Just about a year after her first attack of vestibulitis Nala has had another attack. Paula was at home this time when it happened and it was nowhere near as bad as the first attack. This time she didn’t have the obvious eye twitching (horizontal nystagmus) and didn’t get sick. I took her out first thing in the morning yesterday before going to work and she showed no signs of any distress. A few hours later, however, I received a call from Paula letting me know Nala had another episode.
Paula took Nala to the vet as a precaution and all the blood tests came back negative (as expected) but we wanted to be sure. One test the vet performed on Nala was to roll her onto her back and check her eyes. As soon as Nala was inverted the horizontal nystagmus presented immediately (a sign that this episode was indeed a recurrence of the “old dog vestibulitis”, also called “old dog vertigo”, “Idiopathic Peripheral Vestibular Disease” or simply “vestibular disease”). The vet said it’s extremely rare for a dog to have multiple attacks, so I suppose we can be proud our dog is so “special”. 🙂
Nala’s first attack was 5/30/2004. I’d say it took Nala a week before she was walking on her own last time, but she fell down often. After a couple weeks she seemed pretty steady but it was a few months before she could shake her head without falling down. Her second attack happened yesterday, 6/7/2005.
Get a comfortable harness for your dog that wraps around your dogs chest Having something that can help you to lift and support your dog “luggage-style” gives the animal the ability to move around. Physical therapy is great for dogs as well as humans. The more the dog is able to get the sensation of walking upright the more it will be able to learn where its body should be.
To help your dog eat straddle them with your thighs holding their mid-section in place. Nala is able to stand on her own but has trouble eating because anytime she puts her head down she looses her balance. By standing over her I can prevent her from swaying side-to-side, allowing her to eat comfortably. Some dogs may be defensive about their food, so be aware that being close to your pet may make them uncomfortable, you may be able to help them relax by facing the opposite direction, supporting them but have your back to their head.
The slick floors that are funny when your normal dog is chasing you are an absolute ice rink for a dog with vestibulitis. Your dog can slip an go down very hard because they don’t know which way to twist. It’s important you help the dog balance, especially in the first few days of re-learning to walk. Putting down old towels or blankets can help your dog to keep its footing.
With the loss of the inner ear for balance your pet will be relying on muscle memory and eyesight for balance. This means when it’s dark your dog will be more off balance. Leaving a night light on will help to stave off confusion and be sure the area you take your dog out to go to the bathroom is also well lit. Your pet has gone from using muscles, eyesight and inner ear for balance down to just muscles and eyesight.
Make it a point to walk your dog over to the water. You may not notice your dog periodically wander over to take a drink during the day, they get thirsty and do want to get a drink. If they can’t walk over on their own, they’ll really be parched.
Finally: don’t panic. As doting “parents” Paula and I are both very protective of Nala and it pains us to see her out of sorts. Remember that your pet is uncomfortable, but probably not in tremendous distress (esp. if they are still eating and drinking). As our good friend Tom pointed out last night: “it looks like the tail’s not broken.” Nala responded with an enthusiastic tail thumping on her bed.