A Cautionary Tale

I was out walking with my chocolate lab this past Saturday, doing our usual 1.5 miles up and down the hill. Kelsey's almost 12 now, but she really loves the exercise and the chance smell the smells and visit the other dogs in the neighborhood. After returning home she got her drink of water, ate her cookie, then walked into the kitchen and fell over.

She got up, then fell over again. Suddenly she was incapable of standing. She kept attempting to stand and walk but was repeatedly stumbling and crashing into the walls and floor. When I went (RAN!) over to her and held her down, I noticed her eyes moving rhythmically side to side. She couldn't even seem to keep her balance while lying down, her head tilting back and forth to the right. Panicked, I called the vet and told them I was on my way. I picked Kelsey up and carried her to the car. Fortunately, I wasn't home alone and someone else drove while I held Kelsey in the back seat. She kept trying to stick here head out the window, but kept hitting her snout on the front seat; she couldn't aim her nose into the empty space!

We arrive at the vet's and I'm imagining every terrible thing that could possibly have befallen my baby. A vet tech comes over to look at Kelsey (she's well known there) and says "Oh look, a dizzy dog!" I didn't think she showed the proper amount of respect or concern to someone whose face undoubtedly looked terrified (mine... by now Kelsey was laying on the floor with a quizzical look on her face). Then she explained: the nystagmus (eye movement), tilted head, and dizziness were al symptoms of a not-too-uncommon syndrome that they referred to as dizzy dog. I still wasn't comforted or amused.

I carried Kelsey into the exam room and put her on the table, with a good amount of difficulty; instead of just going onto the table, she splays her feet out making her landing particularly unseemly. The vet looks at her eyes, darting back and forth, listens to her lungs (not sure what that was for!), and questions me about the onset of symptoms. "Hmmm, sounds like dizzy dog" he said, as he started looking in her ears. "What you've got here is what's known as vestibular disease. We don't really know what causes it... sometimes it's an infection in the middle ear or inflammation of the nerve leading from the ear to the brain"

"Whew" said I, thinking all we needed was a little antibiotics and she'd be right as rain.

"... or it could also be a brain lesion"

I nearly choked.

The good news is that it was a peripheral (non-brain) problem and Kelsey is starting to recover. For the next 3 days I fed her by hand, although she insisted on drinking from the water dish herself (starting in the center, then licking her way to the edge). She couldn't walk up or down stairs, shake her head, or urinate/defecate without someone holding her up. She still can't eat out of her bowl, as she can't properly aim her mouth at the food. She's now at the point where her eyes move only minimally, and she is able to navigate the house fairly well, although I have penned her in so that she cannot go up or down stairs while I'm at work. She still has difficulty shaking her head (and not falling over) and dealing with Willy, who knocks her off balance every time he trieds to herd her. She gets a little better every day and, except for the head tilt and the occasional stumble, seems to be almost back to normal; tail wagging, mouth smiling when she pants.

I post this story as a warning, should this "disease" befall your little one(s). PVD is essentially a severe case of vertigo for dogs, but apparently, a great many dogs who develop the disease are put down, by owners who don't understand the temporary nature of the affliction and can't stand to see their dog so helpless. All the dog needs is time to recover and an understanding owner who will act as a guide while they regain their balance (for me, this included holding Kelsey steady while she relieved herself, and using my hands to guide her as she walked up and down the stairs).

Incidentally, my vet told me to avoid the use of stairs for several days. But Kelsey has her habits, and absolutely refused to use the water bowl I relocated for her. She insisted on walking up and down the stairs, to get water before and after meals and treats.
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Wow, how scary that must have been. Thank you for sharing your story so we can understand this "disease". I know what it feels like to have an inner ear infection so I can imagine what the poor pooch feels like and they can't tell us what's wrong. Sorry your vet's office didn't appear very sympathetic. Sounds like they've seen this affliction before and weren't as concerned as you were which was rightfully so!
Poor baby girl! :(

I've had vertigo many times myself and it is not fun at all. I can imagine how frightening it was for you and your pup. Glad to hear she's on the mend, though and will be her normal self again soon. :)
Poor Kelsey..Im glad she is on the mend! Thanks for sharing, and so sorry for the terrible experience...
Wow, that sounds terrifying! I hope she's back to her normal self quickly...
That really is an awful thought, how many may have mistakenly put their dogs down thinking it was something worse?
Thats really scary. My parents old dog had that and boy were we scared. It was my 18th birthday and Tara started acting like your baby and we freaked, we thought we were going to lose her at Christmas time. It was treated and she was good for about 8 more months, she then go some type of doggie altzihimer and we had to put her down. It's scary at first cuz you don't know what to do and how to fix it.
I hope she feels better and get well soon.
I am experiencing this with my thirteen year old springer / lab named Lady . It has been terrifying for all of us . We thought that she may not be here after the weekend but has made remarkable progress .

Thanks to the information , support and help of my vet we are dealing with this day to day in hopes that Lady will recover .

Thank you for sharing your hopes and story .

Janet and Lady Baskowski
Wow - what a story! I had never heard of this before and I'm happy to hear it isn't permanent. . .
Poor POOR puppy :( I've experienced prolonged vertigo once (one time too many) and it is a WRETCHED experience. I can't imagine being a pup and not know what is going on.
My ol' best friend had this around the age of 12-13 years old also, it is very very scary. But she came out of it and lived until almost 17 years! She was a big dog also. She also had epilepsy for 7 year of her life too. she was a trooper that dog.
I hope Kelsey is feeling better (I love labs!!) and thank you for the information. I think I have heard of this but you have refreshed my memory . Thank you
I hope Kelsey is feeling better too, scary experience. By the way love her name, I have an OES nearly 12 who is a Kelsey too. :wink:
just pointing out Kelsey's experience was one year ago...Feb 06.

I too hope she got over it, and is better.
Wow! That sounds scary. Glad the dog is better! Thanks for the advice also...I will keep it in mind
Vertigo in dogs can be very scary. Our 12 year old Aussie had it and our vet was wonderful. I thought for sure we would have to put her down. Our vet felt it was due to a yeast infection in the inner ear although her ears looked clear. He felt it was deep in the ear. He put her on Zymex, six capsules a day for 6 weeks and it seemed to clear her up. There was a huge improvement within 24 hours. Our dog was so bad when I took her in to the vet she could not stand and was vomiting a lot. Zymex is a homeopathic remedy so it is very mild on the dogs system but boy did it work! If your dog has this problem I would highly recommend looking into this treatment!

I have been scouring every website out here to research Arthritis treatment for our dog since we lost his sister in December. This is a beautiful site, and I was just looking, but had to post when I saw Kelsey's story.
My dog lost his sister in December (he's a Shetland Sheepdog, hope that's close enough :>)

She was stumbling around acting "drunk" one day and we truly thought she was having a stroke! She was prescribed RIMADYL by the emergency hospital we rushed her to, as the diagnosis was either arthritis (for these very sympyoms, but not as severe as Kelsey's; just stumbling drunk for a couple of minutes) or a brain tumor. So we prayed for the Arthritis. (an Xray showed early stage, so there was hope).

Then we took her to our nearby McVets when they opened on Monday and they stuck with the diagnosis. NEVER mentioning Vestibular disease or any ear infection possibility whatsoever. Of course we'd never heard of it. We had grown up with 40 years of wonderful vets (such as Kelsey's) before moving away and would never think to second guess them.... were we WRONG!! Bet you know where this story goes...

Anyways, I'm not writing to say "avoid Rimadyl", as it could help pets, especially when prescribed by a knowlegdable and thorough vet -- who may even let you know what possible side effects to look out for!

But I will say to, PLEASE, if you have a vet office where you can't have the same doctor; it's very high volume and all you see are revolving door doctors who all seem quite young; and it's not a private practice where you, at least, see the head doctor and/or his assistant visible --- RUN to a more intimate and established practice! These McVet places are popping up like crazy in my area (in Pa, north of Phila.). It's not good.

You think people hate Wal-Mart? These places are becoming a trend because of the (quick) convenience!

Main case-in-point: While a vet who was recommended to us was much farther away from home, we did call her office first with a "stroke emergency" when the first one happened. But we couldn't get an appointment until four days from then! Private prac's are more thorough and aren't obsessed with quick "turnover". So you do have to be more patient.

The McVets, on the other hand, will always say "come right in", then up-sell you like crazy, while not spending more than a few minutes with your dog. Just give drugs. And more drugs. (And they will tell you your dog needs Science Diet when any dog food review says otherwise, too).

It took us sharing our experiences with relatives in the city to put this all together over a month. Since then we've learned some interesting things:
These places are recognizable by signs posted informing clients what day/time of each week they're closed for "staff meetings". These are for upselling strategic purposes!! NOT discussing latest medical tehniques, as we so stupidly thought!
If they don't shake your hand, ever address you by name after repeated visits, but SELL things (especially in the "boutique" type places) -- please RUN! I hope there are exceptions, but these places are spreading like WalMarts (not that I, myself hate Wal-Mart -- just a comparison).

Better yet, merely compare *required visits, *healing time, and *amount of drugs prescribed for any ailment, no matter how minor, with any friends or relatives who deal with an established private practice vs. these type places. That should more than suffice.

Thank you for listening. I hope this saves somebody some grief (as well as three times the cost for the most minor of health issues of their beloved pets). Have always loved Sheepdogs, but we always adopted and found strays:>) We took who we got :>) :>)
Oh, almost forgot: Many of you are probably already aware, but we weren't:
Drug companies do award "points" when doctors meet/exceed sales goals. Please make sure you have a more seasoned, established practice who isn't so overy eager to prescribe so impulsively and cluelessly? Believe me, you and your dog won't miss the pharmacy your kitchen turns into.
We have since learned of less potentially harmful, as well as more natural alternatives to the stuff those people were prescribing our dogs anyway, thanks to wonderful sites such as this. (This applies to dog food as well :>)
Dona -- That is a very sad story leading to excellent advice. My dear Chumley has had myriad problems over the past year and there have been a few vets along the way that simply prescribed Rimadyl without giving it much thought. That made me nervous too -- not specifically due to the drug but because her symptoms seemed not quite limited to arthritis. Now she is getting excellent care at a Veterinary teaching hospital. It is not quite the same as a small and dedicated practice, but she is getting the same kind of individualized, personal care that hopefully will lead to good results.

If you look around, you will see lots of discussions of arthritis and its treatment. I highly recommend swimming. It has been enormously helpful for my dog.

Thanks for posting.
Thank you Valerie :>) Chumley's adorable! (Is that him in the pic?)
Isn't it hard when you're so used to trusting? If it weren't for this Internet, I'd be as clueless as a bedbug believing anything!

We just got Schmittie some Glucosamine-Chondrotin MSM supplements today (human ones, had read that the regulations were stricter for human stuff and the doggie products were more "diluted" :>)
We'll get him the liquid when we hit a GNC Vitamin store, though -- will just have to figure out his dosage scouring the boards.
His Arthritis isn't crippling or anything, but he does have some, according to his XRay with the McVets.

That's great about your vets! Hope Chumley feels better :>) :>)
If, God forbid, we ever have an Emergency again, we will bypass all the close places and hi-tail it into the city at a University of PA Veterinary Hospital which has the best reviews I've read! "Dedicated students with Faculty right there to guide them" according to one client quote! Thank God for these!!
The swimming is an excellent idea, thank you! We do have a pool, but will have to wait for summer, LOL (if we can get the critter in there hehe).

I hope Kesley is recovering and thanks for sharing your story and educating us at the forum - it may help many dogs in the future. I agree with Dona that knowledge is power and have a close relationship with my vet office and sadly have had to use other vets when I take in SPCA foster pets as they have certain offices they deal with. Not all vets are created equal.

Dona welcome to the forum and everyone is welcome regardless of the breed of dog..there is something for everyone. Many of us have other pets too besides the sheepies.

Chummie is a lucky girl to have Val as her mom.

I have a black lab that just turned 14 last week, Reba. Monday night she was playing frisbee and eating fine Tuesday morning she was falling, Shaking and stumbling her tail was tucked between her legs and I thought that she was dying. The vet said it might be an inner ear infection and prescribed an antibiotic and took some blood test. The blood work came back fine however she was not eating and could not hold down the antibiotic. We brought her back to the vet anfter no improvement and not eating for 2 days and saw the head vet she gave her something for dizziness ( dramamine for dogs) yesterday. Last night she eat ( hand fed) an looked better but if she shakes her hear or sneezes she almost falls down. Today she ate and slowed walked down the steps and is not staggering as much. Will she recover fully and how long does it take? Reba is a part of our family and have had her since she was 6 weeks old and my youngest son was 1 1/2 years old.
OMG! I am so glad you posted that story. I know exactly how you feel. I have a Sheltie named Shadow and he has been with us for 15 of his sixteen years. Just last month we let me out side to go to the bathroom and he feel to the ground. and was having probleming walking. He really did not have it again so, I was going to wait for his appointment in July and bring it up to my Vet. Well, lastnight he started to have the same signs such as walking like he was drunk and wasn't able to keep his dinner down. His eyes looked like they werein a daze. I thought to my self it looks like vertigo but did not know dogs could have that. I was thinking the worse and called my Vet and than called my son who is 15 now and is close to him. I wasn't sure what to say but said it doesn't look good. It just broke my heart to think that his dog might not make it and he is out of town. SO, as I walked in and spoke to the vet he was so nice and kind and gave my dog a seditive and explained about pvd and the vertigo and that there is no cure or reason why dogs get this(what he called old dog syndome). He said that all I could do is be supportive and he will get better. There is no cure but he will get better and the most impotant thing is that I can call my son back and tell him his dog is ok he is just getting old and needs more love and prayers....
Thank you for your story I now know that there is someone out there that did not give up on there dog and even though it is scary and I thought taking him to the Vet was a one way trip for him I am thankful that he is home safe and sound..[/quote]
I know it's been a while since this was posted, but I just found it and had to respond. Last night our 7lb poodle, Bella, who's 14 had this same thing happen to her. She started flipflopping around the floor until my dad held her tight. Her head was bobbing back and forth and her eyes were darting in a panic, as if she couldnt see or focus. We were terrified, made sure she was breathing, and drove to the emergency vet. They knew what it was right away. What a releif, but scary as all hell. She was walking in circles because her balance was off and her eyes were darting and dilated for the reast of the evening. We gave her the meds the vet gave her for nausea and the dizziness and put her to bed. By this morning, she was backto her normal self. Tail wagging, perky, jumping up on beds. I hope and pray that this doesn't happen again and that we're home again if it does. Thank God we were home. I'm glad to see that it's a common problem in older dogs, but itdoesn't make it any lesss scary! What an awful feeling to see our pup so confused and helpless.
Our 8 year old Pomeranian named Who was diagnosed just 3 days agao with Dizzy Dog Syndrome, we also throught stroke. One day perfectly fine and playful the next woozy then worse.

Who is diabetic and receives insulin 2 x's a day he is also blind.
As you can imagine he was quite terrified of what was happening to him. This morning since he was not having improvement I took him the ER and than back to our main Vet
The ER stated Who had a slight fever and as I mentioned could no longer stand or walk and wouldn't. I wrapped him tight in a towel, he felt safe and smiled his usual happy face and tail up the whole time. This morning our Vet is concerned about the fever and Who not standing eating or drinking and is keeping him for 24hrs to stabilize as not eating means no insulin.
She also explained to me if he turned worse instead of better, he may have a brain tumor. I am just so sad. Although our dog has issues he is quite happy and leads a normal life, unless something is moved, he has a little pal named Leo that adores Who and Who loves him too, it is his baby.
Leo knows Who is not home and staying still and quiet.
I pray Who recovers from this Vestibular Syndrome Canine Idiopathic, Thank you for this forum it has helped me understand the disease, that I thought was a stroke.

Friend's dog did this, recovered 95%, kept a little eye movement and a slight off center walk....not quite a drunk sailor walk.....lived another 3-4 years.

Yes, it is scary.
Thank you so much for your story, I am happy to hear that Kelsey is doing well. Your story has helped me tremendously, I woke up two days ago to find my dog Coco pacing back and forth, her head was moving from side to side by the time I reached to the Vet she had lost all mobility and could not move. She is a seven year old Cocker Spaniel and she became blind two years ago. In general she is a happy loving dog who loves to interact with people, everyone who speaks while she is around is talking to her. She always had chronic ear trouble and I am hoping that this is the root of her problem. She has been at the Vet since and there is no sign of recovery yet. It breaks my heart to see her in that condition and the only thing that gives me some hope is your posting. It is great to be connect with other people who have had similar experiences and while it is difficult for me right now to keep going I think about Kelsey and other dogs who have gone through this and that give me the inspiration that Coco will get better.
My six year old Pom has been going through this. Two times 6 vet visits and two long rounds of steroids later the vet still does not know what it is.It got worse and worse every day until the steroids. The antibiotics alone intially seemed to have made things worse. What did the vet give your dogs? I am glad to see some kind of diagnosis. Please help! This morning she was shaking her head again and I know she cant stay on steroids forever.Thank you.
I have a 4 year old German shepherd Elyse who has been struggling with this for a year. After thousands of dollars and trips to several other states .... nothing.... X rays, blood tests, meds and no answers. I tell them she has had chronic ear infections, that it has even gone to the middle ear. But they won't seem to link it to that. I couldn't put her down knowing in my hear that it was something to do with vertigo or her ear. She's come in and out of it always with a dizzy way but she is happy. I've helped her this long and seeing your story makes me and my family even more determined to find some help. What did you do? what med? is there a surgery? plz help she's my heart and been going through this since she was 3...

Read briefly your stories and I am a dog lover also. But I am a physical therapist by occupation and treat vestibular disease in humans..Was just talking to my vet about dogs and vertigo..Don't give up hope..we are looking into it..Some of the problems are easy to remedy in humans and some more difficult..google vertigo and inner ear and dizziness and you'll get some background info. I'll write more in a few days on this site. Feel free to email me though if you have stories as the more I know the better. Vicki Bouckhout- Vlbouckhout@yahoo.com
I am currently dealing with this with my 5 year old female miniature schnauzer. She has had numerous ear infections with this one resulting in a very bad case of vertigo. All was well till Wed night when she was running up the stairs to go to bed and lost her balance and fell down the flight of stairs. I took her straight to the vet and she was put on anti-nausea, anti-flammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungus meds and ear drops. It has been 48 hours for us and we have only seen a very mild improvement. Thank you so much for your post! I feel so helpless and have basically spent the last 48 hours doing nothing but trying to nurse her back to health.
Such a horrible experience, one I've never heard of before. I will keep this info. in the back of my mind. I was thinking seizure as I was reading the post.

Hope your pooch is feeling better real soon! She sounds like a sweetheart and it hurts you to worry about her being sick or worse.
Thank you for the information posted here! I have a 14yr old female yellow lab and just last night she was acting as her normal self and all of a sudden she got up and fell over. She tried to get back up and fell again and had a look of confusion and almost a "punch drunk" look. She is also a diabetic so my first thought, after sheer terror, was that her sugar level was too high or too low. I immediately ran over to her and held her and called my vet to see what I should do. I thought I would need to give her some glucose to raise her sugar level and they told me to bring her in immediately. I flew to the vet and had to carry her in, the vet took one look at her eyes and ears and said she was suffering from an ear infection that most likely caused a case in vertigo to set in. I got some antibiotics for her ear and some stomach medicine to keep her from vomiting. I do have a question for anyone that has experience this (bc I'm a nervous wreck and feel helpless bc I can't do anything to fix her now) How long did it last with your dog/pet? Is there anything more I can do (I'll do anything)? How long until you saw their appetite come back around? I've been bring her ice chips and her water to her dog bed and lifting her to go outside, but her appetite is basically nonexistent. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. I thank you in advance.
Our dog developed vertigo and the eye and head movements described causing me to spend this past Christmas eve with the vet so when the same thing occurred five months later I knew not to panic. The vet is treating it with Cerenia and Dexamethasone by injections and Prednisone orally. Frisky is about 13 years old. CG
My yellow lab had the same thing. It was terrifying but she cam around and lived until she was 17! Thanks to a caring, thorough vet.
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