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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I'm writing to share my GSD Sarah's account of this horrible disease called 'old dog vestibular disease / idiopathic vestibular disease'. Sarah has been my best companion two months shy of 14 years! I'll save most of our personal background for later, but I want to be very genuine in this post and my description of this disease. I'll summarize that by saying that I remember picking Sarah our when she was 8 weeks old and she has sense provided the deepest of level of support through so many life experiences - high school, college, graduate school, and marriage!

Day 0: Last Saturday (four days ago) my wife Bree and I woke up with the normal cold wet nose in our face. I fed Sarah, she played with her toys, and we put her out with a treat before we left to go do some errands. When we returned ~4 hours later, my wife looked through the fence and I could feel her heart sink. She called me over and said something was wrong with Sarah. I immediately noticed that Sarah was stumbling as she almost hit a planter in the back yard. I held her tight and noticed vomit all of the yard. Sarah’s eyes were also darting back and forth and she could not focus. I was certain that Sarah had a stroke and so my wife and I rushed her to the emergency. In the emergency, I was certain that my sweet Sarah’s time had finally come. However, the vet gave us a completely unexpected diagnosis – old dog vestibular disease. Sarah was sent him with orders to rest and prescribed Meclizine (over the counter motion sickness meds) for nausea and vertigo. The vet said Sarah should improve within 72 hours and make a full recovery within 2-4 weeks. I couldn’t believe it!

Day 1 (day after the incident): Poor Sarah was awake all night staring off into the room, eyes darting back and forth. I felt so helpless. The next day, Sarah didn’t improve a bit. I couldn’t get her to even look at me. She spent the day on her bed and resisted every effort for food or water (she didn’t even want her favorite treats). I couldn’t even get her up to go potty or take the Meclizine that would help her vertigo. The following night (night 2) was a repeat of night 1.

Day 2: No apparent improvement. My wife is a vet tech and we took Sarah to her office to have her regular doctor take a look. He gave her a shot of Cerenia to help with the vertigo and nausea. Later that day Sarah ate a treat and was able to take the Meclizine in a pill pocket. When we got home, I was able to put a towel under Sarah’s belly and guide her to the backyard. I felt so helpless as she stared into space, but at last she squatted and peed! I had to carry her back inside because she could not walk. Once inside, I offered her some water and she drank it! More improvement!

Day 3: After another long, restless night, I took a peak at Sarah’s eyes and noticed that the ‘ticking’ had substantially slowed! On this day Sarah ate some chicken, rice, and broth, went potty, and was able to stand up on her own. Although she could stand on her own, she has not done it without me telling her to get up, but at least there is still some improvement.

Day 4 (today): Sarah’s eye ticking has completely stopped! My wife and I decided to take her in for a quick check up. Once again, she was able to stand up after I told her to do so. She is still walking like a drunken sailor and absolutely needs guidance, but she is able to fully support her own weight now. She ate a big bowl of chicken, rice, and broth, drank some water, and went to the bathroom! We loaded her up and went to the Vet. He wanted to see her walk and after a brief demonstration, told her to head back home and keep improving! She just enjoyed the sunshine in her favorite spot in the backyard and is now continuing to rest on her bed.


This has been a painful experience for all of us. My wife and I cried our eyeballs out. The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. Of course, we do not want to see Sarah suffer, but the advice of several specialists suggests that she will recover and to give her time. Sarah still has a long way to go, but we are so hopeful that she will continue to improve. She is a fighter and has shown us that she not giving up. This is such a horrible disease and I can’t imagine how one could make a full recovery after, but we are taking each step day-by-day. I welcome any insight from folks who have gone through this!
 

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Here's what it looks like: My old boy had two bouts of it in his later years. He was a big boy, and I needed help to get him up and down the stairs so he could go outside and do his business. Both bouts lasted only a few days, same as with your dog. Fortunately, he never experienced vomiting or loss of appetite.

It's a very scary thing to see, that's for sure!

Oh, and notice the Christmas tree in the background? This photo was taken on Christmas morning, 4 years ago! What a thing to wake up to on Christmas Day! :surprise:
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Here's what it looks like: My old boy had two bouts of it in his later years. He was a big boy, and I needed help to get him up and down the stairs so he could go outside and do his business. Both bouts lasted only a few days, same as with your dog. Fortunately, he never experienced vomiting or loss of appetite.

It's a very scary thing to see, that's for sure!

Oh, and notice the Christmas tree in the background? This photo was taken on Christmas morning, 4 years ago! What a thing to wake up to on Christmas Day! :surprise:
Sunsilver thank you for sharing. It is super scary. How long did it take your boy to get his legs back and to walk on his own?
 

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He never completely lost the ability to walk, though he'd lose his balance and sit or fall down frequently. In about 4 days, he was able to do the stairs again with help. I'd say he was pretty much back to normal in a week to ten days.
 

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I'm so sorry your dog has vestibular disease. I have a cat with a similar problem (falls over and walks in circles).

I guess it's something that can hit all vintage creatures. Humans have similar problems. I understand for all of us, there can be multiple causes of vestibular problems. Hope your dog has a good recovery.

Below is an excerpt from an article at the following link: https://wagwalking.com/condition/vertigo

"Recovery of Vertigo in Dogs The prognosis for dogs who are affected by vertigo is excellent in all but the most severe cases. Typically, the elimination of the underlying cause also eliminates the disorder itself, although the involvement of the central nervous system may negatively impact this prognosis. Although this disorder is rarely painful, it is disorienting for the animal, and their environment should be kept calm and quiet during their recovery period, which can range from two to three days to a few weeks, depending on how the disorder originated. Patients may have difficulty moving easily so ensuring that their food and water are easy to reach can be a crucial component to their recovery."
 

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Is your dog on any meds for a senior like an anti-inflamm or Gabapentin? (usually used together)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Is your dog on any meds for a senior like an anti-inflamm or Gabapentin? (usually used together)
Yes. She regularly takes the anti-inflam Previcox and tramadol as needed for pain. However, the doctor told us to stop using the Previcox until she recovers from her vestibular symptoms.
 

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I feel your pain. We are on Day 14 and a full recovery still seems so very far away... sigh. My boy is 12 and was in perfect health up until seconds before the episode. I thought he was seizing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I feel your pain. We are on Day 14 and a full recovery still seems so very far away... sigh. My boy is 12 and was in perfect health up until seconds before the episode. I thought he was seizing.
It is truly a horrible disease. Hang in there. I was just chatting with a friend today who had this happen to both her dogs - one was 13 and the other 15. Both dogs took 3.5 weeks to recover. Today is day five for us. When I went to open my patio door, Sarah jumped up from her bed and ran [wobbled] to the door! This is a huge improvement for us. Although, Sarah still needs complete support to walk. Hoping your boy recovers soon!
 

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I'm so sorry for your loss :'( Did she show any signs of improvement since the onset of symptoms? Waiting is the hardest part :(

Thank you. It is hard to see them suffer. As is turned out it wasn't old dog vestibular disease. She went down and couldn't get back up eventually. It appeared to be spinal/nervous system related. She was gone in less than 2 weeks from the initial start of the problem and had just turned 11. Her "sister" passed away 6 months later from a brain tumor at age 12. We still have the oldest rescue of the group of 3 but he's getting very frail at age 14 1/2 and has Cushings and Cognitive Dysfunction. It's been a rough year between the loss of the girls and one of our horses dying. We are trying to focus on the youngsters now. Age 1 & 3. Life changes quickly.
 
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