Vestibular syndrome is the term for a disease that impacts balance either in people or animals. Typically, when the vestibular system is affected, the body's balance is off, which often results in a "wobbly" gait, falling, unusual eye movement--and, for animals, it may include rolling over.
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The Balance System
The vestibular system works via sensors in the inner ear and balance controls at the back part of the brain. To maintain proper balance, the position of the body, movement of the body and eyes all send signals to the brain. The brain responds, making tiny adjustments to achieve balance. When the sensors and controls aren't functioning properly, the animal has poor balance control.
In general, vestibular syndrome can be caused by disease, tumours, head trauma, vitamin deficiency or other causes. Specifically, vestibular neuritis, also called neuronitis, is believed to be caused by a viral infection. The two names correspond to the two locations of infection. Neuritis refers to nerves, and neuronitis refers to infection of the vestibular ganglion.
Although neuritis is generally a viral infection, it could possibly be bacterial. The symptoms are very similar; however, the treatments are not. Usually middle ear infections are bacterial in nature and viral infections tend to be in the inner ear.
The dog's eyes may flit back and forth or up and down, or he may be wobbly or drift one direction while moving. He may be nauseous and may fall down. Other symptoms include hearing loss or paralysis of the face. The veterinarian will check for infection and to rule out other vestibular syndromes. The veterinarian may need to perform an MRI if the infection is deep within the inner ear.
Once the viral infection is gone, symptoms typically improve. However, irreversible damage may have occurred and the animal's balance may not fully recover. If your dog displays any of the symptoms associated with vestibular syndrome, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Once your dog is being treated, communicate any additional symptoms or lack of improvement to the veterinarian, as other serious health issues, such as a tumour, may exist.
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