Stolley Park
Veterinary Hospital

3020 W. Stolley Park Road  Grand Island, Nebraska  68801  
Phone:  308-384-6272   Fax:  308-384-0984

September Newsletter

Vestibular Syndrome

The patient: An older dog

Clinical signs: Head tilt, “twitching” eyes, rolling or stumbling to one side, vomiting

Time frame: acute onset

Prognosis: very good with time

Differential Diagnoses: Toxicity, Cerebral Vascular Accident (stroke), Brain Tumor, Middle/Inner ear infection

Very little frightens the owner of an older patient more than finding a beloved “senior” with a tilted head, stumbling and seemingly unable to focus, vomiting and falling to the side. The first thought is always stroke, and many an owner rushes in to the clinic upset and convinced that “it’s time”.

The good news is that there is one condition with these signs that is not progressive or fatal. Called Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome, or Old dog vestibular disease, this condition has no known cause. It affects the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and coordination. It’s described as a type of vertigo, and many say that it must feel like just getting off of a roller coaster. Treatment is symptomatic, and often the only effective medication is meclizine (Dramamine!). Some patients require a little assistance walking for a few days.

Prognosis is good. Many patients show improvement within hours. Usually the eye twitching (nystagmus) resolves within a few hours to a day. The stumbling and falling may last longer, and the head tilt may or may not resolve.

If you see these signs in your older patient, a more severe condition cannot be ruled out in the first few days. Don’t give up, though, because many recover and live normal lives.

Age is not a disease!

Call us, we can help.