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Vestibular Disease

Topaz went to the vet today. He hasn’t gotten any better and we really wanted to get his phenobarbital levels checked.

The vet said it looks like he may have vestibular disease, or vertigo for dogs.

Information about Vestibular Disease from VeterinaryPartner.com:

Canine idiopathic vestibular disease (also called old dog vestibular disease) and its feline counterpart, feline idiopathic vestibular disease, begin acutely and resolve acutely. Usually improvement is evident in 72 hours and the animal is normal in 7 to 14 days, although occasionally a head tilt will persist. When a case of vestibular disease begins, it may be a good idea to wait a few days to see if improvement occurs before doing diagnostics beyond a routine blood/urine database. These two conditions are idiopathic, meaning we do not know why they occur. We do know that they represent problems in the periphery (nerves of the middle ear rather than in the brain.)


  • Ataxia (lack of coordination without weakness or involuntary spasms – in other words, stumbling and staggering around).
  • Motion sickness.
  • Nystagmus (back and forth or rotational eye movements. The movements will be slower in one direction. This is the side where the neurologic lesion is likely to be; however, nystagmus is named according to the direction of the fast component – i.e. there may be left nystagmus but the lesion is probably on the right side of the vestibular apparatus.)
  • Circling (usually toward the side of the lesion).
  • Head tilt (usually toward the side of the lesion).
  • Falling to one side (usually toward the side of the lesion).
  • Trouble with other nerves controlling the head and face.

Topaz does not have the nystagmus (eye movements), or the circling, and not sure about the motion sickness. He has not been vomiting, he is still eating, interested in food, and going to the bathroom ok.

The vet did bloodwork for his phenobarbital levels and some other blood tests. They all came back normal as far as I know.

We got meclizine for him and prednisone. His ears looked good, so this may not be an inner ear problem.

For now, we are going to give him the meds, keep him safe from falling, and monitor him for the next 4-5 days. If the meds don’t seem to work then we will take him back in for more testing.

I talked to a friend who is a vet tech and she said to make sure they check his liver. So, if needed, I will have them do that.

They also said he has a spot on his spine that he reacted to like it hurt so we need to put a heating pad on it. Right now he’s laying in my office with the heating pad. We also bought a number of rugs and made a path from our back door to the carpet. Of course, he still slips and falls on the linoleum. Figures.

So that is where we are right now. Will update as needed.

More information about Vestibular Disease found here.

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