Old Dog’s Vestibular Disease Not Eating

Is your dog above eight years of age? Has he started to lose balance all of a sudden? Are his eyes moving back and forth more than usual? Do you think his head is spinning and so is he?  It is most likely that he’s suffering from Old Dog’s Vestibular disease. An old dog’s vestibular disease can also lead to your dog not eating. Other symptoms do resolve in a matter of a few days, but your dog may lose his appetite. Why and how? Let us see.

old dog vestibular disease not eating

What is Old dog’s vestibular disease?

The term ‘old dog’ refers to a dog who has crossed seven years of age. Whereas the word ‘vestibular’ is about loss of coordination and balance. Altogether it reflects the dog losing control over his muscles and reflexes due to increasing age, he starts to show abnormal neurological signs. The other name is Old Dog syndrome or Peripheral Vestibular disease.

In dogs, the vestibular system and the nerve are located close to the ear (Vestibulocochlear nerve), within the brain. This is the reason why most dogs with ear infection can get peripheral vestibular disease. The cause is often idiopathic (non-known), it is just related to age as a risk factor. Another risk factor is a larger breed. However, it can also be found in young and small breeds.

The diagnosis of Old vestibular disease made based on ruling out and mostly the symptoms are considered. Neurological tests help rule out the disease from stroke and Central Peripheral Neuropathy.

Causes of Old Vestibular Disease

Although the reason to get Old Dog’s syndrome is mostly unknown, some vets say that these factors might contribute to the likelihood of getting the disease.

  • Ear infection/ inflammation and perforated ear drum– this is very common in dogs as they are unable to take care of their hygiene. If it manifests for longer than usual it can cause nerve damage as the vestibular area is located near to the ear. The nerve damage then starts to show lack of coordination between muscles.
  • Viral Infections– some viruses have the ability to reside in the ganglion and lead to nerve damage, these are very difficult to treat.
  • Reaction to a medication– medicines have side effects. Using them for the long term to control pain and other factors can actually affect the nervous system,
  • Injury to the neck– the neck has a collection of nerve fibers. These nerve fibers are prone to damage on a fall, injury, or any other trauma. Thus leading to peripheral vestibular disease.

Symptoms of Old Dog’s Vestibular Disease

There are certain signs and symptoms you’d notice in your dog which will help in the identification of the disease. What are the signs and symptoms found in Old vestibular disease?

Loss of balance

Since the dog is unable to coordinate his muscles together you’d see him doing strange acts. He might be stumbling, falling all of a sudden, rolling around, and cycling without stopping. This could be dangerous, keep him in a free open space.

Head Tilt

Keeping your head in an upfront manner again involves muscles and nerves. Due to the old dog’s vestibular disease, you are most likely to see the dog’s head tilted at 45 degrees. This sign is characteristic of the disease, it’s often the last one to resolve.


If you were unaware of this term before, it’s time to educate yourself now. Nystagmus is basically the back and forth movement of the eyeball that could look scary. This has a role related to nerves that seem to have been damaged in this disease.

Loss of bowel/bladder control

Defecation and urination are also controlled by muscles. You hold them with the help of sphincters that are opened and closed on particular signals from the brain. The sphincters are present at the end of bladder and anal canal. Old dog’s vestibular disease if lasting for longer can also lead to an uncontrollable flow of urine and stool. Which puts your dog in a terrible state of mind and he might refrain from eating or drinking anything.

Old Dog’s vestibular disease not eating

The doggo might refrain from eating in Old Dogs vestibular Disease. According to the dog’s state of thinking, eating creates bowel difficulties, as the movements are uncontrollable so he rather chooses to stay hungry.

Another reason is vertigo. If vertigo is bad a dog wouldn’t eat for days. They get dehydrated and malnutrition, leading to increased weakness. They also feel that they’ll throw up any moment which results in the loss of appetite.

Old Dog’s Vestibular Disease not eating?

The worst part has to be to see your dog not eating anything at all. Sometimes all the symptoms like vertigo and nystagmus resolve, but the loss of appetite stays there. Some dogs might not eat anything for weeks leading to weakness, wobbly and lethargic nature. They will be super picky sticking to just one or two kinds of food. The dog might look interested and tempted at the sight of meat but would spit out in the fear of vomiting or feeling nauseated once again.

What to do if my dog is not eating due to Old dog’s vestibular disease?

Here are a handful of tips that you could follow to bring back your dog’s appetite.

  • Try Feeding food as a treat. Throw dental chews and treats like bully dogs at him in a playful manner. He will take it as a game, forget his fear of throwing up and start eating.
  • Give him some nutrient broth mixed with water, this might bring back his taste for meat.
  • Get him back on baby food. It’s easy to digest and would resolve abnormal bowel movements, or atleast the dog’s fear.
  • Anti-nausea drugs from the vet have shown positive results. Call your vet and get some anti-nauseatic agents for the weakling

Sometimes if the dog’s appetite doesn’t improve in a couple of months try running tests again. These will now ensure if he has kidney issues or some other problems. Prompt treatment can help save you from bigger trouble.


You need to visit a doctor to diagnose if it’s an Old Dog’s vestibular disease. This is important because stroke shows similar symptoms and that’s a medical emergency. Neurological tests such as, an MRI confirm the diagnosis. At times fluid from the dog’s inner ear and csf is collected for differential diagnosis.

Symptomatic Treatment

There isn’t a proper treatment, but we relieve the symptoms by therapy. Give symptomatic treatment.

For example,

  • if it’s due to an ear infection, give antibiotics.
  • For dehydration, IV is given.
  • Anti-nausea medication is prefered for vomiting.

Self-resolving symptoms

The symptoms arrived on their own, they will go away with time too. This self-healing period could be anywhere from 3 days to 4 weeks. Most severe cases have seen to be recovered by six weeks. However few signs like titled head and dog not eating persist longer than usual.

If the symptoms last longer, you definitely need to pay a visit to the vet. The peripheral vestibular disease has a chance of progression to Central Vestibular Disease.

Nursing Dog

To turn the topsy-turvy world for your little one upright, you need to follow a few rules. These nursing tips are to be followed till the time all symptoms have not recovered.


You might not feel the urge to eat or drink due to Old Dog;s Vestibular disease. Hand feed him. Keep the water bowl in a close area and don’t forget to use easily digestible food. Add Omega 3 EPA and fish oil to regain your dog’s health.


Keep the dog in a padded area surrounded by pillows so he is unable to hurt himself. Keep him away from sharp edges, as his head is spinning, he is more prone to hurt himself. Make sure to have an open space away from the staircase.


Since the poor baby would be unable to control his bowel movements, you must take him outside every few minutes after feeding. You may use a harness to help him guide to his potty spot.

With that said, I would say the signs of Peripheral Nerve disease can make you worry. It’s horrible to see your dog with an abnormal gait, tilted head or constantly moving eyeballs. However, the worst of all has to be the dog not eating due to Old Vestibular Disease. For him to recover and start playing again you need to nurse him well.

Don’t panic, be patient and try to increase his feeding dose every passing day.

1 thought on “Old Dog’s Vestibular Disease Not Eating”

Leave a Comment