A dog acting wobbly, like he is drunk, isn’t something you should ignore because surely it is not something normal. Although there are a few situations that can be behind this behavior in your dog, the good news is that most of the time, they are not all that serious or life-threatening.
Old Dog Syndrom, scientifically known as vestibular disease, is a disorder you’ll usually notice in older dogs, that most of the time is not life-threatening. But before we can talk about the actual vestibular disease, let’s first understand what the vestibular system is and what it actually does. This is a system that works toward helping the eyes, head, neck, and limbs keep their balance.
This system is comprised of both peripheral and central components, with the brain being the central piece of this puzzle. Among the most important peripheral components is the inner ear, with a very important function of transmitting different kinds of information to the brain. The vestibular system will be responsible for motion, spatial orientation, but also general balance.
A very simplistic explanation is that vestibular disease is basically a type of vertigo, even though it can easily be confused for other, more serious health problems. For example, the vestibular disease can easily be mistaken for strokes or brain tumors. disease. There are different types of vestibular disease, like central vestibular and peripheral vestibular disease, the second one being the most common.
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Central vestibular disease is usually considered a lot more severe because it usually points toward cancer, brain bleeding, or other situations that can easily become life-threatening. Interestingly enough, the central vestibular disease is a lot rarer in dogs than peripheral vestibular disease.
An infection of the ear will cause dogs to lose their balance, just like in the case of people. The dog will usually start walking just like being drunk when the infection causes him to lose balance. Other symptoms might involve your dog being less likely to chew on his food, pawing at the infected ear, or shaking his head. If you notice that your dog eats less and less due to the pain he feels while opening his jaws, you should try to take him to the vet before medical issues like dehydration start to pop up.
The vet is the one who will decide if tissue samples will be needed for proper diagnosis and if medications should be given to treat the infections. An ear infection, just like any other infection in a living body, can potentially become very severe and life-threatening, which is why you should never postpone a visit to the vet.
One of the most serious health problems that could be behind the wobbly state of your dog is a stroke. Other very common symptoms of a stroke in a dog are uncoordinated behavior, head tilting, and random falling. Strokes will mostly happen in older dogs that are already dealing with other health problems like cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, or other serious illnesses.
If you think your dog had a stroke is it very important to take him to the vet as soon as possible, as the actual treatment will ultimately depend on the root cause. The good news is that strokes are rarely something dogs go through, and usually, the cause will lie somewhere else.
The short answer is no. Vestibular disease is not fatal and should clear itself within two weeks or less. If you take your dog to the veterinarian and he receives a vestibular disease diagnosis, then usually, you will simply be advised to wait it out and see if the symptoms are gone within a couple of weeks. The only medication prescribed in most cases is something against nausea if this is a side effect of the dizziness.
What you can do in the meantime, is make sure that your dog avoids any situations that might test his balance, like walking up or down stairs.