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Vertigo in Canines

These days my head is as filled with canines as it is with humans. We got a new puppy :) I may write more about her another time, but today I wanted to share another canine memory. And it has to do with manual therapy.

Did you know that dogs are quite prone to vestibular disorder? In humans we call it vertigo. There are several reasons for vertigo, and I won't get into that here. But it is as common in dogs as it is in humans. And it happened to us some years ago.

Beasty was 15 years old when it happened for the first time and it scared me to death. I was sure I was witnessing him having a stroke. It was frightening; he couldn't get up from the floor without falling to the side and his head was way tilted to one side. And his eyes were rapidly moving up/down.

I called our vet right away and told them what I was looking at. Carey Bailey DVM quickly calmed me down and said it's probably just the vestibular disease. "Are his eyes flicking rapidly?", she asked. "Yes they are!" I replied. "Yep, he's got the vestibular disease", she said. They did come to pay us a visit next day to make sure things were what they seemed.

I looked up vestibular disease in dogs to see how it compared to the human vestibular disorders and it was quite similar. Which meant that it could be treated in similar ways. So, that same morning I couldn't just leave Beasty laying there, he was as scared as I was, I thought. I decided to try the Epley maneuver on him. After all, Carey the veterinarian said there wasn't anything they can do to make it go away. It'll run its course and they offered nausea medicine so he'd feel a little less sick.

While the Epley maneuver is very well known to physical therapists it is less so to massage therapists. It is not a very difficult procedure and one that I was familiar with so I modified it to my dog - on the floor, and he didn't mind it. Actually, he felt less scared in my arms, despite him being turned onto his back for 30 seconds. I offered him some water and let him rest while I went to the office to see a few clients.

What happens during vestibular correction maneuvers like Epley?

Wikipedia does a good job describing it in simple enough terms: "It works by allowing free-floating particles from the affected semicircular canal to be relocated, using gravity, back into the utricle, where they can no longer stimulate the cupula, therefore relieving the patient of bothersome vertigo".

Source: Gray's Anatomy

When I returned Beasty was in another room! He got up and moved! And he was holding his head up a little. Success! I repeated my modified Epley one more time that day and he was able to go for a little walk that evening.

The vet was very impressed, too. But most of all, Beasty wasn't disabled by his vestibular disorder and was recovering at a much faster rate than if left untreated.

I took a video of me and Beasty in one of our sessions. If we can help anyone else help their K9 get over their vertigo any faster, great!

One other thing we learned from this event was that hydration was crucial. In order for the crystals inside the ear to move and slide around the vestibular canal unimpeded, there must be sufficient fluid in the canal. And the fluid is replenished with hydration. So, if this happens to your dog... keep on top of fluids. Yep, same with humans and vertigo. Stay hydrated.

Here is the post session video, with Beasty's eyes much calmed.

If you have a doggo that gets this problem and you think this might help, you are welcome to try it. It won't make anything worse. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

Stay well,

Until next time : )

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