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Vestibular Disease in Dogs and Cats

LABRADOR RETRIEVER DOG THINKING AND TILTING THE HEAD SIDE AND LOOKING AT CAMERA. ISOLATED AGAINST PASTEL BLUE COLORED BACKGROUND.

Is your pet walking with a head tilt? Do they seem uncoordinated and wobbly? They could have vestibular disease. In simple terms, this means balance problems. From your perspective, it may look as if your pet has vertigo. Because vestibular disease has many possible causes, you should meet with one of our South Florida neurologists for a proper diagnosis.

Signs Your Pet May Have Vestibular Disease

The vestibular system exists to help humans and animals with their balance and coordination. It consists of the inner ear and nerves (peripheral vestibular system) and the brain stem (central vestibular system), which connects the rest of the brain and spinal cord. The most common signs of vestibular disease in pets include:

  • A constant head tilt
  • A ‘drunken’ or wobbly walk in which your pet walks with a lean and occasionally falls or rolls onto their side
  • Unusual position of the eyes
  • Rapid, abnormal eye movements
A portrait of a curious male dog with a checkered pedigree, with some Terrier and Labrador, aka a mutt, as he looks at the camera with his head tilted and his ears up listening to something that caught his attention, with a gray wall in the background.
chihuahua-dog-at-sevn-pre-surgery

Is Vestibular Disease Life-Threatening?

In general, the conditions that affect the brain stem are more serious than those that affect the inner ear. Sometimes our neurologists can tell the difference by examining your pet, but more often MRI is needed to determine the cause for sure.

That's why it's so important to have any pet with a balance problem evaluated by one of our neurologists right away.

Diagnosing Your Pet

If your pet is showing signs of vestibular disease, they need to see us for a neurological exam as soon as possible. To confirm whether the signs are brain-related, our neurologists usually look for:

  • Head tilt
  • Imbalance
  • Leaning or falling over
  • Erratic eye movements

At your pet's consultation, we will often follow these steps when looking for the cause of vestibular disease:

  1. Reviewing health history and performing a physical exam. With a neurological exam, we can find out if the disease stems from the inner ear or the brain.
  2. We also need to do blood work, X-rays, and a blood pressure check to evaluate your pet’s overall health. This also helps us check for underlying causes and make sure your pet can safely undergo anesthesia.
  3. We need to do an MRI and CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) analysis. An MRI is needed to accurately determine the cause of vestibular disease.

Treating Vestibular Disease in Your Pet

An accurate diagnosis is vital for an effective, long-term treatment. At Southeast Veterinary Neurology, we offer viable treatment options for every patient. Please contact one of our locations if you see any signs of vestibular disease in your pet. In many cases, the prognosis is good, and medication can make their condition manageable.

Request a consultation at one
of our South Florida locations today.

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