Vestibular Canine Syndrome

Asking if anyone on this forum had a basenji with vestibular canine syndrome. Yesterday morning my 14 and 1/2 year old Basenji Kembe was her normal self in the morning - by early afternoon she was listing to the left and crashing into the walls. Her head was tilted, wobbly on her feet, body tilted to the left, walking in circles, and right eye seemed fixated. I thought she may have had a stroke. I called our vet - being Saturday afternoon I got his service - he telephoned me back. He said he feels she might be suffering from Vestibular canine syndrome from my description. Although he said it could be a mini stroke or infection in her ears. He told me to watch her carefully to prevent her from hurting herself and to bring her into his office Monday. He said to feed her 4 very small soft meals and to make sure she gets 10- 20 ounces of water per day. She ate her food and drank water this morning. I physically carried her outside and stabilize her with a harness so that she could do her business. I am DEVASTATED and a nervous wreck. The vet called me again today and he tried to reassure me that she will probably pull through this but it could take anywhere from 72 hours and sometimes weeks to see any improvement. I’m reading everything I can on the internet on the topic and most prognosis’s are positive. I just want her to be safe and happy. She is currently resting comfortably. I appreciate any comments or suggestions.

I have had elderly Basenjis with Vestibular, not uncommon in older dogs of any breed. There is also lots of information on the Web. It is most common in elderly dogs. Typically if after the episode if you were to shine a light in their eyes you will see very rapid eye movement, this is a total indication of Vestibular. This is one of the reasons that they are unstable on their feet.. it is like being drunk, they are unable to keep their balance. Many times also they will have a head tilt to either the left or right. They normally recover in a couple of days. Sometimes sea sick pills will help for the first couple of days. I never used those, however. You just need to be sure that they are drinking as being unsteady sometimes they can't figure out how to drink, same if they do get a head tilt. And your Vet is totally correct, depending on the attack they can bounce back in a couple of days or sometimes longer. If they have a head tilt, drinking can continue to be an issue. My one girl had a head tilt so I got a lick water bottle (like you would use in a hamster cage). I taught her to use it and then hung them in crates (with open doors) she did quite well with those. Most all time Vestibular is confused with a stroke... but with elderly dogs more often that not it is Vestibular. Hope this helps. And yes the prognosis's are mostly positive. I know it is scary... but typically at least in my experience in the breed for 30+ years, after the first couple of days it really does mostly resolve itself, sometime the tilt stays for the reminder of life, but my very first mentor had a boy that had the head/body tilt and lived for another 3 years and learned to live with it. If you search the Forum you can find old threads about Vestibular

last edited by tanza

One of my Basenjis had a mild session of this. Happened at night, and scared the daylights out of me! He had the rapid eye movement thing happening. I called the vet and he diagnosed it over the phone. By the next day you wouldn't have known anything had happened, and Sunny did not have a recurrence. I was hugely relieved that he was back to normal.

SF Bay Basenjis

My girl, Jungle Jane, had vestibular disfunction. She had 3 attacks over a 6 month period so be alert to the possibility that it could happen again. Nothing the vet could do except check for ear infections, blood work, etc. I found it very scary. Only wish I had known about the syndrome before but that is hindsight I guess. I am curious if it is common for basenjis? After her attacks she was unable to climb stairs on her own and it obviously "aged" her. One thing that happened to her that I didn't know at the time was that her retina detached in one eye. I'm not sure if this was because of vestibular or just a coincidence but I didn't catch it because I thought she was just head tilting from VD. By the time I took her to an eye vet it was too late to save her eyesight in that eye. I would recommend having eye exams after VD just in case.

@jetred - This is not common in only Basenjis... it is common in all elder dog breeds with age... As far as the detached retina, not usually something that happens with Vestibular.. says much for having eye exams with a Vet Ophthalmologist at least every few years along with blood work up for a senior panel... I do not believe (I am not a Vet) that this is something that happens with Vestibular that I have ever seen or heard happening

last edited by tanza

Not a vet or a vet tech but if it’s vestibular that’s the inner ear it could be from water sweat or just a bug that he picked up if it continues definitely see need to see the vet

@kembe
My last Basenji suffered a vestibular syndrome episode at age 13 and it was scary. I definitely thought she had suffered a stroke but my vet diagnosed it on the phone. The circling lasted for about 2 days although the head tilt stayed a bit longer. She recovered within the week and went on normally for an old gal. About six mos before we had to put her down, she passed out from extreme HBP (who knew about that?) but the wonderful emergency hospital was able to bring her back and gave her several more great months with me. Not sure if the HBP was related to the vestibular but you might want to check that with your vet.

As I already emailed Kembe privately - We had very similar symptoms in a 13 year old, round in circles, head on one side, wobbly, glazed eyes, so I called the vet out late on Saturday night. He was a locum, on weekend night duty, not our regular vet and he asked if he could try a steroid shot into a vein. He said he would come back next morning - no charge - if it didn't work. He seemed pretty confident.

We agreed. The shot was administered and the vet carried a large, heavy crate up to a spare bedroom so the patient could be kept away from the rest of the pack, in the dark and quiet.

Next morning the whole house shook as the 'patient' rattled his cage so it rocked from side to side and shouted "I want OUT !! Why am I here ? BREAKFAST is NOW !!"

So I let him out, he raced downstairs, ate his breakfast with gusto - and lived another 18 months or so. No recurrence.

This is the only case I've experienced in what is now almost 40 years of Basenjis and it was terrifying. I have subsequently had vets administer steroids to elderly dogs for various reasons with great success.

last edited by Zande

We took in a 12 year old rescue Basenji, a wonderful little chap and very good natured who fitted in easily with our little pack (another male Basenji and a female Lurcher). A few years later whilst on holiday in Wales, Fergus (our rescue) had a funny turn whilst on the beach. We took him to a local vet who diagnosed vestibular disease. We cut our holiday short and took him home and he got through it but forever more his head tilted to the left which gave him a peculiar gait and overall strange appearance, however, it didn't shorten his life and he carried on in his odd looking way to the age of 17.

Hello - I’d like to thank everyone who responded and commented about the Vestibular Canine Syndrome and their experiences. To update you - I brought Kembe to the Vet yesterday morning but due to restrictions with the Corvid-19, I could not go in with her. The vet gave her an acupuncture treatment and prescribed a Chinese Herbal medication called External Wind. I immediately noticed that Kembe’s body was not as rigid and stiff - she seemed much more calm and relaxed. We came home and she slept for about 4 hours -and was able to do her “basenji sleeping curl”. When she woke up I could see that her eyes were much more focused - and her face didn’t look disoriented and confused. She was able to stand although still a little wobbly but she didn’t fall over and was not stiffly leaning her entire body to the left. She seems to be slowly improving each day so I am now hopeful she will make a full recovery. The doctor said it could take a few weeks but he was confident that she would recover because the prognosis for this disorder is good. The comments on this forum not only provided me with information from owners previous experiences with Vestibular Syndrome but also gave me reassurance and hope. Thanks again for your helpful comments.

So happy to hear that your girl is doing better. Sending her much love from 'Senji land!

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