Saturday, November 8, 2008

Niko our Malamute

Gerry and I had quite a scare yesterday when our dog Niko started behaving quite strangely.  She’s an old girl – a 13 year old Malamute – way past her age expectancy.  She has some old age issues, but she’s quite lively and having a good time in life wrestling with her adopted brother Dioji and still going on 2 mile hikes.  A couple of nights ago she vomited during the night; mostly bile but besides that she seemed relatively fine.  We thought maybe she’s just not feeling well.  The next day, she ate some breakfast and had her morning cookie, but didn’t seem to really enjoy it.  She seemed a bit mopey and we figured we’d let her relax and let her “sickness” run its course. 

Well, yesterday she woke up and vomited again this time a lot!  Still bile.  I tried to get her outside and she was totally dizzy like a drunk!  She couldn’t stand never mind walk.  She fell and I thought "this is it".  I figured her body was just failing and that  she was dying.  We called the vet and they offered us a 2:30 appointment.  We took it but figured we’d let her rest rather than drag her down to the vet and create a trauma to her on her dying day.  We were considering just calling the vet to have him come and euthanize her at home.

Then I noticed her eyes were doing something weird.  They were pulsating and flicking up an down.  Almost a weird roll.  I had Gerry call the vet again to let them know of this symptom – was it a sure bet that her system was failing or should we rush her in?

The doctor relayed that we should bring her in and that “it may not be as bad as we thought”.

Gerry carried her to the car and I sat in the back with her thinking that this might still be our last car ride together.

The doctor took one look at her and diagnosed Vestibular Syndrome.  It happens in older dogs and it actually does “run a course” but is not deadly.   

The following are signs of vestibular disease:

ataxia (lack of coordination without weakness or involuntary spasms – in  otherwords, stumbling and staggering around)


motion sickness
 - therefore vomiting



 (back and forth or rotational eye movements. The movements will be slower in one direction. This is the side where the neurologic lesion is likely to be; however, nystagmus is named according to the direction of the fast component  i.e. there may be left nystagmus but the lesion is probably on the right side of the vestibular apparatus.) 




Head tilt


Falling to one side


Trouble with other nerves controlling the head and face

Search Vestibular Syndrome for more information, but if you happen to experience this with a dog you know…. Maybe it’s not as bad as you think either!  Niko is in recovery.  She does seem a little better.  She is taking Dramamine, Zantac and an antibiotic for the ear infection she may have which is causing this.  She has a history of them, so we can safely assume this is the remedy.  She can walk around although still very dizzy.  You have to watch her so that she doesn’t stumble and hurt herself or the furniture – she’s a big dog!   We have confidence that she will recover from this.  In the meantime, she’s a spoiled girl and she loves the attention!

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