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Cupcake has Idiopathic Vestibular Disease

March 27, 2016 29 comments

Just sniff 'inIt started three Saturdays ago.

I was cleaning the kitchen when I heard Cupcake fall in the living room. I thought maybe she had slipped on the wood floor and was having trouble getting up because it was slippery. I ran over to her and helped her to her feet. She fell over again. I picked her up again, and that was when I noticed her eyes. They were darting back and forth. Rapidly. I immediately thought it was a seizure, but before I could analyze her further,  it was over. It had only been a matter of seconds, and unlike most dogs coming out of a seizure, she was alert, walking around normally and acting like her usual self. I was stumped. It was was such a weird incident. I attributed it to standing up to quickly and getting disoriented. What else could I think?

Then it happened again. The following Friday. Cupcake stood up, started to walk, and then fell over. Her eyes were darting back and forth again. Just like before, it was over in seconds and she was acting normally. I made a note in my iPhone to record the date and time (as suggested by the vet’s office when I called them during the week).

On Saturday, the next day, Cupcake had two more incidents. Each time, she walked like a dog that was drunk and often fell over and her eyes would continuously dart from side to side.


After the second one, I started googling “dogs” and “darting eyes” and saw one thing come up again and again – vestibular disease. Cupcake had all of the symptoms – unsteady gait, falling down, and darting eyes. Based on everything I read, she had what feels like vertigo in humans.

When it happened a second time. I remembered to videotape it. I wanted to be able to show the emergency vet what was happening since she always seemed fine when it ended.

Unfortunately, the behavior did not end. Unlike before, Cupcake continued to have problems walking and kept falling over. Her eyes did not stop darting side to side, like they had before, and now she had a head tilt and would circle in one spot over and over again. It was really upsetting to see her like this.

The head tiltEverything I read said that there wasn’t much that could be done for vestibular disease, but I still felt a trip to the emergency vet was needed. Unfortunately, the ER vet was in emergency surgery with a dog hit by a car and would be in surgery for at least another hour, so I brought Cupcake home, contacted her vet and sent her the videos. After some consultation, she agreed that it was likely vestibular disease and got her some anti-nausea drugs until I could bring her in on Monday.

Cupcake’s Monday appointment confirmed it, she had Idiopathic Vestibular Disease. If you have not heard of it before, I recommend looking it up.

Here is what I know from reading up on it. Some dogs, often older dogs, get it and recover over a few weeks or months and never get it again. Other dogs get it once, recover, have a relapse, and recover again. Many times the cause is unknown (thus the term “idiopathic”).

Idiopathic vestibular disease can be caused by an inner ear infection, but it can also be caused by a brain lesion or hypothyroidism. Cupcake’s blood work came back normal so it rules out hypothyroidism. Based on her other behaviors, the head tilt to the left, the circling to the left and the eyes darting quickly to the right and then moving slowly back to the left, the vet thinks Cupcake may have a lesion on her brain. If it is a lesion, it is likely on her left side and pressing on her brain, which is what is causing the strange behaviors. If it is not a lesion, Cupcake may recover fully and never have it again (she is showing improvement every day).

Right now, we are in a wait and see mode. Since last Saturday, she has steadily improved in the walking department. She still has the head tilt, and will circle to the left, but now she is able to go outside and come back inside on her own. With the help of several new rugs in the house, she rarely falls down, and if she does, she gets back up all on her own. She even went for a very short walk today (she was not happy about being left behind when I took Daisy and Jasper to the dog park this morning, so a walk was a must), and tonight, she wagged her tail several times, squeaked her stuffie over and over again (which she does when happy and excited) and gave her brother some sass (trust me, he needed it).  🙂

Cupcake's third eye lid issueUnfortunately, she also has another symptom – her third eyelid is now showing in her left eye. It could mean the lesion is growing or passing in on her eye. I’ll be calling the vet about that tomorrow, but for right now I am focusing on the positive changes I have seen this past week. Cupcake is acting more like herself and her personality has returned (I sure did miss that speaking sound and her cute little wagging tail).

 

 

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