Friday, August 19, 2011

Idiopathic Vestibular Disease

Not too long ago, one of our previous adopters and volunteers had an experience with his sweet dog, Titan.  His vet concluded he had been afflicted with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease.  Since reading of what happened to Titan, I was inspired to write more on this disease.  In school, this was a disease we covered, which leads me to believe it's not entirely rare; I have been in school for 2 years which isn't long enough to cover the super rare diseases!

Idoipathic Vestibular Disease tends to impact both cats and dogs, and dogs middle aged to older.  For the lay person, the "Vestibular" system is a system in our dog's inner ear which regulates balance, posture, and spacial orientation.  The term "Idiopathic" by definition is any condition with which we cannot discern a true cause, because there isn't one; sadly, they "happen for no reason".   In a class, someone shared information suggesting there may be a correlation with dogs who've had persistent, untreated inner ear infections.  I cannot vouch for this fact.

The bottom line is it happens seemingly out of nowhere.  A dog who seemed perfectly healthy may encounter symptoms such as loss of balance, nystagmus (the eyes are moving back and forth, together, quickly), disorientation, and ataxia (uncoordinated movement).  Dogs may also encounter nausea.  While scary, they tend to recover quickly and clinical signs tend to resolve in 3-6 weeks.  There isn't a way to prevent this in your pet!

Your vet will diagnose your dog primarily on clinical signs.  They will want to run blood work to rule out any other possibilities.  They will also do an ear exam to rule out any other potential inner ear problems.  Because this condition tends to pass quickly enough, there may not be any prescribed treatment.  If your dog has lost their appetite or suffers from any other side effects, your vet may want to offer supportive therapy.  Every dog is different and may have different individual needs.

Our previous volunteer recounted what his vet concluded was in fact a seizure.  I recall learning that seizures were a possible manifestation of this disease.  If anything can be learned from Titan's scary ordeal, is that sometimes the things we see with our dogs are not always horrible and terminal.  Because our pets cannot speak, it sends us into great distress to see them undergoing anything.  Naturally Titan's owner was right to react so quickly and get him into the vet!  Many things can cause seizures, and fortunately Titan seemed to experience Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, which his body will recover from!

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