Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome

Emily was an adult dog of undetermined age when we adopted her from a local shelter. She was old enough to have so much build-up on her teeth that a canine fell out when I gave her a turkey neck but no one seemed to be able to assign her an age. She is some sort of Chihuahua mix with a terrier coat. Over the years, she's had a few "episodes" (possibly seizures) which leave her disoriented and shaking for a few minutes after but then she seems to recover fully. She had one such episode last week during dinner (they always seem to occur when she's eating). Since they only happen once every year or two and she is healthy in other respects, I've never pursued the issue with my Vet.

This week she was eating dinner in a room by herself (I separated her from the group dinner after her episode last week to make sure she had a quiet, private area without a bunch of big dogs stalking her food bowl) so I didn't see if she had another episode but after dinner, she had a head tilt and difficulty with her balance. I took her to my Vet the next day and she was diagnosed with "Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome". The Vet thinks the head tilt and the seizure type episodes are unrelated. An x-ray of Emily's skull revealed no abnormalities but her blood work showed she was dehydrated. The other abnormalities on the blood work didn't overly concern the Vet since they could be a result of the dehydration. The Vet suggested we hold the water bowl up to her to get her to drink. I had noticed at home that she was having a hard time drinking. Although we've been following the Vet's suggestion, Emily refuses to drink when assistance is offered. That's just her personality. She is very willful and independent and - how shall I say - actively discourages any help from us. We tried a syringe of water but she just growled and bit the syringe. So I've been adding water to her food and I'm hoping she might drink something while no one is home.

We've been giving her meclizine at the Vet's suggestion (I take this myself for vertigo) but I haven't noticed it helping. Her head tilt is worse this morning and in fact when I let her out to potty at 5 a.m., she didn't come back so I had to go out and look for her. I found her spinning in circles. The Vet says we just have to ride it out and as long as Emily doesn't get too dehydrated, she doesn't have to be hospitalized. We're crossing our paws.

Emily is the first dog I've had that has gone through typical old dog problems like hearing loss and decreased vision. My previous old dogs have all been Flatcoats and typically cancer kills them before they get very old. Provided we get through this, I wonder what Senior Adventure Experience awaits us next.


Pibble said...

Is it possible for you to give her IV fluids to help her through?

Another idea... She doesn't like the syringe, but would a squeezable water bottle with a pull out mouthpiece help at all? You could almost drip the water into her mouth. Or, maybe the hamster-type bottles that hang in cages for dogs. Maybe that would encourage her to drink without your actually holding the bottle?

YesBiscuit! said...

I'm not clear on what the concern is but the Vet mentioned that due to Emily's heart murmur, she wouldn't want to push a lot of fluids on her. That makes me leery of administering fluids at home. The lick-it bottle is a good idea! I just have to convince her that SHE thought of it. ; )

Pibble said...

Don't you hate it when dogs are smarter than you? Maybe a little smear of food on it to get her started. That will make her think it's her idea.

Good luck - keep us posted!

Cat said...

We have a senior dog in our family too. When Rocky joined us it was estimated that he was four years old which would make him 15 1/2 years old now.

We've been dealing with some senior issues for the past couple of years (memory loss, obvious aching joints making it hard for him to get around at times, hearing loss, etc.) but nothing like what Emily is going through right now.

The only suggestion that I have right now is ice cubes. Our dogs love them, if Emily has any interest in them that could be a way to get some fluids into her.

Please keep us up to date. Much positive energy is being sent your way.

YesBiscuit! said...

Ice is another good idea - TY!

Congratulations on having a 15+ year old dog! I always like to ask owners of old dogs what they feed them, just out of curiosity. What does Rocky eat?

Heather Houlahan said...

Try a broth instead of plain water. Or broth cubes.

The dehydration is common with vestibular -- it's hard to get coordinated enough to drink.

Our Lilly had vestibular episodes twice, and came through both just fine.

YesBiscuit! said...

Broth is yet another good idea. All yous guys are so smart. I'm going to boil some chicken this afternoon and save the broth for Emily. Thanks!

selkie said...

My old love, Lassie, developed that exact thing when she was around 14 (she was a flat coated retriever/shepherd cross). She actually was so dizzy she kept falling down. My vet told us to bring her home (I had rushed her to emerg when it first happened) and basically hold her up... she said that my girl would either regain her equilibrium or not; there really is not a whole lot they can do.

Within a week she was back to herself and it was as if nothing had ever happened. She did terrific for the next year and a half but then collapsed and I could tell there was no coming back.

I had never heard of that syndrome before - but apparenlty it is very common.

Zoe said...

My girl Venus RIP went through this. She was also dehydrated due to kidney issues. I switched her to a mixture of canned and raw and added alot of water to it to up her fluid in take.