Monday, December 14, 2015

PSA - Old Dog Vestibular Disease

  Almost two weeks ago, our dog Buck got sick. This story has a happy ending, so don't worry about finishing this post, but it's a weird illness that I had never heard of before and I wanted to spread the word about it.
   What happened was Buck got up to get a drink of water and almost immediately puked up all of his dinner.  And then while we were cleaning that up - he got sick again. Everything else seemed normal at this time, but we decided we were going to take him to the vet in the morning to get him checked out.
   When we got up in the morning, Buck wouldn't eat and his mobility had diminished. He wasn't moving much, but when he did move, he was kind of stumbling. He also looked weird. His eyes were kind of darting and his head was a little tilted. I actually asked Dudley if maybe Buck had a stroke. It was pretty scary.
   Dudley took Buck to the vet and it turned out he had Vestibular Disease. It's kind of a doggie vertigo that is caused by an irritation to the nerves that connect the inner ear to the brain. It can be caused by an ear infection, or even a brain tumor. However, sometimes it just happens - especially in older dogs. Dudley was told that it should be very treatable, was given some medicine and took Buck home. In theory, he'd be pretty bad for about 72 hours, but then things would start turning around.
   By that afternoon, Buck was worse. He was incredibly dizzy, which made him nauseated and unable to function as usual. He wouldn't eat anything, could barely walk and had to be carried outside to go potty. And he wouldn't straighten out his head. He kept it tilted to the side no matter what he was looking at.
   For the first 72 hours, Buck pretty much slept the entire time. We kept his room really dark and quiet and we tried to not disturb him too much. He would drink water, but had no interest in food at all. Unfortunately, when ever he drank too much, he would get sick so we had to limit how much he drank whenever he visited the water bowl. By Sunday (96 hours after onset), he had a little more energy and was walking a little better (he started trying to follow Dudley around the house again - Buck LOVES Dudley), but that was it. We were especially concerned because he still wouldn't eat anything -  not ground beef, not plain chicken, not rice - NOTHING.  This, of course, freaked us out because Hef stopped eating when he was sick, and he ended up having cancer.
   So on Monday, I called our vet to let him know that Buck still wasn't eating. After scaring the bejeezes out of me by mentioning the possibility of a brain tumor, he recommended a prescription food that we should try - Hills A/D. We were a little scared to give it to Buck because if he didn't eat it, then he probably DID have a tumor. But, Thank God, he loved it and ate that stinky food right up (seriously, it reeked!). Bless his heart - he was probably starving but nothing smelled good until we got that.
   Now almost two weeks later, Buck is about 80% back to normal. His head is still tilted, but not as dramatic as it was. He's not bumping into walls or falling over anymore. He might stumble a bit, but it's not often. He still refuses to eat his regular dog food, but we're starting to mix it into the food he will eat. We're hoping that by he end of the year, he'll be back to 100%
   I'm writing about this because I know most of my friends have dogs and this could happen to any of them. It was really scary to watch Buck go through this at the beginning, and honestly, it looked like something that was terminal at first. I read that some people believe that their dogs have had a stroke and have them put down. So, if your elderly dog suddenly starts showing signs of dizziness and loss of balance, or his head starts tilting and he gets sick - don't immediately panic. It might be vestibular disease.