Vertigo in Dogs

icon June 7, 2024

Vertigo, or vestibular disease, is a condition that affects the balance and spatial orientation of dogs, causing disorientation, dizziness, and other related symptoms. This article explores the symptoms, causes, treatments, and implications of vertigo in dogs. We will also discuss whether vertigo can be deadly, its duration, the impact on older dogs, and how to care for and feed dogs suffering from vertigo.

Vertigo in Dogs ( A Brief Introduction)

Vertigo in dogs, also known as vestibular disease, is a condition that affects the dog's balance and spatial orientation. It results from issues within the vestibular system, which includes parts of the inner ear and brain responsible for maintaining equilibrium. This disorder can cause disorientation and difficulty in maintaining balance, leading to a noticeable impact on a dog's mobility and coordination.

Vertigo in Dogs

Symptoms of Vertigo in Dogs

Vertigo in dogs can manifest in various ways, often leading to noticeable changes in behavior and physical abilities. Common symptoms include:

♦ 1. Head Tilt: One of the most recognizable signs is a persistent head tilt to one side.

♦ 2. Nystagmus: Rapid, involuntary eye movements, either side-to-side or up-and-down.

♦ 3. Loss of Balance: Dogs may stumble, fall, or have difficulty walking.

♦ 4. Circling: Dogs might walk in circles, unable to move in a straight line.

♦ 5. Vomiting and Nausea: Due to dizziness, dogs can experience vomiting and a lack of appetite.

♦ 6. Ataxia: Uncoordinated movements and a general lack of muscle control.

♦ 7. Lethargy: Reduced energy levels and reluctance to move or play.

♦ 8. Disorientation: Confusion and an inability to recognize familiar surroundings.

What Causes Vertigo in Dogs?

Vertigo in dogs, also known as vestibular disease, can be caused by various factors, including:

1. Idiopathic Vestibular Disease:
Often referred to as "old dog vestibular syndrome," the cause is unknown but commonly affects older dogs.

2. Ear Infections:
Middle or inner ear infections can disrupt the vestibular system.

3. Trauma:
Head injuries or trauma to the ear can lead to vertigo.

4. Toxicity:
Certain medications or toxins can adversely affect the vestibular system.

5. Tumors:
Growths in the brain or ear can interfere with balance and coordination.

6. Stroke:
A stroke can impair the parts of the brain responsible for balance.

7. Hypothyroidism:
An underactive thyroid gland can contribute to vestibular issues.

Is Vertigo in Dogs Deadly?

Vertigo itself is not typically deadly. However, the underlying cause of vertigo can range from benign to serious. For example, while idiopathic vestibular disease is generally not life-threatening and can improve with time, vertigo resulting from a brain tumor or stroke can be more severe and potentially fatal. It is essential to identify the underlying cause to determine the appropriate treatment and prognosis.

How Long Does Vertigo Last in Dogs?

The duration of vertigo in dogs varies depending on the cause and the individual dog's response to treatment. 

1. Idiopathic Vestibular Disease:
Symptoms usually improve within a few days, with significant recovery within a couple of weeks. Some dogs may have a residual head tilt.

2. Ear Infections:
Once treated, symptoms can improve within a week, though full recovery may take longer.

3. Trauma or Stroke:
Recovery depends on the severity of the damage and the effectiveness of the treatment plan.

Do Old Dogs Stay in a State of Vertigo Permanently?

While idiopathic vestibular disease is common in older dogs, it is not typically a permanent condition. Most dogs show significant improvement within a few days to weeks. However, some dogs may retain a slight head tilt or occasional mild symptoms. Chronic or recurrent vertigo in older dogs may indicate an underlying issue that requires ongoing management.

Are Dogs with Vertigo in Pain?

Vertigo itself does not cause pain. However, the condition can be distressing and uncomfortable due to disorientation, dizziness, and nausea. Dogs may also experience pain if the vertigo is caused by an underlying issue such as an ear infection, trauma, or tumor.

How to Treat Vertigo in Dogs at Home

While veterinary care is crucial for diagnosing and treating vertigo, there are steps you can take at home to support your dog's recovery:

1. Create a Safe Space:
Provide a quiet, comfortable area where your dog can rest without the risk of falling or injuring themselves.

2. Minimize Movement:
Limit your dog's activity to prevent accidents. Use baby gates or closed doors to restrict access to stairs or slippery floors.

3. Support During Movement:
Use a harness to help support and guide your dog when they need to move.

4. Elevate Food and Water Bowls:
Raise bowls to a comfortable height to make eating and drinking easier.

5. Maintain Routine:
Stick to a regular feeding and medication schedule to reduce stress and provide stability.

Vertigo in Dogs Treatment

Veterinary treatment for vertigo in dogs depends on the underlying cause:

1. Medications:
Anti-nausea medications, antibiotics (for infections), anti-inflammatory drugs, and other medications may be prescribed.

2. Fluid Therapy:
Intravenous fluids may be needed if the dog is dehydrated due to vomiting or reluctance to drink.

3. Surgery:
In cases of tumors or severe ear infections, surgery might be necessary.

4. Physical Therapy:
Exercises to help improve balance and coordination may be recommended.

5. Ongoing Monitoring:
Regular veterinary check-ups to monitor progress and adjust treatment as needed.

How Do You Feed a Dog with Vertigo?

Feeding a dog with vertigo can be challenging, but these tips can help:

1. Elevate Bowls:
Raise food and water bowls to reduce the need for your dog to bend down, which can exacerbate dizziness.

2. Small, Frequent Meals:
Offer smaller meals more frequently to prevent nausea and encourage eating.

3. Assist with Feeding:
Gently support your dog's head and body while they eat to prevent falls or spills.

4. Soft Foods:
Soft or wet food can be easier to eat and less likely to cause choking or discomfort.

5. Hydration:
Ensure your dog has access to fresh water and encourage them to drink to stay hydrated.

Related: How Much Water Do Dogs Need To Drink

What Foods Help Vertigo Go Away?

While there is no specific diet to cure vertigo, providing nutritious and easily digestible foods can support overall health and recovery. Consider the following:

1. Lean Proteins:
Chicken, turkey, and fish can provide essential nutrients without being too heavy on the stomach.

2. Complex Carbohydrates:
Rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal are gentle on the digestive system and can help maintain energy levels.

3. Hydrating Foods:
Wet dog food or adding water to dry food can help keep your dog hydrated.

4. Balanced Diet:
Ensure your dog receives a balanced diet with the necessary vitamins and minerals to support immune function and overall health.


Vertigo in dogs, or vestibular disease, is a condition that can cause significant discomfort and distress for affected pets. While not typically deadly, the underlying causes can range from benign to serious, necessitating prompt veterinary attention. Recognizing the symptoms, understanding the causes, and knowing how to support your dog through treatment and recovery are crucial for ensuring their well-being.

Leave A Comment
All comments are moderated before being published.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Join The Puainta

Become one of pet parents and get professional tips, immediate product info, updated promotions and discounts, and more surprises from us!