Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome or Canine Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome or Jaya's Not Feeling Well
A story by James W.Barr III
Written by Max Bielohuby I
Signs of vestibular disease include ataxia, head tilt, and abnormal nystagmus. A wide-based stance and swaying of the head and trunk characterize ataxia. The patient may tend to lean and fall to one side. In severe cases, the animal may continuously roll to one side. Head tilt is an abnormal position of the head such that one ear is held lower than the other. Nystagmus is a rhythmic movement of the eyes, where the eyes move back and forth or up and down. In some cases of vestibular disease, there is a sudden onset of severe signs. This may initially be confused with a seizure.
Identification of vestibular dysfunction is based on recognition of the specific signs. The veterinarian diagnoses the cause of the disorder with a medical history and examination. In some cases, further diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging is necessary. Diagnosis is based on the signs and excluding other causes of vestibular dysfunction. Affected dogs improve spontaneously within 2 weeks, although there may be a mild, persistent head tilt. Nursing care is important during recovery. Unfortunately, affected dogs are sometimes euthanized because of the severe signs and concerns that the patient has a brain tumor or stroke.
The problem seems to be due to inflammation in the nerves connecting the inner ear to the cerebellum (which controls balance and spatial orientation). It usually lasts between a couple of days and three weeks. A few dogs have residual signs beyond this time, such as a head tilt. Most dogs will not eat or drink unless hand-fed or given water by hand because they have a hard time with the fine motor movements necessary to eat or drink from a bowl. As long as they are nursed through this condition almost all dogs will recover. There is no known treatment. Some dogs do have relapses but most do not.
At this time, Jaya is still being cared for by Dr. Morehouse at