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Stroke vs. Canine Vestibular Syndrome

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Stroke vs. Canine Vestibular Syndrome
  • My just turned 13 yr old Lab had what the vet believes to be a stroke on Sunday.  Her head is tilted, eyes have occasionally been moving from side to side, and has lost use of her hind limbs and some loss from the front.  Last night and today her spirit and appetite have been great.  She is really trying to stand and took 4 steps today.  She has even barked.  Based on what I've read about "old dog vestibular disease", I'm wondering if that is a more accurate diagnosis.  (My vet doesn't agree.)  She has so much life in her that it just doesn't seem right to put her down.  Anyone out there have any thoughts/experience with this?  Thanks for any help.
  • Hi imashopper, welcome to the board.  My sister recently went through the exact same thing a few months ago with her 16 year old mini schnauzer.  We never knew for sure whether it was a stroke or vestibular, or possibly even a brain tumor.  She responded very well to Prednisone, but only if she was kept on the full dosage.  Anytime my sister tried to cut back on the dosage (as prescribed by the Vet) she would have a relapse.  They finally decided it was best to just keep her on the full dosage.  She only lived about for three months beyond her initial "event"...but she had a few other health problems anyway, including a weak heart.  For the most part, those months were a very happy and comfortable time for her.  We used a towel sling to help her walk until she was able to get back on her feet.  I'm sure that you'll get more info from others more experienced in this as soon as they see the post.  Good luck to you.
  • I'm sorry I didn't see your post earlier - how is it going?  I have recent experience with canine vestibular disorder in a 13 year old mixed pit bull.  The symptoms were sudden in onset and included head tilt, eye movements (nystagmus), inability to keep balance, and vomiting.  The first thing that came to my mind was stroke, but strokes are very rare in dogs, and stroke was not even mentioned when she was admitted to the ER.  Possible diagnoses included old dog vestibular disorder, middle/inner ear infection, and brain tumor.  I was told that the vomiting was from motion sickness.  In the ER she received fluids, a shot of dexamethasone, and Baytril.  She was released to me after two days with six days of Baytril, and within two weeks was completely recovered except for very slight head tilt, and possibly this will fully resolve.  I was told when she was admitted that if it was old dog vestibular that she would rapidly improve on their protocol, and she did.  Again, I apologize for the late response.
  • Hi,
    I'm concerned that your vet could not diagnose vestibular syndrome right away.  It is kind of like a Vet 101 illness.
    It certainly sounds like your lab has this syndrome.  My mother's dog had it, and I know of another person who had a lab who had this syndrome.  The dog can recover anywhere from one day to three weeks after onset.  My mother's dog had a severe case of it, and my mother had to feed her whipped, raw egg yolk (no whites) to keep her strength up... and it worked!  Also, valium was a great help to calm the dog (my mother could have used it too :-), and allow her to sleep and recover. 
    She recovered almost fully in three weeks.  My mother's dog was unable to stand, walk, etc.  Her eyes had the wobble look, and her head had a very severe tilt.
    I'm sure your lab will recover.  I know it is really scary, and I wish you all of the best. 
  • I would certainly get a second opinion. Head tilt, nystagmus, circling, and rolling are all signs associated with vestibular disease.
  • Hi There. My name is Corrine and I am a proud parent of a 13 year old pug. He is displaying all of the signs described here. Someone had mentioned steroids to assist in recovery. Can someone tell me what the benefits are and how it helps? I have an appoinment with a neuroligist tomorrow morning. Please help. Thanks

  •  Hi Corrine,

    I'm sorry to hear that your sweet pug is having symptoms.  Just to clarify:  Whipped Egg Yolks - not whites- were what my mother fed her dog when she was unable to eat on her own.  The Yolks were raw and whipped up with a fork. (Raw egg whites are not good - the dog will often have loose, messy bowel movements.)  If your dog cannot eat the yolks on his/her own, then you can gently spoon or squirt them into the mouth.  It is a slow process so that the dog doesn't choke, but the yolks were a lifesaver.

    My mother's dog became agitated with the condition and the Valium really helped to calm her and allow her to relax and sleep.  

    Sending you good thoughts.  I hope your pug recovers very quickly!  Keep up posted!

    Warm regards,







  • It can be difficult to tell the difference between vestibular and stroke -- and the flashing of the eyes (where the eyes flash left/right/left/right in rapid sequence) often is the defining issue.

    It is ultimately an inner ear problem hence the steroid to reduce inflammation.  Sometimes the only real difference is told in whether or not they recover.  A stroke produces actual damage, whereas they will usually recover from "old dog vestibular" (which doesn't just happen to old dogs either).

    When my Foxy had it he recovered from the first bout (which was in November) but did not from the second (which was in the end of February).  At that point his body just gave up (he was 19). 

    Be **VERY** prepared for the side effects of the prednisone and ask your vet if you can also give something like milk thistle (or even Marin or Denosyl if your vet isn't a holistic vet) to counteract the side effects on theh liver of the pred.

    pred causes a super big stress on the kidneys and has other side effects.  You must NOT just 'stop' the pred.  It is addictive to the body (you may know this -- and maybe that's why you're asking but for the benefit of anyone who doesn't I wanted to mention this). 

    They become VERY afraid during old dog vestibular.  Often something to relax them is necessary.  I used valerian root on Foxy.  Valium is also used.  But I will never forget the morning he woke up -- he actually woke ME up during the night.  He had gotten so disoriented he walked himself into such a tight circle all his muscles spasmed.  It took us hours to massage him enough so he could even lie down. 

    good luck -- feel free to email me if you want more help.  This is a very OLD thread so most of the original posters may not be around.

  •  Just to clarify, for those who don't know - nystagmus, or the rolling of the eyes, is often seen in vestibular syndrome, and tends to be the type where the eyes roll from left to right.  When you see a dog whose eyes roll up and down, that is often indicative of central nervous system issues.  You would want a vet with some experience to take a look at the dog and evaluate all the symptoms, and not just that.