Have you heard of old dog syndrome? It sounds a bit like something that happens as the normal process of a dog aging. However, it actually refers to a medical condition that can affect older dogs, but also dogs of any age.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what old dog syndrome is, the symptoms to watch for, and more. Let’s get started!
What is Old Dog Syndrome?
The condition is known as “old dog syndrome” is called old dog vestibular disorder. This disease affects the vestibular system, which is the system in the body that works to maintain balance. This condition is commonly “old dog syndrome” because it usually affects dogs over the age of seven years. However, it can be found in younger dogs, too.
The central portion of the vestibular system is located in the brain, while the outer components are located in the middle and inner ear. When a dog develops this condition, his balance is affected. This means it may be difficult for him to walk due to dizziness and vertigo. However, in most cases, the disease is not serious, but it must be treated by a vet.
Vestibular disease can develop in different ways. There’s one form of the disease called idiopathic vestibular disease. This is a form of the disease for which no cause can be found.
Other times, old dog syndrome can be set off by an ear infection, a perforated eardrum, or even as a side effect of some medications. The condition can also be caused by an injury to the dog’s neck from a collar, a fall, or another issue. What’s more, certain dog breeds seem to be affected by vestibular disease more than others, including Dobermans and German Shepherds.
Vestibular Disease May Resemble a Stroke
Many pet parents believe their dog may be having a stroke when their fur baby actually has vestibular disease. How can you tell a stroke from old dog syndrome?
You may notice these symptoms if your dog has a stroke:
- Loss of balance
- Head tilt
- Pacing, circling, turning the wrong way when called
- Abnormal eye movements/facial expressions
- Impaired vision
- Loss of control over bladder and bowels
- Collapse, loss of consciousness
- Acute weakness and/or paralysis in one or more limbs
These symptoms differ slightly from vestibular disease in dogs.
Symptoms of Old Dog Syndrome
You may notice these symptoms if your dog has developed vestibular syndrome:
- Head tilt
- Standing with an unusually wide stance (due to dizziness/vertigo)
- Not wanting to eat or drink
- Lack of coordination
- Falling over
- Continuous circling in one direction
- Rapid eye movement while awake
- Choosing to sleep on the floor or other hard surfaces
The symptoms of a stroke and vestibular syndrome differ in some respects. With vestibular disease, the symptoms usually come on very fast and are dramatic. The most common symptoms of old dog syndrome are loss of balance and rapid eye movements when the dog is awake.
However, most pet parents would have a difficult time telling the difference between a stroke or old dog syndrome. Either way, it’s important to get your dog to the vet if he develops any of the symptoms listed for a stroke or old dog syndrome. The vet is the only person to make a definitive diagnosis.
How Vestibular Disease is Diagnosed
Vestibular disease in dogs can be diagnosed through the dog’s medical history, symptoms, and the result of urine and blood tests. Depending on the dog’s symptoms, the vet may also order x-rays or other images of the head, which provide images of the middle and inner ears.
The vet may diagnose your dog with old dog syndrome if:
- The dog is older (though this condition can show up in younger dogs, too)
- Sudden onset
- No detectable cause (infections, trauma, or other medical conditions)
- Symptoms resolve within a few weeks
In this case, the vet may diagnose your dog with idiopathic vestibular disease, which means no cause was found.
Treatment of Vestibular Disease in Dogs
The good news is that most dogs’ symptoms will begin to improve on their own. It may take 2-3 days before you see improvement. Full recovery may take about 2-4 weeks.
In severe cases of old dog syndrome, however, it may take as long as six weeks for your dog to recover.
If your dog is suffering from vomiting and nausea, the vet may prescribe medications to control and reduce these symptoms. In addition, anti-inflammatory medication and/or antibiotics can help if your dog has an ear infection or another problem. Corticosteroids are sometimes used to reduce the symptoms, especially if they’re caused by inflammation in the ear.
How to Help Your Dog as He Recovers
As your dog recovers, he may need some assistance to get him through. For instance, it may be necessary to go outside with your dog when he goes potty. This way, if he falls, you’ll be ready to help him. Your dog will also take comfort from your presence as he does his business.
It may also be necessary to keep your dog on the ground floor of your home if you have upstairs bedrooms, etc. If your dog must deal with stairs, you can place a large, rolled-up towel under your dog’s abdomen to help him keep balance as he goes upstairs. Another option is to use a dog harness, which is the right size for your fur baby, and use the handle on the back to help him up the stairs.
Another good idea is to make sure lights are turned on in dim areas and at night. This will help your dog to have better balance, as nighttime can make the dizziness and vertigo worse.
Most vets advise against carrying your dog because this will prolong his condition. It’s best for your fur baby to get around on his own as much as possible.
At any time during your dog’s recovery, if he becomes worse or you have questions, then do call the vet. They will have the best advice and guidance on how to help your dog as he recovers.
Remember that recovery can take up to two to four weeks or longer in severe cases of old dog syndrome.