Vestibular disease is most often seen in old dogs and is similar to vertigo in people. Just like vertigo; dizziness, nausea and incoordination are some of the signs your dog can show. The eyes may also flick from side to side, a symptom called nystagmus. The dizziness and incoordination usually shows up as a head tilt, walking in circles towards one side or collapse if the lack of balance is severe. This can happen suddenly and may be look like your dog is having a stroke. Your veterinarian will be able to examine your dog to make sure there is nothing else going on such as a middle ear infection. It may need to stay in hospital for supportive care for a little while if it is not able to drink or get up due to the dizziness.
Conventionally, just like in people, there is no specific antidote for this condition. In most cases, your dog will gradually improve over a few weeks.
However, over the last twenty years or so, I have been asked if I can help speed up the recovery of these dogs. In my experience, I have found a combination of chiropractic and osteopathic type techniques, acupuncture, rehabilitation and supplements beneficial. It can be said that this condition will get better anyway and maybe all they needed was time.
There have been occasions when the dogs have been slow to recover and only resolved with treatment. One old heeler that came to me for arthritis had had a head tilt for four years and this was not going to get better with just time. His head tilt disappeared with only two to three treatments.
How does biomechanical medicine and acupuncture relieve vestibular disease symptoms? In nearly all cases, one side of the head and neck is tighter. Relieving this pressure will improve blood and lymphatic flow and reset the neurological system thus allowing the body to regain balance quicker. Acupuncture can also release any tension. Rehabilitation can be just as important as it teaches the eyes to find the horizontal again. This gentle and simple combination of therapies can make all the difference to the comfort level of a dog suffering from vestibular disease.