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Lisa, Certified Vet Tech
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 16554
Experience:  AAS Vet Tech. Bully breed rehab & Behavior modification
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I came home from work and my 13 year old lab was shaking and

Customer Question

I came home from work and my 13 year old lab was shaking and now he is disoriented and can't walk very good. He drank some water and then threw up. He has never acted this way. He takes meds for arthritis twice a day. His walking doesn't seem to be getting better. It's been about 30 minutes.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Lisa replied 2 years ago.
Hello! My name is ***** ***** it will be my pleasure to help you with your dog today. Just like an in person consult, I have a few questions of my own to ensure I give you the best advice possible...

Is his head tilted at all?

Are his eyes moving from side to side?

Did this just come up suddenly?

Any chance he got into anything unusual?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
no - he didn't get into anything unusual. And yes his eyes are moving side to side. Head is tilted. He drank a lot of water but not interested in food. He wants to get up and be with us but he can't get his balance. He is almost 14 but has been very coherent and aware. This came on all of a sudden.
Expert:  Lisa replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the additional information. I really appreciate it.
It sounds to me like your Rocket may have picked up a case of 'old dog disease'. The real name is***** which is also referred to as peripheral vestibular syndrome (the current "preferred name"), geriatric vestibular syndrome and idiopathic vestibular syndrome.
This disorder is more common in older dogs and thus the name geriatric vestibular syndrome -- but it can occur in middle aged dogs, too, so the name was changed. Idiopathic just means "happens for no known cause" -- so it is a good name but not the preferred one. It does sum up the situation well, though.
For some reason dogs can suddenly develop vestibular disease. The problem seems to be due to inflammation in the nerves connecting the inner ear to the cerebellum (which controls balance and spatial orientation). It usually lasts between a couple of days and three weeks.
A few dogs have residual signs beyond this time, such as a head tilt. This disease normally affects dogs that seem normal up until the signs appear. Then there is sudden loss of balance with many dogs unable to even stand up. Rhythmic eye motion known as nystagmus is usually present. Dogs may be nauseous from the "sea sickness" effect of vestibular disease. Most dogs will not eat or drink unless hand fed or given water by hand because they have a hard time with the fine motor movements necessary to eat or drink from a bowl. As long as they are nursed through this condition almost all dogs will recover. There is no known treatment, although many vets will send out medications to help with the nausea associated with the head tilt and the nystagmus (shimmering eyes).
Some dogs do have relapses but most do not.
Usually, if this is vestibular syndrome, it will clear up in a few days to a week. However, since he is an older boy with underlying health issues, it may be best to have your vet take a peek in the morning and get him on some anti-nausea medication and/or fluids to correct any imbalances he may have from not eating or feeling well.
I hope this helps.