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Vestibular Disease in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Have you been told that your dog might have vestibular disease? If so, you might be looking around the internet for the best, most thorough information on vestibular disease. Well, this might not be the article that you’re looking for.

Then again…

As with all of our articles, we like to try and break down complicated subjects into easily understandable concepts so that you as a pet owner can get a better understanding of exactly what is wrong with our animal as well as what you should expect while treating him or her.


It’s always nice to get an idea of how much your pet’s treatment is going to cost as well so that you can “mentally” prepare yourself for that as well.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

What is vestibular disease?

Dogs and humans have something in them that helps keeps us balanced and upright. This is done by the vestibular system, which has two main components: the ventral vestibular which is in the brain and the peripheral vestibular in the ear.

What happens when vestibular disease occurs?

When your dog has a vestibular disease, you will notice some symptoms. It may appear that your dog is drunk or “tipsy”. He might be stumbling, show sudden imbalance or even fall over. It will look like something is definitely wrong. It’s almost as if your dog has suffered from a stroke.

Other clinical signs and vestibular symptoms to watch out for may include:

  • Head tilt,
  • Strange eye movements (nystagmus),
  • Vomiting and nausea,
  • Rolling or circling in a way you’ve never seen,
  • Loss of balance.

Types Vestibular disease

As mentioned, there are different vestibular system components and thus different types of the disease.

Peripheral Vestibular Disease:

The source of the problem is in the ear. It may have been caused by:

  • an ear infection,
  • ear trauma,
  • or something else wrong with the ear.

Hypothyroidism could also cause it.

Central Vestibular Disease:

The source of the problem is the brain. It could be caused by a:

  • tumor,
  • infection,
  • or anything else wrong in the brain, causing pressure and inflammation on the cranial nerve or vestibule nerve, thus causing the dog to lose balance.

Geriatric Vestibular Disease:

This happens as the result of old age. Sometimes called old dog vestibular disease. Not all older dogs will get it, of course.

Canine Idiopathic vestibular disease:

This is just another name for vestibular disease. You may see it called this or dog vestibular syndrome.

Diagnosis of Vestibular Disease in Dogs

If you have seen any of these symptoms in your dog, then please take him or her to the vet immediately.   This is because your vet may want to run some tests to look at the inner and middle ear as well as the brain. This will be done with an MRI or CT scan. To be clear, a CT scan is normally cheaper than an MRI, but the exposure is not good for your dog, particularly if it’s done regularly. MRIs on the other hand, have no known side effects.

Treatment of Vestibular Disease in dogs

As mentioned, vestibular disorders are normally caused by something else. If it is an infection, your vet will prescribe the right antibiotics or other medication. If it is a tumor, then that will need to be removed. In the meantime, your dog may be given sedatives so he/she doesn’t get stressed out trying to walk. Also, anti-nausea medications might be needed if your dog is vomiting.


Though watching your dog stumble around with stroke-like symptoms is very scary, the truth is that most dogs will be okay. If it is a cancerous tumor causing vestibular disorder then that’s another issue and the treatment will be planned accordingly.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have vestibular disease (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!


It’s impossible for us to say how much it will cost for treatment since we don’t know what’s causing it. The cost will be directly attached to how the vet has to fix it.

If an infection is the cause…

Then you’ll pay the cost of 2-3 vet visits, the scans used during diagnosis and the antibiotics. This could total to around $600, less if you’re lucky.

If you need to surgically…

Remove a tumor, you’ll have to pay for the above (minus antibiotics), plus the surgery. Plus, follow-up appointments and scans to make sure he’s still healthy. When it’s all said and done, this will probably be upwards of $1500, more like $3000 in a lot of cases. Maybe more.

This is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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