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What are Nystagmus?

Nystagmus is a rapid, involuntary movement of the eyes. It may appear as though the dogs’ eyes are bouncing up and down in their sockets or moving rapidly back and forth without focusing. This can be characteristic of either a peripheral vestibular disease involving the trauma or inflammation of the inner and middle ear, or central vestibular disease that affects parts of the system located near the brain stem. Dogs can also develop vestibular issues due to advanced age (idiopathic vestibular syndrome) or be born with a physical defect that results in congenital vestibular disease. The peripheral form of the disease is most common, and once the underlying cause is determined, it can usually be cleared up within a few weeks. Central vestibular disease is rare, but due to the prevalence of brain damage, the prognosis for recovery is poor.

An unintentional eye movement, or nystagmus, is most often a symptom of an underlying vestibular disease. The vestibular system includes the inner ear organs, and is responsible for balance and spatial awareness in most animals, including humans. Vestibular diseases occur when nerve messages to the brain are disrupted by irritation of the nerves from the inner ear.

Nystagmus Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,500

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Nystagmus in Dogs

  • Falling
  • Lack of coordination
  • Head tilt
  • Walking in circles
  • Rolling
  • Eyes jerking side to side or up and down
  • Stumbling
  • Disorientation
  • Motion sickness
Types
  • Peripheral Vestibular Disease
    • Peripheral Vestibular Disease is the most common form of this affliction, affecting the inner and middle ear. Once the cause is determined, it can usually be cleared up in a matter of weeks.
  • Central Vestibular Disease
    • Central Vestibular Disease is the rarest and most life-threatening of these disorders. The central vestibular organs are located at the base of the brain stem and conditions that cause this form of the disease are much more catastrophic.
  • Congenital Vestibular Disease
    • Puppies who are born with a congenital vestibular disease usually show signs between birth and three months. Prognosis is positive, however, since the dog will likely adapt to the problem and compensate for it naturally. Several breeds have a predisposition for this kind of congenital issue including Doberman, German Shepherd, Beagle, Smooth Fox Terrier, Tibetan Terrier, English Cocker Spaniel, and Akita.
  • Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome, also called Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome
    • Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome occurs in older dogs, and usually come on rapidly with no discernable cause then resolves itself just as mysteriously. Because of the alarming symptoms, it can sometimes be mistaken for a stroke.
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Causes of Nystagmus in Dogs

Peripheral vestibular disease can be caused by many factors: middle or inner ear infections, perforated eardrum, head trauma, hypothyroidism, stroke, polyps, tumors or as a side affect from medication. Central vestibular disease can be caused by a chronic inflammatory disease, infection, bleeding on the brain, trauma, impaired blood flow, or cancer.

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Diagnosis of Nystagmus in Dogs

Your veterinarian will conduct a physical and neurological exam and need the animal’s complete medical history including any medications the dog may be taking. They will use and otoscope to exam the dog’s eardrum for signs of irritation or perforation. They will take blood and urine samples for culture and microscopic examination to determine if an infection is present and what kind. They may need to x-ray your dogs’ head to look at the structure of the vestibular system. If tumors or polyps are found, the veterinarian may need to perform a surgical biopsy. An MRI or CT scan could be necessary to rule out tumors, bleeding or other brain-stem abnormalities.

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Treatment of Nystagmus in Dogs

Determining a course of treatment will really depend on identifying the underlying cause. If your veterinarian suspects a medication side effect is causing the issue, they may take the animal off that drug and see if symptoms clear up in a few days. If it’s caused by an infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. If it’s a case of hypothyroidism, management of the metabolic condition should resolve the vestibular issue. Surgery will be needed if polyps or tumors are present. Cancerous tumors of the central vestibular organs can cause devastating brain stem damage, and are often fatal.

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Recovery of Nystagmus in Dogs

During recovery, your veterinarian may also prescribe medications to alleviate symptoms of the vestibular disease. Your dog may need motion sickness medications for vomiting and nausea, and even sedatives for a dog that is severely disoriented. If your dog is dehydrated due to vomiting, it may be necessary for them to stay a night or two in the hospital receiving fluids until the symptoms start to dissipate, and they can eat and drink normally again. If the dog is overwhelmed by dizziness, they may be reluctant to walk and will need to be carried indoors and outside for bathroom breaks. As long as the underlying cause of the vestibular disease is identified and treatable, your dog should recover fully within a couple of weeks.

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Nystagmus Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,500

Average Cost

$1,800

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Nystagmus Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Cody

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Pug

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Nystagmus, Stumbling

I have a 13 year old Pug that has had nystagmus before, however, it has become more and more frequent – almost once a week. The first time was a little over a year ago, then it happened again about 2 months ago and it's been on and off each week since then. He's been to the vet for the first instance and stayed overnight at the vet on the second instance. All of his blood work was clear with no signs of organ issues or ear infection. He's not getting sick and still has an appetite but is a bit aggressive when it comes to eating now. I've been giving him the motion sickness meds too. I remember the first few instances where his eyes shifted horizontally, but now it's always vertical or diagonal. Is it common for nystagmus and vestibular issues to happen this often? Does the direction of the nystagmus identify anything? Everyone says that this should pass after a few weeks, and thats how long it took for him to recover from the first instance last year, but lately it's been happening too often with recovery within 1-2 days. Any suggestions or diagnosis based on the info above?

July 20, 2018

Cody's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm sorry that Cody is having that problem. The direction and frequency of the nystagmus can be significant, yes. Horizontal nystagmus can be caused by vestibula disease, and often will resolve on its own over time. Vertical nystagmus can be a little more serious, and can sometimes indicate something going on in the brain. The increasing frequency is worrisome. If you are able to get an MRI done, that may give you a better idea as to what is causing this problem for him, and any treatment options that might be available.

July 20, 2018

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Slingshot

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Pekingese

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14 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt
Head Tilt Eyes Rapidly Moving

So slingshot has his head tilt to the side he's kind of looking up into the air he's eyes are moving rapidly he's blinking a lot he has really bad balance he has been on medicine for seizures since August of 2017

June 20, 2018

Slingshot's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Dogs sometimes develop vestibular disease, and it can be related to a problem with the ears, or the brain. If this is a new occurrence, it would be best to have him examined by your veterinarian today to see what is going on, and what treatment he may need. I hope that all goes well for him.

June 21, 2018

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Zeik

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Siberian Husky

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

As Above

Our 3 and half year old husky was lying quiet and suddenly he tried to get up but was swaying and very uncoordinated and fell down. Both eyes were flickering rapidly from side to side he appear dazed. When he tried to walk we had to help keep him steady. He was 100% himself and acting normal until this happened no vomiting or diarrhoea had been eating normal and behaving normal. Has not had access to anything he should not have eaten. We live rural and he does not come into contact with other dogs other than our other Husky. I took his temp rectal it was 101.5, breathing appeared normal no excess panting. We took him to the vet within 6 minutes of this happening and he was given an anti sickness injection and another 2 injections and we took him home The eyes flickering lasted for just over an hour and the unsteadiness on his legs is better but not 100% 6 hours later. Our vet was quite vague and would not commit to any diagnosis and we just have to wit and see but wondered if you had any ideas. Zeik is our world and just want any ideas thanks in advance

June 8, 2018

Zeik's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Your Veterinarian would have been vague as there are many different possible conditions that it may be and without having a thorough examination and numerous tests (the tests may all come back normal) it is difficult to say what may have happened. Head trauma, infections, poisoning (may still have occurred), heart disease among other causes may lead to similar symptoms. Monitor Zeik for the time being and try to keep him calm and if any other symptoms present, contact your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 9, 2018

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Mateo

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Pug

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Clouding
Head Tilt
Loss Of Balance
Eye Movement
Loss Of Appetite
Falling To One Side

My pug is 9 years old he stated to walk like unstable and eyes are moving back and forth, vomited and don’t want to eat or drink anything, can’t sleep ( maybe caused by eyes moving to much and too fast ) it started yesterday and he couldn’t sleep at all last night.

May 30, 2018

Mateo's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Nystagmus and loss of balance in a dog may be due to a vestibular disorder which may resolve on its own; however there are other causes for these symptoms which are more serious and may include head trauma, brain tumours, neurological disorders, severe ear infections, infectious disease among other causes. You should monitor Mateo for the time being, but I would recommend visiting your Veterinarian for an examination before the weekend to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 31, 2018

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Chuck

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French Bulldog

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Eyes Darting Back And Forth
Rigid Front Limbs

Hi there! My dog had an episode today where his front limbs went rigid and his eyes darted back and forth for less than two minutes (this occurred while he was resting/asleep). He appeared a bit disoriented afterwards, but was acting otherwise normally- no loss of consciousness, foaming at the mouth, vomiting etc. Less than an hour prior, he had eaten too fast and was choking and then regurgitated his food. I rushed him to our vet after the episode and she did a neurological exam, said that it was most likely not a seizure but recommended taking him to the emergency room. At the emergency room, the vet also agreed it was not a seizure, but rather nystagmus or a vasovagal event that caused a decrease in blood supply to his brain. He did not recommend keeping him overnight or any other tests/course of treatment. Should I be concerned that there is a more serious underlying cause? He has had blood work as recently as 2 months ago and all was normal, and his work-up today (heart rate/ temp) was normal.

April 17, 2018

Chuck's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Sometimes these episodes are one-offs and other times they are a sign of something more serious; if two Veterinarians are sure it wasn’t a seizure I would just monitor Chuck for now and note any behaviour changes or anything else significant. If another episode occurs, you should definitely look into further testing. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 18, 2018

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Rusty

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Aus shepherd, spaniel mix

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Eyes Darting Back And Forth

I heard a noise from another room and walked in to find my dog shaking a bit like he was nervous, and his eyes darting back and forth rapidly. I sat him down and called his name several times but he just sat there with his eyes doing this ping-pong thing for about a minute. He finally stopped, regained focus in his eyes, ate a treat, and is now seemingly fine (breathing normally, walking around, etc). I'm wondering if he might've tried jumping on my shelf and hit his head (hence the noise I heard), or if this is a more serious matter? Will take him to vet.

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Jaxson

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Doberman Pinscher

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8 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Rapid Eye Movement

I have an 8 1/2 week old Dobie with rapid vertical eye movement. I'm trying to get guidance if this will abate with age or if he should be returned to the breeder. The last thing I want to do. He is stable walking, has no vomiting or head tilting and is eating and drinking normally. We have seen the ER, they diagnose nystagmus with no prognosis. Say it is probably congenital.

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max

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Unknown

dog-age-icon

2 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Weakness
Loss Of Balance
Loss Of Appetite
Nystagmus
Stumbling

hello sir/madam please guide me About four days ago a stray puppy arrived at our house. Two days later, symptoms of illness were seen in him. After being referred to the veterinary hospital, treatment unfortunately not effective, and after 10 hours it was wasted in sorrow. symptoms:diarrhea,weakness,stumbing,nystagmus. body temperature:36 c in vet.hospital feeding in tow days:milk with egg and honey,poultry&sheep meat(cooked), treatment:ringer serum about 200cc,anntibiotic iv,vit. b12 iv.dexametazon iv I wanted to know what could be the cause of the disease?

dog-name-icon

Bibi

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L/H mimiature dachshund

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Ten Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Flicking Eyes, Especially The Left

I breed longhaired miniature dachshunds (they are my pets and live in the house with us) one of the pups in a recent litter has jerk Nystagmus since she opened her eyes... she flies around the place, has no other issues except the eyes rolling to the left and sometimes a slight head tilt. I’m guessing it’s congenital and wondering, did she get it from the mum or mum AND dad.. I don’t know if I should not breed the bitch again or just not with the father of the puppies???

Nystagmus Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,500

Average Cost

$1,800