Helping Your Furry Friend: Dogs with Vestibular Disease

dogs with vestibular disease

When our beloved dogs suffer from vestibular disease, it can be tough to watch. It’s essential to help them through this difficult time and ensure they receive proper care and nutrition. This article will guide you on how to feed a dog with vestibular disease, with tips and tricks to keep your furry companion healthy and comfortable. We’ll also cover home remedies, emotional support, and early signs of the disease. So, let’s dive in!

Understanding Vestibular Disease

First things first: what is vestibular disease? In simple terms, it’s a condition that affects a dog’s balance and coordination. Dogs with vestibular disease often experience dizziness, head tilting, and difficulty walking. This can make it challenging for them to eat and drink, so it’s crucial to find ways to help them get the nutrition they need.

How does Vestibular Disease Occurs on Dogs?

Vestibular disease in dogs refers to a sudden, non-progressive disturbance of balance. It is more common in older dogs. The disease affects the vestibular apparatus, a series of nerves and structures located in the inner ear, which helps the dog maintain a sense of balance. When this apparatus is disrupted, it can lead to symptoms such as head tilt, staggering, rolling, falling, or circling, and often, nystagmus (involuntary rapid eye movement).

There are a few potential causes of vestibular disease in dogs:

Idiopathic Vestibular Disease: Often called “old dog vestibular disease”, this is the most common form of the condition. The term “idiopathic” means that the cause is unknown. It typically appears suddenly in older dogs and can be quite severe, but many dogs improve with supportive care.

Ear Infection: Otitis interna or inner ear infections can lead to vestibular disease. This might be a bacterial or yeast infection, often secondary to an ongoing outer or middle ear infection.

Drugs and Toxins: Some drugs can damage the vestibular apparatus when given in high doses for an extended period. The aminoglycoside class of antibiotics is an example.

Tumors: Neoplasms, either benign or malignant, located in or near the inner ear can lead to signs of vestibular disease.

Hypothyroidism: Reduced thyroid function can be a less common cause of vestibular symptoms in dogs.

Trauma: Injuries, such as those from being hit by a car, can result in vestibular symptoms if the inner ear is damaged.

Congenital: Some breeds may have a genetic predisposition or might be born with defects that can affect the vestibular apparatus.

Recognizing Early Signs of Vestibular Disease

Being aware of the early signs of vestibular disease can help you act quickly and get your dog the care they need. Keep an eye out for symptoms like:

  • Loss of balance or unsteady walking
  • Head tilting or shaking
  • Nystagmus (involuntary eye movement)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty eating or drinking

Home Remedies and Alternative Treatments

Although there’s no cure for vestibular disease, some home remedies and alternative treatments might help alleviate symptoms. These include:

  • Gentle massage or physical therapy to help with muscle stiffness and improve mobility.
  • Acupuncture or laser therapy to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
  • Herbal remedies or supplements, such as ginger, to help with nausea and dizziness. Always consult your vet before starting any new supplements.

Feeding Tips and Techniques

It’s essential to make mealtime as easy as possible for your dog. Here are some tips to help you feed your dog with vestibular disease:

  • Elevate their food and water bowls to reduce the need for bending down.
  • Use a slow feeder bowl or a food puzzle to encourage slower eating and prevent choking.
  • Offer smaller, more frequent meals to help with digestion.
  • Opt for soft, easy-to-chew foods or moisten dry kibble with water or broth.

Related post: Low fat foods for dogs

The Role of Diet and Nutrition for Vestibular Disease

A healthy diet can help support your dog’s recovery from vestibular disease. Choose high-quality, easily digestible foods with essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. Talk to your vet about any specific dietary needs or adjustments for your dog’s condition.

In addition to a balanced diet, certain supplements can be beneficial for dogs with vestibular disease. These supplements can help address specific symptoms and support overall health:

  • Probiotics: To maintain a healthy gut and support digestion, consider adding a probiotic supplement to your dog’s diet. A balanced gut microbiome can also help boost your dog’s immune system.
  • Antioxidants: Supplements rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin E and C, can help combat oxidative stress and support your dog’s neurological health.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty acids like EPA and DHA are essential for brain function and can help reduce inflammation. Fish oil supplements are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Always consult your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your dog’s diet. They can guide you on the right dosage and ensure the supplements don’t interfere with any medications your dog may be taking.

Monitoring and Adjusting Your Dog’s Diet

As your dog recovers from vestibular disease, it’s crucial to monitor their progress and make any necessary adjustments to their diet. Keep track of your dog’s weight, energy levels, and overall health. Be prepared to make changes based on your veterinarian’s recommendations or if you notice any adverse reactions to certain foods or supplements. Find related diet posts here at dog’s food blog.

Preventing Choking Hazards

Dogs with vestibular disease may have trouble swallowing, which can increase the risk of choking. To help prevent choking hazards:

  • Cut food into small, manageable pieces.
  • Avoid offering hard treats or toys that could be difficult for your dog to chew or swallow.
  • Monitor your dog closely during mealtimes to ensure they’re eating safely.

Staying Informed and Collaborating with Your Veterinarian

It’s essential to stay informed about your dog’s condition and maintain open communication with your veterinarian. They can provide valuable insights and guidance to help you navigate your dog’s recovery process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or share concerns about your dog’s diet, supplements, or overall well-being.

Providing Emotional Support

Dealing with vestibular disease can be scary and stressful for your dog. It’s essential to provide emotional support and create a calm, comforting environment. Here are some ways to help your dog cope emotionally:

  • Offer plenty of cuddles, gentle petting, and soothing words.
  • Play soft music or use a white noise machine to help mask any disorienting sounds.
  • Keep a consistent routine to help your dog feel more secure.
  • Provide a comfortable, safe space for your dog to rest and recover, like a cozy bed or a quiet room.

Tips and Exercises for Dogs with Vestibular Disease

When your furry friend is diagnosed with vestibular disease, it’s crucial to support their recovery with appropriate care, including helpful exercises. This article will discuss tips and exercises to help dogs with vestibular disease regain their balance, strength, and confidence. With patience and dedication, you can help your four-legged companion get back on their paws.

Related post: How to Comfort a Dog With Pancreatitis

Creating a Safe Environment

Before starting any exercises, it’s essential to create a safe and comfortable environment for your dog. This can help minimize the risk of injury and encourage your dog to participate in the exercises. Consider the following:

  • Remove any potential hazards, such as slippery floors or sharp objects.
  • Provide non-slip surfaces like yoga mats or carpeting to help your dog maintain their footing.
  • Ensure the exercise area is well-lit and free from distractions.

Passive Range of Motion (PROM) Exercises

Passive range of motion exercises can help maintain your dog’s joint flexibility and prevent muscle stiffness. To perform these exercises, gently move your dog’s limbs through their natural range of motion. Remember to support the joints and avoid forcing any movements. Start with short sessions and gradually increase the duration as your dog becomes more comfortable.

Balancing Exercises

Balance exercises can help your dog regain their sense of equilibrium and coordination. Here are some simple balancing exercises to try:

  • Three-legged stands: Gently lift one of your dog’s paws off the ground and hold it for a few seconds. This will encourage your dog to balance on their remaining three legs. Repeat with each leg, and gradually increase the duration as your dog improves.
  • Wobble board or balance disc: Encourage your dog to stand on a wobble board or balance disc. This will help them develop their core strength and balance. Start with short sessions and gradually increase the duration as your dog becomes more confident.

Weight Shifting Exercises

Weight shifting exercises can help improve your dog’s strength and stability. Here are some ideas:

  • Front-to-back weight shifts: Place your hands on your dog’s shoulders and gently shift their weight from front to back. Repeat this motion several times, ensuring your dog remains comfortable throughout the exercise.
  • Side-to-side weight shifts: Place your hands on your dog’s sides and gently shift their weight from one side to the other. Repeat this motion several times, maintaining a comfortable pace for your dog.

Walking and Mobility Exercises

Walking exercises can help your dog rebuild their strength and coordination. Start with short, slow walks on level surfaces, and gradually increase the distance and duration as your dog improves. You can also incorporate obstacles, like walking over poles or weaving through cones, to challenge your dog’s balance and coordination further.

Massage and Relaxation Techniques

Incorporating massage and relaxation techniques into your dog’s exercise routine can help reduce stress and promote healing. Gently massage your dog’s muscles, focusing on any areas that seem tense or sore. You can also try calming activities like deep pressure therapy or soothing music to help your dog relax after exercising.

Working with a Professional

Working with a professional, such as a veterinarian or a certified canine rehabilitation therapist, can be beneficial for your dog’s recovery. These experts can provide personalized guidance, recommend specific exercises, and monitor your dog’s progress. They can also help you identify any potential issues and adjust the exercise routine as needed to ensure your dog’s safety and well-being.

Consistency and Patience

Consistency and patience are key factors when it comes to helping your dog recover from vestibular disease. Be prepared to dedicate time and effort to your dog’s exercise routine, and keep in mind that progress may be slow. Celebrate small victories and remain patient as your dog works towards regaining their strength and balance.

Monitoring Your Dog’s Progress

As you work with your dog on their exercises, it’s essential to monitor their progress closely. Keep track of any improvements or setbacks, and adjust the exercise routine as needed. If you notice any signs of discomfort or worsening symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately. They can help you determine the best course of action and make any necessary adjustments to your dog’s care plan.

Building a Support Network

Recovering from vestibular disease can be a long and challenging process for both you and your dog. Building a support network of fellow dog owners, friends, family, and professionals can make a significant difference. Share your experiences, ask for advice, and learn from others who have gone through similar situations. Online forums, social media groups, and local support groups can provide valuable resources and connections.

Adapting to Your Dog’s Changing Needs

As your dog recovers from vestibular disease, their needs may change. Be prepared to adapt your approach, exercise routine, and even your home environment to ensure their comfort and safety. This may include:

  • Adjusting the intensity or frequency of exercises
  • Using assistive devices, like harnesses or slings, to help your dog move more easily
  • Making modifications to your home, such as adding ramps or non-slip surfaces

Always keep your dog’s well-being in mind and be ready to make changes as needed to support their recovery.

Importance of Mental Stimulation for Vestibular Disease

While physical exercise is crucial for your dog’s recovery, don’t forget about the importance of mental stimulation. Engaging your dog’s mind can help reduce stress, promote relaxation, and maintain their overall cognitive health. Incorporate mental stimulation into your dog’s daily routine through activities such as:

  • Puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys
  • Training sessions and learning new tricks
  • Scent work and nose games

Remember to choose activities that are appropriate for your dog’s current abilities and adjust them as needed to prevent frustration or overexertion.

Staying Positive and Celebrating Progress

It’s essential to stay positive and celebrate every bit of progress your dog makes during their recovery. This can help you maintain a sense of hope and motivation, which can positively impact your dog’s healing process. Celebrate small milestones, like walking a few steps without assistance or successfully completing a new exercise. Your love, support, and encouragement can make all the difference in your dog’s journey towards recovery.

Preparing for Possible Setbacks

Recovery from vestibular disease can sometimes be unpredictable, and setbacks may occur along the way. It’s essential to prepare yourself for these challenges and approach them with a problem-solving mindset. If your dog experiences a setback, consult your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. They may recommend adjusting the exercise routine, changing medications, or exploring additional treatments to help your dog get back on track.

Recognizing Your Dog’s Limits

Each dog’s recovery from vestibular disease will be different, and it’s crucial to recognize and respect your dog’s individual limits. Avoid pushing your dog too hard or expecting rapid progress. Instead, focus on creating a supportive and nurturing environment that encourages gradual improvement. Remember that your dog’s comfort and well-being should always come first.

Maintaining a Routine

Establishing and maintaining a consistent routine can be beneficial for your dog’s recovery. A routine provides structure and predictability, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. In addition to exercise and mental stimulation, your routine should include regular feeding times, bathroom breaks, and opportunities for rest and relaxation. By sticking to a routine, you can create a sense of stability for your dog and support their overall well-being.


Helping your dog recover from vestibular disease can be a long and emotional journey. Embrace the process, and remember that you are not alone. Many other dog owners have faced similar challenges and successfully supported their pets through recovery. Stay committed, patient, and compassionate, and you’ll be able to help your dog regain their health, strength, and happiness.


Can vestibular disease be cured?

While there’s no cure for vestibular disease, many dogs can recover with proper care, including medication, diet, and physical therapy. The recovery process varies depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition.

How long does vestibular disease last in dogs?

The duration of vestibular disease varies from dog to dog. Some dogs may experience symptoms for a few days, while others may take several weeks or even months to recover fully. Patience and consistent care are essential for your dog’s recovery.

Is vestibular disease painful for dogs?

Vestibular disease itself is not typically painful, but it can cause discomfort and distress due to dizziness, nausea, and difficulty moving. Providing a comfortable, supportive environment can help alleviate some of these symptoms.

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