Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you today. I do apologize that your question was not answered before. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online, read about your situation, and wanted to help.
Now when we see sudden periods of imbalance and drunken gait in elderly dogs, we do have a few concerns to consider. Since toxins are not an issue here, we instead need to consider brain
based issues (ie brain bleeds, swellings, growths
), middle ear
disease (ie inner ear infection), and a condition known as vestibular syndrome
(aka old dog syndrome).
With all this in mind, considering that her signs are sudden, we'd be most suspicious of vestibular syndrome. This arises from a miscommunication between the brain and vestibular system (which regulates balance). It is not know why it happens but affected dogs will often have a sudden onset drunken gait, wobbliness, sometimes a head tilt, flickering/rolling eyes, circling and extreme dizziness (which can cause stomach
upset). Often it settles within hours to days as the vestibular system essentially reboots and balance is restored. That said, some dogs can have this arise recurrently, so you there is a risk this could happen again.
Now if she is just staggering but otherwise fine, then we can try to keep her calm, safe from anywhere she could fall, and make sure she can eat and drink. Of course if her signs are severe or she isn't settling over 12-24 hours, then we'd want to consider starting her on treatments to reduce this for her quicker. In those cases, we can help them by treating with steroids to reduce any brain inflammation and medication to increase brain blood flow (ie Vivitonin). As well, if a dog is nauseous with this, then we may also treat with anti-vomiting medication as well. For the longer term, we do often use anti-oxidants and supplements like Aktivait to reduce recurrence.
Overall, based on your lass's history, I would be most concerned about vestibular syndrome for her. Therefore, in this situation, you do want to monitor her and keeping her from harm from this stage. Though if she isn't settling, then it'd be ideal to have a check with her vet. The vet can perform a neurological examination to make sure those other causes are not an issue here. As long as the exam findings are normal, then you can discuss the above treatments to help settle this for her quicker and keep these episodes at a minimum for her at this stage in her life.
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best, *****