Vestibular Disease in Dogs: Everything You Need To Know

Learn about vestibular disease in dogs, including symptoms, causes, and treatments to help your furry friend regain their balance and health.

Does your dog seem disoriented, unsteady, or have a head tilt? These symptoms might point to a condition known as vestibular disease.

Let’s delve into this ailment, understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatments, ensuring you can help your furry friend regain their balance.

What is Vestibular Disease?

Vestibular disease in dogs affects the balance system located in the inner ear and brain. This condition can cause sudden loss of balance, head tilting, and rapid eye movements.

Although it can be alarming, vestibular disease is often treatable and not life-threatening.

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Image by Péter Göblyös from Pixabay

Types of Vestibular Disease

Peripheral Vestibular Disease

This type affects the inner and middle ear. It’s the most common form and usually less severe.

Central Vestibular Disease

This type is rarer and involves the brainstem or cerebellum. It’s often more serious and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Symptoms of Vestibular Disease

Recognizing the signs early can make a significant difference in your dog’s recovery. Here are the key symptoms:

  • Head Tilt: A noticeable tilt of the head to one side.
  • Loss of Balance: Difficulty standing or walking, often falling to one side.
  • Nystagmus: Rapid, involuntary eye movements.
  • Circling: Walking in circles, usually in one direction.
  • Stumbling or Staggering: Lack of coordination.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Due to dizziness and disorientation.

Causes of Vestibular Disease

Understanding the root causes can help in managing the condition better.

Peripheral Vestibular Disease Causes

  • Ear Infections: Bacterial or fungal infections in the inner or middle ear.
  • Trauma: Injuries to the head or ear.
  • Tumors: Growths in the ear canal or skull.
  • Hypothyroidism: Low thyroid hormone levels.
  • Idiopathic: Often no identifiable cause, especially in older dogs.

Central Vestibular Disease Causes

  • Infections: Bacterial or viral infections affecting the brain.
  • Inflammation: Conditions like meningoencephalitis.
  • Stroke: Disruption of blood flow to the brain.
  • Tumors: Brain tumors impacting balance.
  • Toxins: Exposure to certain toxins or drugs.

Diagnosing Vestibular Disease

A thorough diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. Your vet will conduct:

  • Physical Examination: Checking for signs of imbalance and ear issues.
  • Neurological Tests: Assessing your dog’s reflexes and coordination.
  • Blood Tests: Identifying infections or thyroid issues.
  • Imaging: X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs to detect tumors or brain abnormalities.

Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of the disease.


  • Antibiotics: For bacterial infections.
  • Anti-inflammatories: To reduce swelling and pain.
  • Thyroid Supplements: For hypothyroidism.
  • Anti-nausea Drugs: To alleviate vomiting.

Supportive Care

  • Hydration: Ensuring your dog stays hydrated.
  • Nutritional Support: Maintaining a balanced diet.
  • Comfort: Providing a safe and comfortable space.


In cases involving tumors or severe infections, surgery may be necessary to remove the cause.

Home Care Tips

Supporting your dog at home can accelerate recovery.

  • Safe Environment: Remove obstacles and provide non-slip surfaces.
  • Assist with Mobility: Use harnesses or slings for support.
  • Regular Monitoring: Keep an eye on symptoms and report changes to your vet.

Preventing Vestibular Disease

While not all cases can be prevented, some measures can reduce the risk.

  • Regular Vet Check-ups: Early detection of ear infections or thyroid issues.
  • Good Ear Hygiene: Keeping your dog’s ears clean and dry.
  • Balanced Diet: Ensuring proper nutrition to support overall health.

Prognosis and Recovery

Most dogs recover well with appropriate treatment and care. Recovery can take a few days to weeks, depending on the cause and severity. Regular follow-ups with your vet will ensure your dog’s progress is on track.


Vestibular disease in dogs, while distressing, is often manageable with prompt veterinary care and supportive home care. Recognize the symptoms early, seek professional help, and provide a safe environment to aid your dog’s recovery. Your furry friend can return to their playful self with your dedicated care and attention.


1. Can vestibular disease in dogs be cured?

Yes, most cases of peripheral vestibular disease can be treated successfully. Central vestibular disease may have a more guarded prognosis depending on the underlying cause.

2. How long does it take for a dog to recover from vestibular disease?

Recovery time varies but typically ranges from a few days to a few weeks. Follow your vet’s guidance for the best outcome.

3. Is vestibular disease painful for dogs?

The condition itself is not usually painful, but the symptoms can be distressing. Pain may be present if there is an underlying issue like an ear infection.

4. Can vestibular disease recur in dogs?

Yes, it can recur, especially if the underlying cause is not fully resolved. Regular vet check-ups can help manage and prevent recurrence.

5. What should I do if my dog shows symptoms of vestibular disease?

Contact your vet immediately for a thorough examination and appropriate treatment plan.

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