Vestibular disease in dogs

Vestibular Disease in Dogs “Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome” is a condition that makes them feel as if everything is moving around them. Vestibular disease commonly causes loss of balance, twitching of the eyes and tilt of the head in the dog.

Disease is most common in older dogs. It can be caused by anything that affects the inner ear and the balance centre in the brain.
Fortunately, most dogs begin to improve from the vestibular disease within 2-3 days and recover within a few weeks.

If you also feel the symptoms of vestibular disease in your dog, always contact your nearest vet, and ask for a same day visit if they are vomiting or are distressed.

What is a vestibular disease in dogs?

Vestibular disease is caused by a problem in the balance centre and sensory receptors in the middle ear (which sits in the human or animal’s inner ear and brain). Usually, this happens suddenly and makes your dog feel like everything is going on. Dogs with vestibular disease can get dizzy, and this can be terrifying for them.

Vestibular Disease in Dogs

What causes vestibular disease?

Vestibular disease is often colloquially referred to as idiopathic, meaning that the cause of the condition is unknown. Sometimes this illness can be attributed to a dog’s ear infection and reaction to certain antibiotics or a head injury.

Vestibular disease is often referred to as “Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome” because it is more common in older dogs, but the disease can occur in dogs of any younger or older age and breed.

There are a different things that can cause vestibular disease including:

  • Geriatric (old dog) vestibular disease – This is also known as an idiopathic vestibular disease in dogs. Most often it affects large dogs, there is currently no known cause of the disease.
  • a middle or inner ear problem – such as inflammation, infection, a tumour or benign polyp.
  • Brain problems – such as inflammation, infection, or tumours.
  • Certain medications – Some drugs are also toxic to a dog’s ears, and they have the potential to cause vestibular syndrome.


  • Loss of balance,
  • Lean to one side and fall
  • Turn head
  • Blinking eye movements
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Stand with your feet wide
  • Walking in circles
  • Fall/fight to stand
  • Stumbling or staggering (ataxia)
  • Rapid eye movement (nystagmus)


Treatment of vestibular disease depends on the cause of the disease.

Geriatric (Old Dog) Vestibular Disease

Older dogs that succumb to vestibular disease often improve in 2-4 days with nursing and anti-sickness. Most of this care can be done at home, but if your dog is causing severe symptoms, he may need to be under the supervision of a veterinarian in a veterinary clinic for intensive care.

Ear infection

If a dog’s vestibular disease is caused by an ear infection, they may require nursing care, antibiotics and other medications such as anti-sickness medications. In some severe cases, they may need surgery to remove their middle ear. It can take 2-3 months for a dog’s inner ear infection to heal.

Severe symptoms treatment

If a dog does not begin to improve within a few days of taking treatment, or your vet suspects that something more serious is causing their symptoms, they may suggest further testing. These may include X-rays, CT scans, ear swabs, MRI scans, or spinal taps. Once your dog has been Diagnostic, with the disease, your vet will be able to discuss their other treatment options.

What is the prognosis for a dog suffering from vestibular disease?

Clinical symptoms are often most severe during the first 24-48 hours. Many pet dogs begin to recover within 72 hours. Head tilt and stumbling often improve over a period of 7-10 days. Most patients make a full recovery within 2-3 weeks, although some will have remaining symptoms such as drooping of the head.

If the patient’s dog fails to improve or worsens, a serious underlying disorder should be suspected, and advanced diagnostic testing of the dog performed. You may be advised by a physician for a referral to a veterinary neurologist.

Caring for a dog with (Vestibular Syndrome) vestibular disease at home

Safe place: Keep your dog confined to a small area with a soft floor so they can’t injure themselves.

Food & Beverage: Make sure your dog eats and drinks regularly. Unless your dog can eat on his own, make sure his food, water and other food bowls are close to his bed.

Excretion: You may need to help your furry friend when he goes out to urinate or defecate. It may be helpful to use a large sling, soft towel or blanket under their belly to support them well and help them maintain their balance.

Safe flooring: It’s a good idea to pick up and run your dog on a carpeted floor where they won’t slip easily. If that’s not possible, consider putting the mat down.

Dogs at risk from vestibular disease (Vestibular Syndrome)

Vestibular syndrome in dogs and cats can be caused by a disease affecting the sensory system within the ear (the nerve connecting the ear and the brain).

Ear tumours or polyps, deep ear infection (otitis), and damage to the skull.

Diseases affecting the vestibular nerve include nerve inflammation (neuritis), nerve tumours or an underactive thyroid gland.

Brain tumour, inflammation or infection (encephalitis), stroke, head injury, certain vitamin deficiencies (thiamine deficiency) or brain malformations.

Cost of Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Vestibular disease caused by ear infections in dogs can also often be treated with antibiotic therapy and other supportive care. Depending on the severity of vestibular disease in dogs, a pet vet can expect to cost around $100-400 for treatment. In referral cases, the cost can be expected to be up to $700.

For dogs, the cost of diagnosing vestibular disease depends on how well that condition can be treated, costly. Ear infections and hypothyroidism, for example, are easily treated with medications, but dogs with strokes, tumors, or severe trauma may have a poor outcome.

Treatment of canine vestibular disease is likely to be relatively inexpensive. However, it can be an expensive condition to treat as your dog sometimes requires longer treatment for it or a referral to a specialist vet.

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