Hi Dr. Barchas,
I have a 12-year-old Bichon. Over the weekend he
was tilting his head to the side and walking
strange. He continued to eat and drink however
and didn’t act like he was any pain.
By Monday, he was pretty much back to normal and
now on Wednesday he’s fine. He’s also blind.
Could he have had a mini stroke? Could you help
me with this?
I suspect your dog suffered from an episode of a syndrome with a politically incorrect name: old dog vestibular syndrome.
Perhaps some day the condition will be called elderly dog vestibular syndrome or senior citizen dog vestibular syndrome.
Old/elderly/senior citizen dog vestibular syndrome is poorly understood but it is common. The affected dog generally goes to bed in a normal state. It wakes up dizzy. In mild cases, dogs tilt their heads to the side and stagger a bit. Severe cases cause dogs to be unable to stand, walk, eat or drink. Some dogs writhe in circles on the ground as they try to gain their balance.
Experts have offered many theories on the cause of old dog vestibular syndrome. None has been proved (or disproved) conclusively.
One feature of the syndrome is very consistent and very important to remember: almost all dogs recover from old dog vestibular syndrome within a few days. I recommend that any elderly dog who suffers from sudden dizziness be nursed for at least two days–most of them will improve within that time.
Strokes are very rare in dogs, but they can cause symptoms identical to old dog vestibular syndrome. Poisoning, brain tumors, meningitis, and trauma also can mimic the syndrome.
However, when a 12-year-old Bichon suffers a temporary bout of dizziness, old dog vestibular syndrome is the most likely diagnosis.