Can Dogs Get Vertigo?

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Do you ever get that feeling when you’ve climbed what feels like a million steps for an apparently ‘unmissable’ view, only to get to the top and feel nothing but dizzy, sick, and downright unpleasant? That feeling we call vertigo, but it’s also known as vestibular disease and it affects the inner ear or the vestibular nerve. In humans it can lead to anxiety and nausea and stop you doing everyday tasks. If your dog were to have it, caution would need to be taken to ensure the underlying cause wasn’t something more sinister like a tumor. But can dogs even get vertigo?

Can Dogs Get Vertigo?

YES!

People may think you suffer from vertigo when you’re at a great height, but you can actually get it at sea level and dogs can 100% get it too! If you’re worried your dog may have vertigo, continue reading to learn how you can get your dog diagnosed and treated.

Does My Dog Have Vertigo?

Everyone has heard of vertigo, but what do symptoms in your dog actually look like? Is your dog circling or falling? Does your dog’s head tilt to one side? Can you see an obvious loss of coordination? Is your dog vomiting? Can you see a rhythmic movement of the eyeballs? All of these could be indicators that your dog is suffering from vertigo.

But what causes vertigo in dogs? Peripheral vertigo is the most common and concerns the portion of the vestibular system located in the ear of your dog. Anything from ear infections, inflammation, head injuries, and adverse reactions to antibiotics can cause peripheral vertigo.

Central vestibular disease is concerned with the actual central nervous system and is caused by bleeding in the brain, tumors, and serious infections.

To diagnose vertigo your vet will first examine your dog, in particular, their ear. An MRI and CT scan may also be required, as could X-rays. This will help identify any underlying causes. Your vet will also want to run through your dog’s medical history to help identify the cause and confirm the diagnosis.

For more information on the symptoms, causes, and diagnosis of vertigo in dogs, check out our guide to Vertigo in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Vertigo?

The treatment for vertigo depends wholly on the underlying cause. Having said that, ear infections are by far the most common cause, so treatment for ear infections is very likely. This will usually entail a course of antibiotics. But your dog may also be prescribed medication to combat nausea, anxiety and motion sickness. There is also the chance sedatives will be needed to keep your dog comfortable.

If the vertigo has been caused by more serious problems, such as tumors or growths, then they may need to be removed surgically. If in the brain, this will be an extremely serious procedure and potentially life-threatening.

Recovery from vertigo will again depend on the underlying cause. But fortunately, the prognosis for most dogs who are affected by vertigo is excellent in all but the most extreme cases. If an ear infection is the cause, your dog could be back to his normal self in just a couple of weeks once the antibiotics have done their job. If a serious operation is required though, your dog may need many months before it is fully recovered.

For first-hand accounts from other owners and answered questions from our trained, in-house vets, read our guides to Vertigo and Vestibular Disease in dogs.

How Is Vertigo Similar in Dogs and Humans?

You will see a lot of similarities in the way vertigo manifests itself in dogs and humans. Some of the most common symptoms you can expect to see are as follows:

  • Both dogs and humans can appear dizzy and fall over.

  • Both may suffer with vomiting and consistent nausea.

  • Vertigo may cause both dogs and humans to appear anxious and uncomfortable doing their normal day-to-day activities.

  • Both dogs and humans may tilt their head to one side.

  • Both may be unable to walk, or in some cases even stand.

How Is Vertigo Different in Dogs and Humans?

While there are a lot of similarities in the symptoms of vertigo seen in dogs and humans, it is worth highlighting that there are several differences too.

  • In humans a ringing of the ears or full hearing loss is reported. It is less clear whether dogs suffer this symptom.

  • Humans often sweat profusely when suffering with vertigo, this is seen far less in dogs.

  • Vertigo can be caused by headaches in humans, unfortunately, it is not clear whether this is also the same for dogs.

Case Study

Cato was a 4-year-old Siberian Husky who randomly started displaying symptoms of vertigo. He seemed very unbalanced and unable to walk properly. He kept throwing up his food and seemed in considerable discomfort and confusion. The vet quickly identified an ear infection through a physical examination and three weeks later Cato was back to bounding around the house and up to his usual mischief. What this case showed, though, was that ear infections are by far the most common cause of vertigo in dogs and that sticking to a course of antibiotics should clear up the problem swiftly.