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.

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