DISORIENTATION IN DOGS
DISORIENTATION IN DOGS
Disorientation can occur acutely, or develop and worsen over time depending on the cause. You may notice that at times, or consistently, your dog is developing what seems to be a struggle to maintain a balanced position, or perhaps all of a sudden his eyes cannot focus and dart back and forth. Disorders related to the vestibular system can be broken down into the peripheral and central disease. It is a common neurological condition in dogs, with no predisposition to sex or breed.
Symptoms of Disorientation in Dogs
There are many symptoms associated with the vestibular disease. Prompt attention by a qualified primary veterinary caregiver is the best course of action and will result in the most positive prognosis. Schedule a visit for your dog with the appropriate veterinarian without delay if you see any of the following abnormal signs:
Vestibular disorders are either peripheral or central. The vestibular system is an important and critical part of the central nervous system, coordinating with the visual (focus) and the gravity (detected by skin receptors detecting pressure). The sense of orientation experienced by your pet will be affected by the proper function of these neural systems.
Causes of Disorientation in Dogs
The causes for disorientation in dogs are not totally known; further study and discovery will enlighten the medical field as to the mysteries of this condition.
Idiopathic vestibular disease
Central vestibular disease
Diagnosis of Disorientation in Dogs
Prompt veterinary care is essential in order to diagnose the cause of the disorientation that your pet is experiencing. Having no balance, or having the sense of being unable to focus and walk will affect your dog in many ways. The veterinarian will concentrate on making your dog comfortable first and foremost. If the nausea and spatial disorientation are extreme, your veterinary caregiver will administer medication to ease the symptoms. Some pets, who have been too distressed and imbalanced to drink, for example, will be given intravenous fluids to hydrate and equalize the system.
The veterinarian will ask for a history of your pet’s behavior over the past weeks, and will want to know if you can pinpoint how and when the symptoms began. The assessment of the nystagmus (eye movement direction, horizontal or vertical for example) can lead to a diagnosis. However, because animals can learn somewhat to adapt to balance, the indications may be variable.
Ataxia (unsteady gait) may be difficult to interpret because of the stress that your dog is going through as a result of the imbalance issues, and the possible need of support for your dog to be able to walk. A nonslippery or regular surface may be required because your pet will find any flaw in the surface difficult to navigate in his state.
Indications for the veterinarian may be facial paralysis (as in peripheral) or a change in mental activity or weakness on the entirety of one side (as in central). If your veterinary professional is unable to determine the diagnosis of why your pet is disoriented, she may choose further diagnostic tools.
After a complete physical and neurological examination, the veterinarian may decide to analyze baseline diagnostics by checking blood pressure, complete blood count, urinalysis, thyroid level and serum biochemical profile. Examination of the ear canal, or very careful removal of substances of the ear canal (for analysis) may be done.
If the veterinarian has a suspicion of a central lesion, or after a few days or weeks the symptoms are not ceasing, more intensive testing may be ordered. MRI (to image the brain or middle and inner ear) could be ordered to look for central or peripheral disease. If further testing is necessary, an option is a spinal tap to rule out meningitis or encephalitis.
Treatment of Disorientation in Dogs
It should be noted that some types of disorientation in dogs can clear up on its own while others may point to a more serious condition. A central vestibular disorder has limited hope for a successful treatment because the brainstem area does not respond well to neurosurgery. There are drugs currently under study with the hopes of offering a solution to the disease, as in the case of tumors for example.
In the case of peripheral disorders, the scenario is quite different. Please note the following treatment procedures that may accompany a diagnosis of a peripheral disorientation (idiopathic, inner ear or vestibular syndrome):
Recovery of Disorientation in Dogs
As is the case with any time that your pet is ill, follow up with the veterinarian is always part of the equation. The recovery process may be a challenge, but with your caring manner and practical support, your dog can often resume a sense of normalcy. Your primary veterinary caregiver will remind you that patience as you await results is key with a diagnosis of any vestibular complication.
Remain calm and caring at all times. Offer comfort, warmth, and attention. Aid your dog as necessary with balance needs in his day to day function. Dietary changes might be suggested, as will a follow-up visit at the clinic a few days after the initial appointment. It should be noted that a head tilt may remain, even after your pet recovers. Relapse of vestibular disease is not the usual scenario.
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