It’s been about a month since Nala’s second episode of vestibulitis and she is as happy as ever. She isn’t, honestly, back to 100% though… she’s not even back to 100% of where she was before the second attack (which wasn’t 100% of where she was before the first attack). Her balance is fine as long as she keeps her head up and is looking around. She’s unable, for example, to look over her shoulder at us when walking so she has to turn around to see if we’re there (which usually results in us either gracefully tripping over her or hopping around her like epileptic pigmy dancers).
Every time she stumbles, slips or falls we feel terrible for her. “Poor thing, she just doesn’t understand what’s happening.” We feel bad… but when I think about it rationally, I honestly think Nala couldn’t be happier. Her only complaint at this time appears to be that we’re feeding her dog food (the nerve we have to feed her anything but steak!). Sometimes it helps me to put it all in context: she has survived being taken away from her parents without visitation rights, she had one of her legs chopped off, she was given to the humane society by her owners of eight years, she had Idiopathic Peripheral Vestibular Disease not once… but twice and yet still has managed to make it to 14 years of age. I don’t think I could manage to be as happy and pleasant as she is if all that stuff happened to me.
Yep… of all the role models out there I just hope I can live up to the example set by my dog.
What follows can be considered reference material. If you’re looking for information on old dog vestibulitis, read on.
Here is some more information pulled off the i-dog.com forum. This post by one of the forum’s contributing vets in 2000 gives an excellent description of the disease and diagnosis:
In reference to Cindy Ascher’s friend’s Labrador: What you have described does not sound like a seizure at all, but a sudden onset of a vestibular (balance) problem, which is very common in old dogs. The classic symptoms are that side-to-side eye movement that you described (called Nystagmus) and a head tilt or tendency to walk or fall to one side. In the absence of any signs of an external ear infection which could have caused an infection in the inner ear also (this would cause similar signs), the usual diagnosis is “Old Dog Vestibulitis” of unknown cause. Occasionally a brain tumor can do this, but is much less likely. Part of the problem in communicating about and in diagnosing seizures is that what one owner has called a “seizure” may not be what the examining vet thinks of as a seizure. To us vets, a “seizure” is a convulsion, like epilepsy, where the dog is on its side, its neck and head arched backward, and virtually all the muscles spasming uncontrollably, particularly the mouth and the legs; A dog that simply can’t coordinate his legs to stand up and panics because he can’t, is not actually having a seizure. With vestibular signs, the dog thinks that “down” is in another direction than what gravity should be telling him. He is basically very dizzy and confused. The good news is that most cases of Old Dog Vestibulitis or Vestibular Syndrome get better very quickly with no treatment at all. The most important element is good nursing care, because they may not be able to get up to eliminate, and may not be able to get their mouth oriented properly to drink or eat, so they need assistance. I am curious to know if this is what the vet was diagnosing in Cindy’s friend’s dog.
Lucy L. Pinkston DVM
You can also find a recent discussion on the topic in the forums here: