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Dr. Gary
Dr. Gary, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 19798
Experience:  DVM, Emergency Veterinarian, BS (Physiology)
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Ataxia, 8 yr old male German Shepard, may have gotten overheated, in outside pen -5 d

Customer Question

ataxia, 8 yr old male German Shepard, may have gotten overheated, in outside pen for 4-5 days while owner on vacation. Dog has general chronic joint changes, arthritis symptoms, We arrived home to find him ataxic, difficulty rising or standing, if you assist him he can stand but wobbles, not coordinated with leg movements, has bright mood, happy to see us,it appeared he had fresh water and food. we brought him in cool room, he is drinking and eating soups with electrolyte supplement and raw egg, 3 10 ounce servings, he has had probably 10 ice cubes and 10 ounces of water
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Gary replied 2 years ago.
Hello, I'm Dr Gary. I've been practicing veterinary medicine since 2007. I look forward to helping with your questions/ concerns.
This doesn't sound like heat stroke to me. It sounds like your dog has Vestibular Disease. The vestibular system is the connection from the brain stem to the inner ear and it coordinates balance. Vestibular disease is a disruption in that pathway.
The cause in young dogs is usually due to an inner ear infection. In older dogs it's usually due to an unknown cause and we call it old dog vestibular. Rarely it is caused by a brain stem tumor. Common presenting signs are: head tilt, nystagmus (rapid eye movement), falling, circling, rolling and nausea.
The good news is that old dog vestibular disease will usually resolve slowly over 7-10 days with no specific therapy. I usually put them on Meclizine (Antivert) to help with the nausea and I think it helps to resolve the signs faster than with no therapy. The dose I use is 25 mg once daily. Meclizine is available over the counter at most human drug stores.
If the signs progress over the next couple days, then an MRI would be indicated to rule out a brain stem tumor. Try not to get too discouraged as it can take some dogs up to 5-7 days to regain balance and to be able to walk normally in the severely affected.
I hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.