From Deo's foster mom:
He got sick in the fall. It literally came on overnight. At first he almost couldn't walk and/or go up and down the stairs to the yard - when he walked he would have his head down, he staggered, he fell forward, he whined. He couldn't eat - the food fell out of his mouth. The left side of his face was slack and hanging. He would sit in his crate and 'stare' at the corner of the ceiling with his head all tilted.
At first I thought he had had a stroke, but in researching it on the internet I discovered strokes are rare in dogs and it was probably this vestibulitis thing that I had never heard of or thankfully never seen before.
It didn't take more than a few days and he was able to walk and eat normally again but he never got over the slackness on the left side of his face and his head always tilted to that side.
This is a good shot because it really shows what happened to his left eye. You don't see any white on the affected left side but you still see it on the normal right side. It gives him the 'Crazy Eye' look!! And of course, his head is tilted. It does sort of make him look cute and curious, but not with that crazy eye!!
He is calmer here and you can see how slack and demuscularized his left face is - no eyebrow ridge, almost a scooped out temple and cheek and his left jowl isn't as plump as the right. And the eyes.
Over time we discovered his ability to swim/stay upright had been completely destroyed. On land he was fine but once you put him in water, even with multiple swim jackets he immediately began to roll to one side and surely would have drowned. It was awful to watch.
As this last picture shows though, he wasn't afraid of the water. He loved the river and riding along on kayaks or canoes.
Deo has since gone to the Rainbow Bridge, from problems unrelated to the Vestibular Disease.
Here's a note from Eva's adopter describing Eva's experience:
One morning at about 3 AM Eva woke me up and wouldn't settle back down like usual. When I turned on the light I could see immediately that she was having trouble standing and her eyes darting rapidly (nystagmus). When I called her to me she couldn't walk without falling over so I got dressed and took her to the ER vet.
When I took her in I told the receptionist that I thought she was having a stroke because she couldn't walk steadily and her eyes had looked funny. While I was signing paper work to allow them to administer IV but not to resuscitate the vet came out and explained she had vestibular disease. He said it often happens with older dogs and she may or may not have any other episodes. He gave us antibiotics and Benadryl and we went home.
I took her to her regular vet and she seemed okay but still wobbly and with a head tilt. I also had been reading up on vestibular disease and like the ER vet said, many people think it is a stroke so we were lucky to have an experienced vet when we went in that morning. [I knew another volunteer had a dog with Vestibular Disease] so I contacted her and she told me some things to watch for particularly facial paralysis. She said that about the 3rd day into it her Frenchie had that happen to her. If [I hadn't asked] I wouldn't have noticed when I did because Eva's was very subtle, but she couldn't blink her eye and her left side lip drooped more than usual. So I took her back to the regular vet and she went on steroids, eye drops, and stayed on the antibiotics. She had a wobbly gait and would sometimes knock herself over when she would shake herself off, but it doesn't seem to me that it lasted for too long. She runs up and down stairs now and does fine getting around.
She didn't get an MRI immediately but was having problems with her ear and combined with all of this her Allergy man and a surgeon in his practice thought she might have a mass. I took her to The Animal Imaging at NC State in Raleigh for the MRI which came back that she had an inner ear infection but no tumors. That was all over a year ago and although Eva still has a slight head tilt and ear issues we keep on top of she is back to her normal self for a 12 year old Frenchie.
The best advice I can give is to make sure to get as much information as possible, don't automatically presume it is a stroke, and communicate with people who have had the same experience.
Here is a site I found helpful but there are more out there : http://alexadry.hubpages.com/
hub/Symptoms-of-Vestibular- Disease-in-Dogs Take a look at the link; it has symptoms and even a video.
A big thank you to Eva's and Deo's moms for sharing their experiences with us! If your Frenchie develops a sudden inability to stand, don't panic--it could be Vestibular disease.
The Frog Princess