You know that feeling when you’re standing on a tall building, looking down and then your stomach turns, dizziness ensues, and you have to get down quickly? That feeling we call vertigo can also affect your dog! In dogs it is more commonly known as vestibular disease and can cause nausea, loss of coordination and a head tilt.
Does your dog lean, fall or sometimes circle? Do they vomit after movement, have a visible loss of coordination, or a rhythmic movement of their eyeballs? All of these can by symptoms of vertigo. Vertigo is more commonly seen in old dogs, but can affect dogs of all ages. Getting treatment for vertigo in your dog is important, otherwise, he may get anxious and sick when you take him to public places and may eventually be unable to leave the house.
Causes of Vertigo in Dogs
Peripheral Vestibular Disease
The vestibular system is the system responsible for your dog’s sense of balance. One section of the vestibular system is the peripheral portion, located behind the ear. This can be affected by infections, growths, and adverse reactions to medication. Peripheral vertigo is the most common type of vertigo seen in dogs. But how can you prevent it developing?
As the most common cause of peripheral vertigo is inner ear infection, preventative measures center around preventing ear infections. The first step is regular checking and maintenance of your dog’s ears. You are looking for discharge and swelling and keeping a nose out for a peculiar odor. In conjunction with that, you need to keep your dog’s ears clean. To do this, regularly dab and wash them with a damp cloth.
It is also important to dry your dog’s ears after a bath or swimming. Bacteria and fungus thrive in wet ears, so taking a towel to them after a bath can really help to prevent ear infections developing.
Both of these measures may seem obvious, but can be fairly effective in preventing ear infections that lead to vertigo. They are, however, short-term measures and are only effective when you keep up with them.
Central Vestibular Disease
Vertigo can also be caused by a compromised central nervous system. This is much rarer and usually much more severe, therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, harder to treat and to prevent. Vertigo of this sort can be caused by brain tumors, bleeding in the brain, and inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system. But how can you as an owner take steps to prevent these conditions?
The most effective steps you can take as an owner for tumors and bleeds are maintenance and monitoring of your dog. Tumours are abnormal growths of cells. What you can do is learn the signs to look out for.
Keep an eye out for seizures, an inability to walk, circling, staggering, plus changes in their bark. If you see any of these, or reduced mental alertness in your dog, take them for medical assistance immediately.
Regular exercise, a balanced diet of lean meats, fresh fruit and veg and no starchy foods, can all help your dog’s brain and body grow strong, reducing the long term likelihood of the aforementioned conditions developing.
Although swift treatment and maintenance could reduce the likelihood of vertigo developing, they can have only a limited chance of successfully preventing vertigo.
Incidents of both peripheral and central vestibular disease massively increase with age. Bleeds, tumors and infections all increase as your dog’s immune system weakens and it is less able to fight off infections. Ear infections and head injuries are also much more common in older dogs. All of these conditions can cause vertigo in your dog and all remain challenging to prevent.
Fortunately, all is not lost. As an owner you have to adjust their lifestyle as they age to protect them from accidents and injuries. If your dog bounds around the house still, it would be prudent to try and minimize potential accidents from sharp objects around the house that are at their head height. For example, sharp table edges can be covered with discreet soft padding.
It could also be worth keeping your dog on an extendable lead when on walks, to prevent him running through barbed wire, or into potentially harmful objects. On top of that, feed a balanced diet with fresh fruit and veg and lean meats. This will ensure your dog’s bones and muscles are strong to help protect them from head trauma and injuries.
These long-term measures will only be effective in preventing vertigo related conditions to a limited extent, though.
Importance of Prevention
Preventing vertigo can have a significant effect on both your and your dog’s life. It can ensure they maintain their quality of life for as long as possible. It can see to it that your dog is happy and gets to stay doing all of its day-to-day activities well into old age.
In the long term, prevention can save you numerous visits to the vets and hefty bills. It will also mean you have a dog you can take out of the house and to public places for as long as possible.
The Vertigo Verdict
Vertigo is better known as vestibular disease in dogs. There are two types, peripheral and central. Central is extremely difficult to prevent, but with peripheral there are a number of steps you can take as an owner to prevent conditions that cause vertigo developing. You can keep their ears clean and dry. You can monitor their ears for any concerns and get them treated promptly. For central related vertigo, you can keep your dog safe with an extendable lead and keep their bones and muscles strong with a healthy, balanced diet. All will go some way in preventing the development of canine vertigo!