How Idiopathic Vestibular Disease Affects Dogs
Idiopathic vestibular disease (IVD) means that the vestibular system in a dog has gone awry for no known reason. The vestibular system is what gives people, and dogs, their balance, coordination and equilibrium. When dogs develop IVD, their equilibrium becomes disrupted suddenly, dramatically and without warning. The profound symptoms of this disorder can incapacitate the dogs and are frightening for owners, as well.
Symptoms of Idiopathic Vestibular Disease
Dogs with idiopathic vestibular disease suffer an extremely sudden onset of one or more of the following symptoms:
- Dizziness (labrynthitis)
- Loss of balance
- Loss of coordination (ataxia)
- Reluctance to rise or stand
- Inability to rise or stand (recumbency)
- Nausea (recurrent bouts)
- Vomiting (sudden onset; recurrent bouts; may last for days)
- Loss of appetite (inappetence; anorexia)
- Loss of thirst
- Stumbling; staggering
- Rapid irregular eye movements (nystagmus)
- Head tilt (mild to marked)
Dogs with IVD appear to be in considerable distress and discomfort, and the symptoms can quickly become debilitating. Most symptoms peak in about 24 to 36 hours, but varying degrees of incoordination and balance abnormalities can continue for a number of weeks. Despite the startlingly acute onset of IVD, almost all affected animals recover spontaneously, without extensive medical treatment. Occasionally, a dog will have a lingering head tilt.
Dogs at Increased Risk
Idiopathic vestibular disease tends to affect middle-aged and older dogs. It occurs most often in dogs over 7 years of age, although it has been known to occur in younger dogs. There is no reported sex or breed predisposition to developing IV. Dogs experiencing some of the symptoms listed above should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. While idiopathic vestibular disease is not normally life-threatening, a number of other more serious conditions can cause symptoms that mimic those of IVD.