Symptoms had such a sudden onset that we feared it could be a stroke or perhaps worse. After 24 hours of this unbalanced behavior, my thoughts went to euthanasia. Fortunately it was Sunday and a holiday weekend so arrangements could not be made. The one vet who was willing to come to the house on Monday, had not one ounce of compassion and tried to tell me that her new service of stem cell therapy could perhaps help Kaffee. After I told her he was 15 years old and I had no desire to do this, (also knowing how expensive this treatment is), she then tried to sell me CBD and Cetyl M. I immediately knew I could not work with or ask her to help me with helping my very special senior dog, Kaffee.
When I emailed a friend of mine to let her know that I might have to euthanize Kaffee, she reminded me of the extreme vertigo that her Tibetan Terrier also 15 had had about 6 months ago. Her dogs symptoms were the tilted head, going in circles in the direction of the head tilt, sometimes falling over, loss of appetite and in general being unsteady on her feet. She told me that this condition was common in old dogs and was called Canine idiopathic vestibular disease, which is also sometimes called “old dog disease”
Kaffee clearly was exhibiting the same symptoms. On day 3 (Christmas Eve day 2019) of his sudden onset, he seemed a little better. It was as if he knew what our thoughts were and was telling us he was not ready to leave his family. Today also my son and his wife were coming to visit for Christmas. Kaffee was clearly better but now had the head tilt, the wide stance, difficulty with walking due to poor balance, and diminished appetite.
We researched vestibular treatment for dogs and found that Dramamine was used to help with the vertigo. We gave Kaffee several does but due to the drowsiness he did not seem greatly improved.
Several days later after ups and downs my thoughts again turned to euthanasia. We all wish our pets would quietly pass in their sleep but quality of life issues are very important to me and it seemed that clearly Kaffee had lost his joy of life even if it had greatly diminished as he aged.
I made an appointment with our very special vet that is an excellent diagnostician. I told the office staff we would like to bring Kaffee over for Dr. Flannery to see and to help educate us about his vestibular disease and we might have to euthanize him. Somehow as we drove over, I knew it was not time and that Kaffee would be coming home with us.
Dr. Flannery was excellent as she always is and told us that she wanted to treat his nausea that she knew he probably had due to his drooling; also to put him back on Dramamine. Based on her knowledge of vestibular disease she told us that usually it takes several weeks before dogs vertigo and symptoms improve and it was not worth spending a lot of time trying to diagnosis his symptoms since no one really knows the cause of vestibular disease in old dogs. It more than likely has to do with the inner ear but could also be a stroke or brain tumor. It is best to just wait if possible to see if the 2 medications help…. Give him a few more days she told us and then decide about his quality of life.
In two weeks from the onset Kaffee was clearly improved. He was now again loving his food and always looking for treats; we could do a short walk down our drive way and street and the sparkle returned to his eyes. We were eternally grateful for the help, support, ethics and knowledge of Dr. Flannery.
It has now been 3 ½ weeks since the onset of symptoms and Kaffe has gradually improved returning to some of his old behaviors like barking at our Puli while his dinner is being prepared, barking while the dogs are in the doggie gym and wanting to be with us as we have our short close-up ball play. He goes out the doggie door on his own, is more balanced with less head tilt especially when walking down our street, sometimes trots out to the doggie run with the other dogs, jumps up over the threshold and sometimes seems senior dog frisky. Of course one of his favorites is his bedtime snack of chicken, blueberries and raspberries. And, he follows me everywhere.
Three times I seriously considered euthanize for Kaffee. It was as if he knew and quickly bounced back to slight improvement. My philosophical thinking throughout this is do we have a right to end a dogs life unless he is suffering? Are they not able to determine when their time is up and it is time to pass. Of course this would vary greatly due to their ability to get up, walk around, eat and show some peace with their current life… Euthanasia for me always comes with deep thinking about what is best for the dog. Today I am so grateful that Kaffee is still with us and still improves each day.
Kaffee remained on his very high quality raw food (Primal and Answers; goats milk kefir and turkey stock from Answers). He also resumed his supplements in the morning to help with his mobility and discomfort moving (1 TDC; DGP) and his probiotic. A few other supplements such as Curcuvet (Turmeric) and Nordic Naturals Omega were added back gradually.
Information on Canine Idiopathic Vestibular disease
· Head tilt, which may be slight to extreme
· Circling in one direction due to head tilt
· Falling over
· Lack of coordination
· Loss of balance often with stumbling or staggering
· Standing in unusually wide stance
· Nausea and/or vomiting
· Rapid eye movement while awake
· Choosing to sleep on the floor or other hard surfaces
The good news is that this condition, which is described by veterinarians as fairly common, typically disappears in a matter of days. The term idiopathic means that there is no known cause for why it occurs, which is most often the case. Often it has to do with an inner ear problem.
The good news is that this condition isn't dangerous or painful for your dog, although dizziness might cause him mild discomfort or motion sickness. The condition often clears up on its own within a couple of weeks, which is why vets typically adopt a "wait and see" approach. Nausea and vertigo can be controlled so it is important to make an appointment as soon as you notice these symptoms with your vet. DO NOT ALLOW them to convince you that testing is needed to determine the why of these symptoms. Again, most medical professionals agree that there is no known cause for this condition but is not uncommon in old dogs, thus the name, “old dog disease.”
This video below was done a few months before Kaffee turned 15. Sadly Kaffee's body wore out and in March 2020 we had to help him transition. We miss him very much.
The second video is excellent and provides wonderful information on "Old Dog Vestibular" by a veterinarian.