Old Dog Vestibular Disease

Divot 14 Years

Divot 14 Years

Old Dog Vestibular Disease. Ever heard of it? Me neither.

I suppose it’s because few dogs get really old. Our vet said at our last check-up that she rarely sees Golden Retrievers older than ten or twelve years old.

Divot is 14.

A few days ago she suddenly turned into a mad cow. You’ve seen the images of those poor creatures stumbling and bobbing their heads. That’s what Divot looked like and it was heart-wrenching.

She had a good walk in the morning. In the afternoon Hubby pulled a slice of roast beef from the fridge. Her usual reaction would be to dash over and hope that a crumb would drop or Hubby would save a scrap for her. (He always does!)

She didn’t budge.

We left her, thinking it a temporary numbness, perhaps like when you lie on one side and your arm “falls asleep”.

Suppertime rolled around and she refused to get up. We helped her. She attempted to walk the five feet to her food dish.

It was then that she looked like the mad cow. The way she gingerly picked at her food like her mouth was frozen convinced me she had had a stroke.

The looming ugly decision tormented me. I knew the day would come. But I’m not ready to let go.

Next morning, at book club, the host made the mistake of asking me how I am and I couldn’t keep it together. Good thing: every member of my “tribe” hugged me and commiserated and told me of her own experiences losing her best “furiends”. That made it better.

One told me not to grieve yet, but to love Divot until the end. Then grieve. She said it could be my gift to Divot. I liked that.

So I cheered up and resolved to investigate Divot’s sudden ailment. That’s when I learned about Old Dog or Geriatric Vestibular Disease.

Vestibular refers to a nerve that connects the ear and the brain. It can be inflamed but there is no definitive cause for the condition.

The symptoms seem stroke-like. They include, a cocked head, instability in walking, tending to veer to one side, affecting appetite (hard to eat when you’re dizzy!)

I learned that pet owners often hastily euthanize, believing the dog has had a stroke, when the dog can recover from Old Dog Vestibular Disease.

Divot didn’t seem to have the severe effects of stroke, which are the same as Vestibular Disease, but can also include blindness and permanent paralysis. Apparently strokes are rare in dogs.

After a few days, we visited the vet. Amazingly, Divot was considerably better that morning. She still wobbled but she seemed more stable. By the time we got to the clinic she was walking only slightly off-kilter. The vet marveled. She said three days was very fast to show such recovery; it can take weeks.

The vet said we can expect Divot to recover except for having a cocked head, a perpetually inquisitive stance, which does add to her charm.

The vet also suggested that many people do MRI but in her opinion it wouldn’t benefit Divot. We appreciated that.

Divot in  2007

Divot in 2007

She prescribed good care.

“Including walks?”

Divot LOVES her walks more than anything. I know that not walking would surely hasten the aging process. I was relieved when the vet agreed short walks are fine.

We took a stroll that afternoon. Divot wobbled only a few times in three blocks. She had a good snow bath (rolling with glee on a patch of snow) and even trotted a couple times.

It seems she is recovering. We will have to face the ugly decision one day, but not today.

I am more determined to cherish each moment and fully drink in the splendor of our walks together so she will never really be gone.


Sources: Google: “Dog stroke” or “Vestibular Disease”

3 thoughts on “Old Dog Vestibular Disease

  1. I am so happy for now that she is better. I have been thinking ever
    since you told me about her. So nice to hear this – all the best forward.

  2. I know where you are coming from. When mom and dad left the farm, my brother and SIL took their sheppard-cross dog, Jed, and we took the cat, Stoker. Earlier in the spring 2010, after a number of incidents, the vet suggested that Jed likely had dementia and that fall, a decision was made to end his life before he wondered off and got lost and/or hurt. I continue to baby Stoker, who we believe is 18 or 19, which is something for an outdoor cat. For the past few years we have done what we can to make his outdoor life more comfortable. He has companionship in another cat; an insulated house with a heated mat, inside an insulated outdoor building that, for the past couple of years also includes a space heater. This year we began supplements for joint/muscle pain. When all is said and done, if this isn’t enough to ensure his comfort, we will move him and his (ill mannered but lovable) companion into the house.
    I live in the same fear as you do Shell, if for no other reason than our old boy is the last of my parents’ generation but mostly because he is a well loved constant in the lives of my entire family.
    Best of luck with Divot. I’m confident, whenever his time comes, you will do the right thing and do for him what we are, as yet, unable to do for our human loved ones. And your friend with the advice to love now and grieve later. . . I like that too.

  3. Great story, very well written! Damn near had me in tears to begin with!

    I’m with ya, just dreading “The Day” when it comes for Fred. Fred is our short hairy son. He knows he’s a people, gets quite offended if someone calls him a “Dog!”

    Fred’s a Border Collie Lab cross. He is 12.

    Meanwhile, every day is a Bonus!

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