Last updated: October 12th, 2022 | By: JACOB WILLIAMS

Do you have a senior dog? Have there been moments when you have thought that your dog might just have a stroke? You aren’t the only one to do so. This article will cover some of the important details about this.

No dog owner wants to witness a situation where their pet has a stroke. However, there might be moments when your old furry friend might start to walk in circles, feel giddy and walk around unsteadily. Additionally, it can also hold its head on one side. In most cases, pet owners will think that it is a stroke. But chances are your dog is facing the idiopathic vestibular disease.

It is one of the common conditions that most older dogs get affected by and can take place rather abruptly. In fact, it’s a syndrome that appears rather bad and generally gets better with time and requires no treatment. But there have been situations where this disease has also resulted in brain tumors where the pet had to be euthanized. Hence, when you are worried about stroke in older dogs, it is necessary to know about this disease and get aware of some of the sudden signs. It will help you to get to the root of the system and know all that you can do about it.

Understanding the vestibular system

dog stroke sign

Like humans, dogs’ vestibular system is accountable for retaining a sense of balance. Also, when anything is wrong with such a system, it will feel that your pet is drunk. The vestibular disease can occur with a blend of signs:

  • Abrupt vomiting
  • A sudden head tilt
  • Circling in any single direction
  • Falling over, losing balance, and an unsteady gait
  • Moving from one side to the other rapidly, which is called nystagmus

You need to know that all these symptoms aren’t distinctive or diagnostic when it comes to the idiopathic vestibular disease. Various other ailments can come up with the same symptoms, such as an inner ear infection, brain tumor, sudden brain bleeds, and inflammatory disease. Having said that, as and when the symptoms appear suddenly from nowhere in the older dog, there is a chance that it is nothing dangerous with a favorable scope for enhancement with a little care and time.

What happens next?

When a dog shows the above signs, blood pressure and blood work are suggested to ensure no apparent disease exists. It is, therefore, essential to get an MRI done to assess the inner brain and ear, enabling the ideal assessment of the disease. But most pet owners don’t pursue this owing to the expense.

It is essential to assess both ear canals. If the diagnosis suggests an antibiotic therapy, it should be pursued, more so because the inner ear ailment is a probable cause of the vestibular sign. When it comes to the inner ear, you wouldn’t be able to see this at the time of an exam, as the view gets covered by the eardrum. In fact, it acts as the closed door which sits right in front of the dog’s inner and middle ear. But in case there is a not-so-good-looking external ear and an inflamed eardrum, an inner ear ailment might be present.

And when the clinical signs of the dogs are highly severe, such as the inability to walk, it is essential to opt-in for supportive care along with IV fluids, and the injectable anti-nausea medications are highly recommended. Also, the urinary catheters get placed because of hygienic reasons. When the signs are mild, the pets can usually get managed at their house with nursing care and medication to soothe the motion sickness.

Understanding the vestibular disease closely

can dogs have strokes

The idiopathic vestibular disease comes with a simple rule. When you see that your old dog is improving within 72 hours, all the signs are primarily because of this ailment. The chances of extra diagnostic testing might not be required. When there is zero enhancement and progression of the symptoms, it can lead to something serious, for instance, a brain tumor. You will need to opt-in for an MRI to arrive at the correct diagnosis. Also, when your older dog has the idiopathic vestibular disease, you can witness very slow but gradual enhancement in the health within a minimal time. And that will make the pet gradually return to normal within 7 to 14 days. But there can be cases where a few dogs might tilt their head for a while and then become completely cured of it.

You must know that idiopathic vestibular disease isn’t a very painful. Also, most pet doctors often think that the decision for euthanasia is mainly a permanent decision. Hence, it would help if you were willing to wait and see the changes that are to come and give some time for your older dog to recover. There is also a scope that you will see enhancement very soon, and the complicated decision of euthanasia can be done at a later date. You can wait to see whether there is a change in the pet’s life quality or not. Most often than not the veterinarians and the doctors feel that the reason for holding hope and getting cautiously optimistic, is because the condition of idiopathic vestibular disease is a common cause associated with abrupt signs of aging in the older dogs.

Hence, when you find your older dog getting giddy and unsteady, you shouldn’t fret thinking that it is having a stroke. The chances of it witnessing a vestibular disease are higher. That doesn’t mean you don’t take matters seriously and stay at home doing nothing about your dog’s discomfort. Taking instant and clever action is the need of the hour. Ideally, you should rush and get a medical intervention to ensure that your dog is free from a stroke. The vet might run a few checks to decide on that. Once that gets confirmed, it is essential for you to follow the necessary medical treatment protocol to ensure that your dog heals fast and doesn’t have the weakness associated with vestibular disease.