Vertigo in Dogs

Vertigo in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Bleeding / Circling / Head Tilt / Loss of Balance / Separation Anxiety / Vomiting

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Rated as serious conditon

21 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Bleeding / Circling / Head Tilt / Loss of Balance / Separation Anxiety / Vomiting

Vertigo in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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What is Vertigo?

Canine vertigo is more commonly known by the medical term of vestibular disease. The vestibular system is the system that is responsible for an animal’s sense of balance and when this system is disrupted it can cause a severe loss of coordination and a characteristic head tilt. Diseases and disorders affecting either the brain or the inner structure of the ear can be responsible for the disorder developing. In most cases, this disorder is short-lived and relatively benign; however, the involvement of the central nervous system can negatively impact the outcome.

Canine vertigo, or vestibular disease, can cause loss of coordination, nausea, and a characteristic head tilt in affected animals. Triggers for this disorder can range from ear infections to stroke.

Symptoms of Vertigo in Dogs

The symptoms of canine vertigo are similar regardless of the cause, although the eye movements may be more frequent and more pronounced in central vestibular disease and loss of coordination may be more profound. Signs that your dog is experiencing vertigo can include:

  • Circling
  • Falling
  • Head tilt
  • Leaning
  • Loss of coordination
  • Rhythmic movement of the eyeballs 
  • Vomiting

Types

The vestibular system is the system that is responsible for helping your companion keep their sense of balance. There are two parts to the vestibular system that work together, the peripheral and the central. 

Peripheral

- This portion of the vestibular system is located mainly in the ear of the animal, and can become compromised due to things like infections, growths, or reactions to certain medications; most vertigo in dogs is peripherally based 

Central

- Vertigo with a central nervous system foundation is rarer, and can be more severe and often harder to treat; central nervous system involvement can indicate serious conditions such as brain tumors, bleeding in the brain itself, and inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system

Causes of Vertigo in Dogs

There are a number of circumstances that can cause an animal to experience vertigo and the triggers of peripheral vestibular disease differ from the conditions that initiate the development of central vestibular disease. 

Peripheral vestibular disease can be caused by:

  • Ear infections
  • Infection or inflammation of the cranial nerve
  • Injury to the ear or head
  • Polyps
  • Punctures to the eardrum
  • Reaction to antibiotics

Central vestibular disease can be caused by:

  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Brain tumor
  • Fungal infections of the brain stem
  • Infection or inflammatory disease

Incidents of both peripheral and central vestibular disease tend to increase as canines age, giving this disease the alternate name of “old dog vestibular disease.”

Diagnosis of Vertigo in Dogs

Although this disorder can be relatively benign, it can also be caused by more dangerous disorders such as bleeding in the brain, cancers, and stroke, so a consultation with your dog’s doctor is a good idea. Your visit to the veterinarian is likely to start with a general physical examination. The doctor making the evaluation will most likely include an ear exam as well as neurological tests to try and clarify the origin of the disorder. A complete history of the animal will also be requested as certain medications and some allergic reactions can mimic the symptoms of vestibular disorders.

If the condition is suspected to have central nervous system involvement, the use of an MRI or CT scan may be used in order to get a clearer picture of the structure of the brain itself and X-rays will help to determine if there are any issues with the bony structures in the ear that may be affecting the animal. Standard blood tests such as a biochemical profile and complete blood count can also help to expose any infections or imbalances that may be contributing to the problem.

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Treatment of Vertigo in Dogs

The treatment of this disorder is dependent on the underlying cause of the vertigo. One of the most common causes of peripheral vestibular disease is an inner ear infection. In these cases, a course of antibiotics will be used to eradicate the infection, and if your companion is experiencing nausea or anxiety, antinausea drugs, motion sickness medications and sedatives may also be prescribed to help keep the patient as comfortable as possible during the ordeal. If the disruption to the vestibular system is caused by any tumors, polyps, or other growths, then these obstacles will also need to be removed surgically before the symptoms will be alleviated.

If there are any medications or drugs that are suspected as the root cause of the disorder, those medications will also be ceased in order to return balance to the dog. Naturopathic veterinarians may also recommend herbs like chamomile, valerian root, and passionflower to help calm the patient, although you should consult a veterinary professional before administering any medications or supplements to your pets to avoid any complications.

Recovery of Vertigo in Dogs

The prognosis for dogs who are affected by vertigo is excellent in all but the most severe cases. Typically, the elimination of the underlying cause also eliminates the disorder itself, although the involvement of the central nervous system may negatively impact this prognosis. Although this disorder is rarely painful, it is disorienting for the animal, and their environment should be kept calm and quiet during their recovery period, which can range from two to three days to a few weeks, depending on how the disorder originated. Patients may have difficulty moving easily so ensuring that their food and water are easy to reach can be a crucial component to their recovery.

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Vertigo Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Sudden Onset Head Droop, Tail Droop, Staggering Gait Tending To A Circe. Will Respond To Me By Looking At Me. No Nystagmus, Vomiting, Diarrhea. Lasts About 5 Minutes, Then Normal. No Obvious Post-Ictal State. May Occur Daily Or Once A Month.

I question vertigo, the vet, after watching a video, didn’t know. Suggested trial of Keppra. I’m a neurologist and it doesn’t look like a seizure to me.

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, YOur dog may have vertigo and this may not be a seizure. Did your vet discuss CT with you or a referral to a veterinary neurologist? They can run the more advanced test than a normal vet can to figure out what is causing these issues. I hope your dog starts to improve soon.

July 10, 2020

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Glory

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Border Collie

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16 Weeks

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Circling
Head Tilt
Head Shaking
Head Held Low

Hi, I have a 16week old mix puppy I am fostering for a local rescue. She was pulled from the shelter about 6weeks ago and has been having these episodes ever since we got her but they are getting worse. She has a constant head tilt to the right side and often jults her head to that side every couple mins on a good day and every few seconds on a bad day. On bad days she will begin spinning to the right and sometimes lose her balance and fall. It's difficult for her to sleep because it bothers her and she usually lays down for 5 mins before she stats curling her neck to the right and rolling. She doesn't cry but it seems disorienting. She has been to our local vet multiple times. They tried antibiotics and packing her ear as well as two seizer meds with no improvement. They have referred her to a specialist and indicated she will likely need an MRI. The rescue cannot afford this and I feel for this little girl. My question is there anything else this could be, other things to try? We will likely go ahead with the consultation with the specialist even though an MRI isn't possible. Are their things I should ask the vet or important things to let the vet know? Thanks so much for your time!!!

July 2, 2018

Glory's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It certainly seems like there is a vestibular issue or other neurological issue, however it is very difficult sometimes to diagnose these types of conditions especially in puppies; congenital defects, inner ear infections, head trauma among other issues may lead to these symptoms but generally at this point an MRI would be the next logical step. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 2, 2018

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Peanut

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French Bulldog

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swaying

I'm babysitting my daughter's 1 year old French bulldog. He has not had any health problems but today we were napping on the couch and I heard him making gurgling noises. I panicked and thought he might be choking since he was on his back and flipped him over onto the floor really quickly. He immediately sat down and started swaying. After a few minutes he could walk but still sways and tips forward. It seems like I caused vertigo by the quick flipping over...can I have caused permanent damage or will it pass once he's settled...

June 23, 2018

Peanut's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is possible that Peanut is a little disoriented from being flipped over and it may take a little time for him to find his footing; I would keep an eye on him for the time being and monitor for improvement. There are other possible causes for swaying and dizziness which may include ear infections, head trauma, poisoning among other causes; if he doesn’t improve over the next few hours visit a Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 23, 2018

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Ben

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Golden Retriever

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11 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

Dizziness
Head Tilt,
Leaning To The Side

Our 11 year old golden retriever is experiencing vertigo. We know it is caused by cancer. He had a neural sheath tumor on his ear, which we had surgically removed. The lab said there were good margins, but about half a year later, he has a mass pressing against a nerve on his head. Our vet does not recommend another surgery. He has developed a pronounced head tilt, and has trouble with stairs, and recently even with walking if the surface is slippery (like hard wood floor vs carpet). Other than that, he is a happy guy. He eats and drinks and wants petting. He will even run on grass- not sure how he manages that, but he does. My question is: are there any treatments to alleviate the vertigo if one can not get rid of the cause of it? We know the day will come when we will have to euthanize him, but he is so totally happy, aside from this dizziness, that we do not feel that day is here yet. It would be a blessing to find something to help with this, so he can enjoy the rest of the time he has left to the utmost.

June 13, 2018

Ben's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Unfortunately treatment of vertigo is generally treatment or management of the underlying condition which makes managing Ben’s case difficult; many cases don’t respond to treatment and normally end up resolving either when the underlying cause is treated or the issue resolves spontaneously in idiopathic cases. I cannot think of anything to help Ben in this case. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 14, 2018

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Chibi

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Jack Russell Terrier

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16 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vertigo

Hi. My 16 yr old Jack Russell has had an episode of vertigo - beginning of April. Was given steroids and ABs. This seemed to be affecting his L side as he had head tilt and for a bit went round in circles to the L. He see to have it again. No head tilt but very wobbly and could be the other side. He has had nyastygmus and a wobbly head. No keen to move. Not too distressed - sleeping on my lap... How can I help him or do I just see how he gets on?

May 23, 2018

Chibi's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It certainly sounds like a vestibular issue, you should keep Chibi calm and rested, don’t allow too much movement and offer all the support that you can. You should monitor him for the time being but it would be wise to visit your Veterinarian to be on the safe side in case of an inner ear infection or other cause which may require treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 23, 2018

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Tucker

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Standard Poodle

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16 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Balance, Head Tilt

September of 2019, Tucker had his first episode of vestibular disease. We thought he'd had a stroke and would have to be euthanized, but a trip to the ER Vet gave us the vestibular diagnosis. They gave him a shot of anti-naseau drug and one anti-naseau pill, and said give it a couple of days. In that time he bounced back, but within a couple of days after that, had another episode - fortunately short-lived. Tucker will be 16 in April - so he's no spring chicken and we chose not to put him through a bunch of costly neurological tests. He had an episode 1-2 months after the initial bout - but it started in the morning and by the end of day, was fine. Currently, he is experiencing another episode - this one worse and lasting since early Saturday a.m. I picked up anti-naseau medication from my vet - but he is eating and drinking. His balance is awful though with a severe head tilt. I am able to take him outside, using a harness to help hold him up when he stumbles, and he is urinating and defecating. My question is, is it common for these episodes to reoccur or is this an odd case? And is there anything I can get from my vet to help with the dizziness?

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Max

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Mastiff

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4 Days

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt
Loss Of Balance
Red Eye
Spinning In Circles
Not Moving

Started with chronic ear infections. Then was diagnosed with megaesophagus and aspiration pneumonia and hospitalized for a week. Recovered now after 3 months of antibiotic and anti nausea meds. Started losing balance a week or so ago, got home from work and he was spinning in a tight circle and collapsed. Rushed to vet who advised I go see a neurologist after initial review. Neurologist stated signs all point to vestibular/vertigo, continued on antibiotics and steroids now for a week and has gotten so much worse. Used to be able to walk outside with help/support, but can barely get off floor without falling over. Saving grace is that he eats and drinks by hand feeding. Dictor said he may need surgery which requires a MRI to verify infection or tumor. Devastated because we just spent $8k battling the megaesophagus and have no way of paying for this if he doesnt get better. Did anyone else's dog get worse before they got better?

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Bella

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Labrador Retriever

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Circling
Poor Appetite
Anxiety
Falling Over
Eye Twitch

I thought she was going to die. Every time she tried to stand up, she’d immediately fall down. She was drooling like I’d never seen before. I could tell she was panicking by the look in her eyes. I thought she had eaten something it was bitten. I raced her to the vet and found out about dog vertigo. I was relieved to find out it’s not as serious as it looks. We are on day 2 and she’s able to stand longer and go potty on her own. I just wish I could get her to eat something other than “cookies” and I’m hoping she improves in the morning.

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Gizmo

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Shih Tzu

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14 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking Head
Walking In Circles
Uncoordinated
Unbalanced
Trouble See

My dog was perfectly healthy until about 2 months ago, i found him outside flaying his limbs, blood shot eye, drooling, & panting. Doctors say it wasnt a seizure. Something was wrong with his balance. He finally came back home, bed ridden, & diagnosed w/ inner ear infection or stroke or brain tumor. Since then, he has improved a lot, but still loses balance, he can see but not well, it’s mainly a lack of depth perception & his pupils still don’t react to light. Why since this episode, he’s having neurological problems? He was perfectly fine. Neurologist ruled out brain tumor bc of his improvement but another vet thinks it’s a tumor. Im so scared for my baby, I want him back to normal. If he had a stroke should he have already recovered? He’s been taking antibiotics for the possible ear infection. What’s your opinion on this?

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Chiquita

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Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Tired
Always Walking In Circles
Walking In Circles, Loss Of Apetite
Suspect Trouble Seeing

My grandmother owns a dog named Chiquita. She resides in Mexico so you cant get veterinary treatment easily unless you drive out of town. According to my grandmas description. Chiquita doesnt want to drink any water but she will eat milk soaked dog food. She will spend most of her day spinning in circles. My grandma thinks she might not be able to see very well or hear either. She isnt very coordinated anymore. I got her when she was 2 Months old and gave her to my grandma when she was 6 months old. She hasnt had any problems before.. what are a few home remedies my grandmother can try before going in to the vet. This has been happening about 3-4 weeks

Cannanine