in fact over the course of about 2 months she only recovered to about 90%, or what I call her new normal. Some of the things I've read suggest that most dogs recover fully, but some do not.

After having had a relapse at the end of June, I'm pleased to announce that she is actually back to better than her new normal. She's still wobbly sometimes, and seems to have the most issues when she is walking and tries to crane her neck around to see me behind her. She also seems to really struggle on uneven ground. When we're around ponds I have to watch her carefully - a few times she's almost fallen in (and Ginger does not believe in swimming, though she physically is able). She's able to jump back on the bed again without a spotter, though the ramp now lives next to the bed. She uses it as a spring board, and I'm OK with that.

There have been some things I've done to help her out a little. I do find that it's easier for the bigger dogs to knock her over now, so I've not been letting her stand on the porch and jockey for a spot with the bigger dogs. I put rubber backed (read that - won't slide around) area rugs on the linoleum floor in the kitchen, hooked her up with a ramp for the bed, and  made extra sure there weren't sharp corners/objects at Ginger height. Because she's not 100% steady on her feet it's a bit dicey sometimes.  I've also had to be very alert to not let her launch herself off of the bed in the mornings.

The scary thing about this is that often these symptoms come on like a freight train.  Many people think their dogs are having a stroke, and after seeing it I can understand why. I've even read heartbreaking stories of people having their dogs put to sleep for what may well have been vestibular related.  It's very, very scary.


Things to note if you suspect your dog is having a vestibular episode:

- It makes good sense to have a vet visit and blood work up.
- Ear infection is a possibility!
- Sometimes benadryl will help mitigate the symptoms just a little (it seemed to help Ginger).
- I shared my meclizine (for my vertigo) with Ginger per my vet's dosage instructions.
- Some vets suggest a round of prednisone.  Mine says the efficacy is debatable, but when she had the relapse we did a round just in case.
- pretty much the treatment is time - most cases resolve on their own

There is still some fear in my heart over the possibility of a brain lesion or tumor, but I keep reminding myself that we'll cross that bridge should we ever get to it. For now I'm just trying to keep enjoying every day I have with her, because it will never be long enough!

ps - Pia says "Hi Everyone!"



Doniene said...

hey girlfriend!! Good to see your post!!! Been wondering about Ginger, but just haven't taken the time to email - so glad you posted!! I swear it is a good thing we don't live too close - Pia and Bess...well they would definitely be a pair to draw to!!

Have a great week!!

Laura Carson said...

Hey yourself! I've been in an email and blogging slump - hoping this will get me out of it! I think you're right about Pia and Bess. Trouble in the making!

Steffi said...

That is so great that Ginger is better! Thank you so much for sharing your information on vestibular disease, I had never heard of it before. Sending good thoughts that she will continue to do well.

Love that Pia smile :)

- Steffi

Jean said...

Glad to hear Ginger is doing somewhat better. One other thing I used to help Charley was the occasional gingersnap cookie - since the loss of balance and visual disturbances can cause nausea, the ginger helped settle her stomach (plus she loved them!).
Pia is so definitely saying "Hi everyone!" in that photo. Hi ya Pia, good to see ya!

Laura Carson said...

Thanks for the good thoughts for Ginger!

Jean, I've wondered a few times about maybe tossing Ginger some Ginger (hahaha) - I may even have some actual capsules. I appreciate that! I bet she'd loves her some gingersnaps.