This is the final part in my three-part series on our experience with “Old Dog” Vestibular Disease. If you’ve missed the previous posts, you can find them here:
|Dahlia at the beginning of Week 4|
But she was not still at 100%. And we were all too well aware of that. Her head was still tilted, though it had become less extreme. She still had not attempted the stairs to our second floor. I was still sleeping in the downstairs guest room with her. And she had not been in a car since Christmas.
We were very careful with Dahlia through her convalescence. She is a dog who came to us with very little confidence and while she had gained so much during her 7+ years with us, Vestibular Disease shook her rather seriously. And so we did not want to try to get her upstairs or into the car before she was really ready to do it. Maybe we were too conservative. Maybe others would have pushed the issue earlier. But I think we ultimately made the right choice for her.
|Day 34: Playtime!|
I rushed down and got behind her just as she got a little wobbly and stopped. She didn’t fall, thankfully. But it was clear at that point she wasn’t ready to continue. I managed to get her to turn around and walk slowly (one step at a time) back down the stairs.
It was scary. She didn’t get all the way up. But she did it. On her own with no coaxing. Dahlia wanted to get better and so she simply did.
|Day 34: Still sitting a|
little awkwardly, but her
head is basically straight!
The next morning was, of course, the next big challenge: Getting her down the stairs. I went down stairs to get some more treats out of the refrigerator and was heading back to go upstairs to put the leash on her and help her down. And lo and behold, Dahlia was making her own way down the stairs. Slowly. One step at a time. But she did it. On her own steam, with no one having to coax her down. She knew she wanted those treats. And so she came down to get them.
Ironically, I was pretty sure the down part would be much tougher than the up part. But Dahlia proved me wrong as she so often does.
|Day 34: Playing with Ben!|
|Nearly 8 weeks in: A straight head!|
We also noticed that head tilt is almost completely gone. There’s still a bit of a tilt inside, but outside it has disappeared and inside it’s almost not noticeable. This does not happen for all dogs or cats (or, as I found out in doing some research many other animals: rabbits, sheep, cows, and other animals have been affected by this same disease). Some will always retain a small head tilt (and some quite a big head tilt — see Marnie the Dog) so if it doesn’t resolve itself for your dog or cat, don’t be too dismayed!
|Day 47: Finally in the car!|
So one day, while my husband was out walking Ben, I grabbed some of her favorite treats and took her out to the car to see what happened. I opened up the doors to the car and turned to see if I could help her. But nope. Dahlia did not need any help. She leapt up into the car like she had never ever had Vestibular Disease. She also had no trouble getting out of the car, landing solidly on the ground without stumbling even a little bit. We went to Petco to celebrate. She got a lot of attention from the people she met there and a few delicious treats.
|7 weeks in: Racing around the backyard|
like this never happened!
She is happy and healthy and sometimes it’s almost like this never happened. Just the other day she leapt a branch in our backyard like it was a standard agility jump. I keep saying to people “You wouldn’t know anything is wrong with her.” But the reality is there isn’t anything wrong with her anymore.
But here’s the somewhat sobering reality: our vet told us that this rarely comes back. We left the vet’s office that day feeling relieved that we may never have to face this down again. But having spoken to many people whose dogs and cats have experienced this has led me to believe that a recurrence is not as uncommon as we were led to believe. So will it ever return? It’s hard to say. Knowing now what I know, I feel more prepared to tackle the disease. But at the same time I sincerely hope we never have to go through this with her again. It has been frightening and frustrating and was simply awful to watch for a time. Dahlia is now about 99% better than she was the day that it started. Hopefully if it ever recurs, she will get back to her usual self as quickly.
Throughout Dahlia’s convalescence, I spent a lot of time on the internet doing research and talking to other folks who had been through this. Some of the sites I found that have been indispensable to me are as follows:
Vestibular Disease in Dogs Support Group. This Facebook group was the main thing that kept me going through the past two months. The people there have all been through it, some are still going through it. New people join all the time (and not just with dogs; there is no equivalent cat group on Facebook so some cat owners have joined this one — Hint to cat owners: Create one! I bet you’d be a great resource for cat owners who didn’t want to post in a dog group!). And many people (including myself) stick around after their dogs have recovered to cheer on and support those who are currently going through it.
Lassie, Get Help – Vestibular Disease: Leave a Light On. Besides just the blog post, reading the comments to the post were incredibly helpful. Just seeing that others had been through this and that their dogs were ok made me feel better about the whole thing.
Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Top 10 Things You Should Know About Vestibular Disease. This is a great, very informative PDF about the disease.
I hope these posts have been informative for anyone who has not experienced this disease and perhaps a comfort to those who have. Please stop in and comment if you wish to. Let us know about your dog’s (or cat’s or rabbit’s) experience with this disease and how they’re doing now!