The Causes And Symptoms Of Canine Vestibular Syndrome


The symptoms a dog is likely to have when afflicted with canine vestibular syndrome involve¬† difficulty in balancing or a total loss of balance, a lack of coordination, rapid eye movement, tilting or circling its head, and drooling or nausea. These symptoms can come about rather suddenly, and can also be rather alarming to both the dog and its owner, in that the dog initially will seem to be quite normal in all respects, as if nothing is wrong, and seemingly all of a sudden, or within a short period of time, will appear to be extremely ill. Canine vestibular syndrome is sometimes called Old Dog’s Disease, since it most frequently strikes dogs that are advanced in years. Some veterinarians refer to the syndrome as Geriatric vestibular disease.


The Vestibular Cavity, The Cochlea, And The Vestibulocochlear Nerve


As the dictionary explains it, a vestibule is another name for a room or passageway in a building.¬† In medical terminology, it is a cavity or passageway in the body, often a cavity or a passageway that leads to another cavity. Here, vestibular refers to something that is happening within a cavity in a dog’s body, and in this particular case it is a cavity in the inner ear, where the mechanism that controls balance and orientation is centered. Because of this, trauma, infection, or disease that affects the middle or inner ear can sometimes have a negative impact on the body’s balancing system. There are certain medications that can cause the syndrome to make itself known as well, including a certain class of antibiotics. Some dogs suffer from a form of vestibular syndrome called idiopathic vestibular disease, or IVD, where idiopathic indicates the cause of the disease is not known. The primary nerve that is affected, and the nerve ultimately responsible for a dog’s ability to maintain its balance and orientation is called the vestibulocochlear nerve. This nerve terminates in the vestibular organ and the cochlea in the dog’s inner ear. The anatomical features of the ear that play a role in vestibular syndrome occurrences not only are found in dogs, but are not all that different than the anatomical features of the human inner ear, and are in fact somewhat similar in nearly all mammals.


When the system that controls our sense of balance isn’t functioning normally, we can stagger, lose our balance, and even become nauseous, just as happens to a dog who is afflicted with a vestibular syndrome. Taken together, the symptoms often resemble that of a stroke, which is one reason they can be so alarming. Taken together, the symptoms could be described as vertigo.


A syndrome is a collection of symptoms or happening, and in some cases the cause behind these symptoms or happenings is either not known or not well understood. In other cases, the underlying cause can often be determined, but the syndrome itself may strike without much warning. Canine vestibular syndrome is one of those things that just seems to happen out of the blue. The symptom is congenital in some cases, and when congenital, it does affect some breeds more than others. Puppies and younger dogs affected by the syndrome either seem to manage the symptoms better than older dogs, or the symptoms are not as severe.


The Recovery Process And A Similarity To The Symptoms Of A Stroke


When a dog has been afflicted with this syndrome, it will sometimes recover on its own fairly rapidly, while at other times it must undergo treatment for some time, although the chances for recovery are generally quite good. The main danger is if the underlying cause has not been determined, and it represents a threat to the dog’s health or well being. As mentioned previously, one of the causes could be a middle or inner ear infection, which would need to be dealt with. Older dogs may suffer stress when experiencing the syndrome, and can even become ill from that stress, especially if the road to recovery should be a long one.


Treating a dog afflicted with canine vestibular syndrome is in some respects similar to treating a person who has suffered a stroke. The dog may have difficulty at first in getting from one place to another, and it may experience difficulty in eating or drinking, and need help to do so. In some cases, treatment may need to include IV feeding or fluids for a period of time, or the use of nutritional supplements until such time as the dog regains its normal eating habits.


To completely understand what is going on within a dog’s inner ear that can lead to the symptoms generally experienced when this syndrome strikes, one would have to look into the finer details of the anatomy of the ear, as well as study the neurology of balance in some depth. In simplified terms, one could imagine the inner ear having one device which is sensitive to linear acceleration, and another which responds to rotational movement, with the combination of the two giving dogs, and people, their sense of balance and orientation.