Many adult dogs experience an episode that looks like a seizure or a stroke, and we are concerned that some Frenchies are being euthanized needlessly due to misdiagnosis.
Vestibular disease presents suddenly. One minute your dog is
running around or chewing a toy, and the next minute she can't stand up
or remain standing, or she can't focus her eyes, and they are moving
back and forth quickly in a motion called nystagmus. Her head may tilt
either immediately or sometime later in the hours or days following the initial event. She
may drool. She may panic. If you are like most people, you will almost
certainly panic. Try to stay calm and take her to the vet as soon as you can.
Deo suffered from vestibular disease. In this photo you can see his head tilt and his left eye is a little less bright because of facial paralysis on that side.
Here's what is happening: your dog has lost her sense of balance.
She can't figure out her relationship to the ground and that's why she's
staggering. Most episodes are "idiopathic" which means nobody knows
what causes them. Some speculate that there is a tiny blood clot in the
area of the brain that affects balance, and as it dissolves, the
condition resolves. But there is no agreement about what it causes it, and there may be a number of possible causes that result in the same set of symptoms.
FBRN grad Eva had a bout of vestibular disease, too. She's not suspiciously squinting at you in this photo. Like Deo, she had some facial paralysis on the left side of her face. She's much better now.
Frida's experience with vestibular disease was very helpful to Eva's owner as she navigated the diagnostic process. Did you know there are Internet support groups for virtually every medical condition a dog might have?
In the days following the initial
event, some dogs also experience facial paralysis, and the paralysis can
be either obvious or subtle. Many dogs develop a head tilt, which may
resolve in a few days, or a month, or never. Most dogs do recover within a
month or so.
As the days pass following the initial event, you may find that
your dog is not interested in eating. If you had the spins, you probably
would not want to eat, either, but some dogs respond well to
anti-nausea meds or to hand-feeding. Some people suggest that while your
dog is recovering from the worst of it, you leave a light on, so she
can find an object and orient herself to it even in the night.
FBRN grad Maxwell Smart had a vestibular disease episode. His family wrote to us and asked us to do this report on VD.
Vestibular disease happens most oftens in dogs who are 6 years old and older, but some young dogs have had vestibular disease--Deo and Maxwell Smart were on the young side, while Eva was a senior dog when she had it.
Watching a dog have a seizure or experience a stroke or the
symptoms of vestibular disease is very frightening, and it can be
heartbreaking. Try to keep your head, and try to remember that what
looks like a stroke or a seizure may well be something far less
worrisome and will often resolve completely or nearly so.
A New Year free of emergency veterinary clinic visits, that's the wish we wish for you, from
The Frog Princess
(This material originally appeared on FBRN's home page.)