Aka Old Dog Syndrome as it mainly affects older dogs but there are reports of some of our younger friends suffering with it too.
This is our experience with vestibular syndrome. I have added this page to give hope and comfort to others whose dogs are going through it.
Early hours of Wednesday morning. I hear Bess moving about the bedroom, hear her fall on the floor. Jump out of bed to find her as what I can only describe as looking about to die. She looks like she's had a stroke and is in death throes. Her eyes are savagely going from side to side and she cannot seem to focus. Her face is drawn on one side and her head is tilted. There is saliva dripping from her mouth. She cannot stand at all.
I put my arms around her in case she can't see me to comfort her and let her know I am close. If she is about to die she's not feeling alone. The shock of it hits me and I begin to feel nauseous and them black out myself visually. I stay on my knees with her knowing she needs me there.
I hold her for ages. There is spittle coming from her mouth but she seems aware of me now. Her eyes are still darting from side to side. Eventually she shows signs of wanting to move and I can't believe I get her down the stairs, her legs seem able to hold her now.
Thinking she has had a stroke I phone the vet to call her out and I believe at this point I am facing euthanasia as I cannot let my girl go on like this.
Lunchtime I am completely shocked. The vet tells me she has vestibular syndrome and although the symptoms are very like a stroke in humans it is not the same, ie not as in a bleed to the brain. Vestibular is caused by the enlargement of a connection between the ears and the brain, symptoms poss similar to vertigo. There are many different ideas of its cause and I'll let you do your own digging there.
Teatime Bess is improving noticeably. Although she had been sick earlier she has a very light supper. Her legs seem stronger.
Early hours of Thursday morning Bess has had a relapse. We had gone to bed, she had managed the stairs. She has thrown up and her eyes are darting strongly and her head is very titled to one side. Again I believe she will be dying imminently. She looks much worse than the first time. Her legs can't hold her at all. I can not believe she can live through this it looks so bad.
I sit with her for a good while and keep her calm. Manage to get her down the stairs with the help of a bath towel under her. She wants a wee and I guide her out with the towel for support.
Thursday Today has been a traumatic day. She is so much worse than the first event which was mild compared to this. She can't eat and her walk is staggering like a drunk, there is no balance at all. I liken it to when you spin round on the spot and what it is like to walk after this.
There is no way Bess can climb stairs, so I camp on the sofa with her bed nearby. Every time I hear her move I am up as she is ricocheting too violently to walk unaided. I have covered the sharp areas of the fireplace with blankets where she would hurt herself if she fell. It is a good idea to go round your living space and determine any sharp corners at height and below of your dog. A nasty fall is not something you want on top of vestibular.
Following Wednesday We are still camping on the sofa downstairs at night. Bess is walking about erratically but I've noticed a slight improvement every day with one area or another. Her head is very much tilted on one side but her eyes are calm and focusing now. She needs help to walk by keeping her steady and a reassuring hand helps her. Bess now has a harness called four paws. This has been a godsend. It is originally designed for the car but the strap at the back allows me to put my hand through it or attach a lead. It is quick and easy to put on. Bess is venturing onto the front lawn with the aid of this for reassurance. She has trouble going through the kitchen as we have tiles and I think anything patterned like this is upsetting her eyes. She needs help with corners and slopes which is difficult for her and she is falling if not supported.
Bess has regained her appetite. She had gone off her food and if I hadn't placed the food directly into her mouth then she would not have been able to eat anything at all. Although she has a raised dish I have fed her where she is lying on the floor and had helped her eat with my fingers. It is hard for her to eat from the dish herself. The first few days I found that the one thing she kept down was dry human biscuits ie rich tea and arrowroot. Again though, I had to break them into little pieces and place them in her mouth. At first she accepted them better when dampened with a little tea. For the first few days when nausea is a big problem try your loved one with something simple like this that he/she has a fondness for.
Friday day 10 Bess is now resting on the front lawn for a while each day. She has always liked lying on the lawn and watching the world go by. I found that this stimulated her more than being stuck in the house. Being a collie she is particularly susceptible to boredom and I could see she was unhappy. Fortunately the weather was holding and I was able to put a blanket on the lawn and sit with her for a while. I noticed a great improvement in her when she had some outside stimulus. Her friends Oska and Fred came by to visit her each morning and every time she became a little more perkier and interested in the world again. I had been worried about the lack of response at first but she soon started to look more interested so do persevere. Lots of the neighbours came over to say hi and she enjoyed a little contact there. I did feel that a lot of people thought she was too old to be going through this and this did depress me rather. It was only the experiences of others that I had read about that kept my faith that she would get better and that I wasn't being cruel. This is what prompted me to add this to my web pages for others. Her head leaning and wobbly gait was quite hard for people to understand who weren't accustomed to it.
Wednesday day 14 Bess is still improving a little bit each day. We have a little toddle on the front with the help of her harness. She can walk mostly unaided but her balance is precarious so I like to be behind her. I let her walk on her own where I can so she is gaining her confidence back. It is mainly corners and slopes where I will put out my hand to help her. She is now getting up and down the one back door step quite well and she no longer hesitates to go through the kitchen.
Friday day 16 We have had a little walk up the fields. I could get Bess into the car with the aid of her harness and I drove around to the fields so she only had to cross the road. She met her pals there and had a slow walk round with many rests. She seemed very happy for the rest of the day. I had noticed that she would not sleep on one of her sides that she used to prefer. She has to sleep with her head between her paws. Today I have noticed she can lie on her side again but still seems giddy when going to her favorite side and so stops herself. Bess can now also get on the sofa with help so that's another improvement.
Monday day 19 Bess is here beside me on the sofa stretched out asleep. We have been for a little walk and met her pals. Took her to the park where there is a tiny set of steps and she did them very well. However she still can't contemplate the stairs at home so we are still camping out. I am not sure whether she will regain enough confidence to ever go back up the stairs to bed but at the moment I do not feel I want to leave her at night in case she has a relapse and is alone. She goes down the garden now which has three steep steps but I like to help her down just with a guiding hand as they are sharp to fall on. She hasn't quite got her confidence back with these yet. Her head is hardly tilting compared to what it was. Her eyes seem to be more open than before this happened and I think perhaps her sight has been affected a bit. Her food is back to normal and she has several small meals rather than one big one. She still wobbles sometimes but she seems to have acquired a way of standing and walking with her legs slightly more apart - braced. I feel confident to be able to leave her for very small periods of time which is probably a relief to my loved ones who I have alas had no time for in the past few weeks.
Saturday day 24 Tried to tempt Bess up the stairs two nights ago but she was just not interested. We sleep downstairs with a low energy light bulb on all night. All the reports I have read point to vestibular commencing when in the dark, I don't know if this is a coincidence of points to something. I will be leaving a light on at night for her continually now just in case in helps prevents a relapse.
Day 30 All Bess friends comment on how much better she looks now. Her head is hardly tilted but does sometimes go to one side, especially after a long day. She is particularly playful recently and it is good to see her happy again. I change her water many times a day and try to get as much oxygen in it as I can. It might not help but it certainly won't hurt to try and get more oxygen levels into her. Be warned here though, do not use carbonated water as this has the opposite effect and reduces oxygen!
We are still taking much shorter walks and this will be the norm now. She doesn't go far down the road for a last walk like we used to, just a small way is enough for her. I let her guide me to what she wants and don't force her to do anything she isn't keen on. Feel rather privileged to have her with me as I thought our time was up. Every day is a bonus and we try to enjoy our time together as much as we can.
I can say she is practically back to normal now. She goes down the garden on her own and toddles on the front with no problems. It is only the stairs which she avoids, but I wonder if she remembers her last experiences she had there and it has left a negative vibe with her. I now leave her downstairs with a light on and go to bed as late as possible so she only has a few hours alone. She is quite happy with this and I wait until she is fast asleep before I leave her.
Bess and I hope this helps anyone who is going through it all and will add a few more notes at a later date to record Bess' progress.
One year later... Bess had a tiny relapse in Oct which only lasted a few minutes. The vet has now put her on Vivitonin twice a day and she is now back to her old self completely (except she no longer climbs the stairs) they have worked wonders. She has had no more episodes since being on the Vivitonin, they have been great for her, I wish I had got them earlier. Bess celebrated her 15th birthday in April. She is currently having a nap ... and snoring after a walk in her park. She has a posh hand made ramp to get down the garden steps which she has mastered briliantly and I am so proud of her. Please email me if you need some encouragement.
GRAPES AND RAISINS
It has come to my attention that there is currently a study into the ill-effects of grapes and raisins on our canine friends. It seems at this time that the prudent approach would be to avoid giving these foods to dogs and err on the cautious side. As with chocolate and macadamia nuts whose toxic values have been proven to damage a dogs health.
Many animal lovers will know of the misery of the firework season which is no longer confined to one weekend. At last I seem to have found something that genuinely works and is available for both dogs and cats. Scullcap and valerian tablets available from Dorwest Herbs. I just gave Bess two of these with her tea and her anxiety was immensely reduced. It is also good for those who have very excitable dogs in the car and will ease the noise in your ear! http://www.dorwest.co.uk/
A reader to a leading dog magazine sent an article in regarding the effect of fenugreek on her dog who had been suffering terribly with joint pain. My old Benjamin at this time was in a lot of discomfort with his old bones and the painkillers were becoming less effective. I tried Ben on fenugreek and monitored his behaviour and health closely. I must say I was amazed at the result. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I probably would not have believed it. In only a few days Ben was running round like a puppy with a new lease of life. He stayed on the fenugreek for his remaining years and I do believe his life was extended and enhanced thanks to it. Before trying anything with your own companions please be sure to research thoroughly beforehand.
Again, from an article in a dog publication, I read with interest about the values of flax oil for growths and cancers in humans and animals alike. I was rather impressed with the outcome related and decided to research more. There are some good articles on the web regarding flax oil esp from Professor Budwig, who also has a book in print available. According to Dr Budwig, flax oil should be given with another oil which can be found in cottage cheese for maximum benefit. She also says that it can be harmful if taken on its own, so again please make sure that you research thoroughly beforehand. I tried it myself (and it's rather nice) before mixing some up for Bess who has a couple of lumps on her that she has had a while but were always on my mind. I must say to date, the lumps do seem to have shrunk and Bess absolutely loves it. She has just a tbsp of organic flax oil mixed with two tbsp of cottage cheese every other day after a meal. Storage instructions are also important, so do read up.
I'm not sure where I found the info for this one as it was such a long time ago. For small skin growths this makes an effective remedy. Just use a cotton wool bud dipped in the vinegar and gently apply it to the affected area a couple of times a day. I found the little lumps either shrink to nothing or crust up and drop off. Be prepared for your friend to smell like a pickled onion for a while!
Help for incontinence
Submitted by Liz, tested by Heidi (German Shepherd bitch aged 12 years). After Heidi started to suffer from mild incontinence, particularly overnight, I tried Dorwest Herbs Mixed Vegetable tablets. After just a few days giving 8 tablets I began to see an improvement, she is now on a maintenance dosage of four tablets per day and the problem has not recurred. http://www.dorwest.co.uk/
Books to try:
This is a lovely book, full of superb tips and some smashing recipies. Along with the stunning photos it really does make a good read and is highly recommended. Donna Twichell Roberts writes in a way that will appeal to all dog lovers. If you can't find a copy try your local library - that's where I found mine to read.
Cover permission kindly by DT Roberts
The Last Wolf
A brilliant read, suitable for ages 9+ An imaginative tale of how the last wolf in England was saved from destruction.
Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
Nominated for the carnegie medal 2005. Another riveting read, suitable for 10 to adult. The content is rich and transports you back thousands of years. The whole series is now available and is a stunning good read!
Rat Heaven by Jeanne Willis
A touching story about the fragile link between a young girl, her grandad and Freddy the rat. Freddy is given a home with the young girl with the help of grandad. However, as childhood begins to fade the ties to her grandad and Freddy begin to crumble. A lovely, touching story from a rats point of view. Highly recommended all ages but especially 8-12