My Dog-Friend Lifeline

Marley – recovered from her vestibular incident at 13 years of age

Dog Emergency!

Last Friday, my husband woke me up. “Something’s wrong with Marley!” he yelled. Marley, who sleeps in a different bedroom at night, was whining and struggling in her crate.

When I got there she was upside down, had her blanket completely wrapped around one leg and was weaving her head back and forth. I had noticed the day before she was holding her head a bit tilted and wondered if she might be getting vestibular syndrome. Well, this looked like a full blown case of it to me.

The only reason I was familiar with vestibular was that my friend Linda Woodruff in Minnesota had posted photos and video on Facebook of her older dogs that had developed it. The characteristic head tilt and unsteadiness are very distinctive.

I managed to get Marley untangled from the blanket, right side up, out of the crate, and onto the bedroom floor. She made no attempt to stand and continued to weave her head back and forth. My first call was to the veterinary emergency clinic. I told them her symptoms and my suspicions.

Decision Time

The receptionist told me I could either bring her in or wait until my vet opened and try to get her in there. She was so agitated, I thought I should take her to the ER, but then it became obvious she was not going to stand, and she freaked out if I attempted to pick her up, so I decided she was not going anywhere right then.

Phone a Friend

So, at that point, I decided to phone my friend Sharon Keillor who has also had Bull Terriers for over 30 years, and owns a dog boarding and services business. She asked me to check Marley’s eyes for movement, and when I reported they were flipping back and forth like a sprinkler, she told me that sounded exactly like vestibular syndrome.

Sharon had an elderly Cocker Spaniel who had the syndrome, and she shared what the usual treatments was Dramamine and that the cure was “tincture of time.” Symptoms fade, some dogs go completely back to normal and then others keep a head tilt afterwards.

Sigh of Relief

Now, I felt more comfortable leaving Marley to recover on her own, I gated off the room so the other dogs couldn’t bother her, and after about an hour she stood up. The first appointment I could get with my regular vet was the next day, I sent Mike out for Dramamine and did all I could to make sure Marley always had secure footing and was getting around comfortably.

When we got to the vet, he completely agreed with my diagnosis. He told me since she had side to side eye movement rather than up and down, it was less likely to be a tumor. He doesn’t even usually treat it, but feels Dramamine can benefit mostly because it lets the dog sleep off the “attack” and recover.

Networks are Powerful

This story illustrates the power of the network that I have developed spending most of my lifetime working with dogs. This is something I think is way under-appreciated by the general dog owning and dog-shopping public. I have people I can call, yes even at 6 AM who are ready and willing to answer questions about dog care. I know veterinarians, breeders, and trainers who have dealt with a lot of situations and can find an answer much faster than someone without that network to turn to.

Having a knowledgeable friend or friends you can reach out to is way more effective than “Dr. Google.” This is especially true when those people are familiar with your breed and the issues they are most likely to experience. Friends who have been through what you are going through can calm you down or spur you into action, as the situation requires.