Old Dog Vestibular Disease: A Holiday Scare

Dear Readers,

Doodle, our beloved little dog, gave us a serious health scare a few days before Christmas. Picture this: we were sitting on the couch playing a video game and she was tucked betwixt me and The Dude (that’s what the cats call him, so I’ll go with it.) Doodle started panting and I noticed from behind that her head was tilting to the left repeatedly. I hopped down in front of her and looked into her eyes and noticed that she was completely unable to focus. Her eyes were flicking back and forth. She tried to stand but her legs slid right out from under her. I called the GrandFODs up and they came rushing over, but by the time they arrived about 4 minutes later, she was ok and walking again. Based on the way her eyes were moving and my own previous experience, I wondered if she had possibly had a bought of vertigo. Of course, I was also terrified she was having a stroke. I booked a vet appointment for the next morning.

Louie helping with Doodle’s supportive care. She was quite dizzy here.

Our vet, Dr. C. , said that based on the description, it seemed like Doodle had come down with a case of “Old Dog Vestibular Disease.” We were told that many dogs of age (Doodle is over 13) develop this problem out of the blue and the only real option is supportive care. Dr. C. mentioned that if Doodle had had a small episode, she would likely have a longer one, and she was not wrong.

On Christmas day, Doodle got very sick. She was lethargic, her eyes were floating back and forth, and she threw up from queasiness.

Here’s what you might notice if your dog has vestibular disease:

A rapid flicking of the eyes back and forth

A slow movement of the eyes towards one side, as though they are being pulled

Rapid Breathing

Unable to eat or drink on their own

Drooling (From queasiness) or vomiting

Walking in circles

Running into walls or leaning while they walk

 

I put Doodle on 5 days of 25 mg per day of Meclizine, an anti-nausea medication that you can get over the counter. The doctor can also prescribe it. You may also find it as non-drowsy formula Dramamine. This enabled her to eat and drink, though I had to assist her because her depth perception seemed to be off and she was unable to get at the food and water without help.  I also carried her down and up stairs and did not let her walk alone. I brought out her new Ikea pet bed because it’s low to the ground. I did not leave her alone on the couch or any elevated furniture and kept her away from any stairs or drop offs.

Humans who have suffered vertigo may be familiar with the Epley maneuver where your head is rotated into several positions to assist in moving inner ear crystals to maintain balance after an attack. The vet did not recommend this, but I noticed that Dixie was lying on the side to which her eyes were being pulled, so I worked her through the Epley maneuver (Again, this was not vet-recommended) and she seemed to get better shortly thereafter. After five days, Doodle was her self again. She is now handling everything like a champ and is no longer on medication.

If your dog goes through this, some remember that they need supportive care:

Assist your dog with eating and drinking

Do not leave your dog alone for long periods. Considering confining them to a small room or crate, if they’re already used to being crated.

Give them a comfortable place to rest

Provide anti-nausea medication, if vet-recommended

Get a vet checkup if your dog has never experienced this before. We also did a full blood workup and know that Doodle has no other underlying problems, which was worth the peace of mind.

Seeing Old Dog Vestibular Disease in action for the first time is a very scary event. Hopefully, this will help any of you feel less frightened if it happens to your dog. Senior dogs do require some extra care and this is just one of the many things that we can prepare ourselves for ahead of time to better assist our aging friends. Remember, they can get through this with your help!

Doodle is feeling much better but Louie is INSISTING on offering more supportive snuggles. Or maybe he’s just cold.

Happy New Year!

Love,

Alana.

 

Further Reading:

Mercola Pets Vestibular Disorder Article

Pet MD Article on Vestibular Disease

 

Tips for Training Deaf Dogs

You Guys!

Today we have special guest Rendy Schuchat, owner and founder of Anything is Pawzible in Chicago, Il, to talk with us about training deaf dogs! I’ve admitted it before, and I’ll say it again: my best friend is a dog. While she isn’t deaf (although occasionally she acts like it), we wanted to have a little resource for anyone that was considering adopting a deaf dog. Also, modeling for us today will be Doodle (my best friend), because we don’t have any photos of deaf dogs being trained.

Doodle, though not deaf, is ready to pose for our article!

Doodle, though not deaf, is ready to pose for our article!

Welcome, Rendy! Training deaf dogs seems like it might be more challenging than training a dog that can hear. Tell us, what is the most challenging part about training a deaf dog?

Actually, the most challenging part of training a deaf dog is teaching their owners how to shift gears from verbal to hand cues.  Dogs follow body language better than verbal, so attaching meaning to hand cues is what we start with even when the dog can hear!

Yes, I like to blame things on people, too. Are there any tasks that deaf dogs are better at than dogs that can hear?

Once you have their attention, deaf dogs can actually be less distracted because disruptions that an otherwise hearing dog might get distracted by are not present with deaf dogs (buses, kids screaming other dogs barking, etc.)

Training dogs takes quick action to let them know they’ve done something right. How do you immediately tell a deaf dog that they’ve done well if you can’t use a clicker or say “good?”

Before you can teach any dog (hearing or deaf) it is best to attach a “positive marker” that means that was what I wanted! With hearing dogs we use the word “yes!” With deaf dogs, I have used the thumbs up hand cue.  We show them the cue and then give them a treat and continue to repeat until the dog shows visible signs (ears alert, leaning forward, eyes brighten) that they are excited to see that thumbs up signal, which will eventually be tied to exercises we teach.

Perhaps you can walk us through a command. For instance, how do you train a deaf dog to come?

I would take a treat and jog slowly backwards drawing the dog towards me. As the dog began to follow, I would give the “thumbs up” sign and a treat would be given. I would repeat this and begin to shape hand [a] command by pulling the treat towards my chest shaping a hand cue that means “come,” making sure to stop and positively mark the behavior I was looking for. Eventually, we would fade the treat and ask for a sit to finish the exercise. Voila!

Doodle accepting a treat for "Down."

Doodle accepting a treat for “Down.”

Do you ever suggest that deaf dogs be allowed off-leash, either at a dog park or otherwise?

I am not a fan of off-leash unless the area is completely enclosed and safe, especially with a deaf dog. There are just too many distractions you would need to control for which takes individual practice with each of them. If a deaf dogs encounters something that they are uncertain or even frightened by and bolts or spooks, it would be very difficult to get their attention. Many people with deaf dogs will use a vibrating collar in place of their name. It isn’t meant to harm the dog, in fact, just the opposite. We teach the dog that the gentle buzz means “look at me” and something great will happen! These collars could be used in an off leash situation, but lots of rehearsal and practice is necessary before going off leash – and collars we may be relying on to get the dogs attention can fail.

Do you have to teach deaf dogs any special commands as part of their basic training that you wouldn’t otherwise need to teach a regular dog? What are the absolute musts you think a deaf dog must learn as part of basic obedience?

I honestly can’t think of anything a deaf dog must know that a hearing dog wouldn’t. Any command you can teach a hearing dog and deaf dog should learn and vice versa – no limitations!

Doodle flying through agility. Again, she's not deaf, but she looks really cool.

Doodle flying through agility. Again, she’s not deaf, but she looks really cool.

One more question: Besides the buzzing collar, how can you get a hyperactive deaf dog to pay attention to you? He obviously has to be looking at you in order to see the hand cues. Is that ever a problem with dogs that are a little more active or having trouble sitting still?

Hyperactive dogs in general (hearing or not) have a harder time paying attention.  Some of my clients have used a stomp on the floor in place of the collar. If the dog is engaging in a behavior that is undesirable, say jumping up on the counter, the stomp becomes the attention cue and when the dogs looks in your direction a “negative marker,” like a shaking a finger with a stern face, can convey the behavior needs to stop.

I use the stern face command a lot, myself. Thank you so much, Rendy, for helping us learn more about training deaf dogs!

***

If you live in the Chicago area and would like to contact Rendy about dog training, you can reach her at her website at http://anythingspawsible.com

img_hs_rendy Rendy Schuchat, M.A. –  Owner/Founder and Head Dog Trainer at Anything Is PAWZible dog training in Chicago, Illinois. I bring my life-long love for animals together with proven positive dog training techniques that both you and your dog will enjoy. With over a decade of professional experience and a Masters Degree in Psychology as well as a Certification in Dog Obedience Instruction from Animal Behavior Training and Associates, I am committed to helping people build and strengthen their relationships with their dogs. I was voted one of the BEST/FAVORITE DOG TRAINERS in Chicago by Chicagoland Tails Reader’s Choice Awards multiple times.

 

 

 

 

Love,

Crepes!

**Edited by Alana Grelyak. No compensation was exchanged by any party for this post.**

Bachelor of the Week: Hachi!

Dear World,
I hope you are well. Today, I would like to introduce you to Hachi, a small pomeranian who has a few needs. Let me give you his information:
hachibaseball
Name: Hachi
Weight: 7 pounds
Age: 10
Special Needs: blind, torn ligament in leg, heart murmur
Batting average: 0.0 (he doesn’t play baseball – he prefers hockey)
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Now then, let’s discuss Hachi’s needs. He is blind, but he comes when you call him, he’s house trained and crate trained. Also, sometimes his eyes move back and forth a bit.  Hachi has a heart murmur but he requires no medication for it and I’ve heard that Co Q-10 supplements are helpful and inexpensive for such things. He also has a torn ligament in his leg, which prevents him from playing hockey and aids in him having a 0.0 batting average, but he’s on a low dose of pain meds, which in turn, makes him quite the happy little fellow! He sometimes hops on it. You can hop too, and call it dancing.
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Hachi gets on well with dogs and cats and he really, really, really loves people. In fact, he loves people so much, he would like to go home with one who wants to love and snuggle him so he can retire from baseball forever. (Just kidding. Hachi doesn’t want to retire from baseball. He wants to watch it from the couch. With YOU.)
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If you’d like to meet Hachi, he’s in foster care in Virginia through the Blind Dog Rescue Alliance. He can be transported to you at no extra cost, even if you’re out of state, as long as it’s a reasonable distance. Call him up. Have a chat. If there’s anything Hachi can do, it’s love you. In fact, he’ll knock it right out of the park. Meet Hachi today.
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Hachi enjoying a game from the stands

Hachi enjoying a game from the stands, which happen to be filled with dog food. Lucky him!

Strutting his face.

Strutting his stuff.

YEAHHHH!!!!!

YEAHHHH!!!!! HOME RUN!!!!!

Love,

Crepes.

PS. Check out the newest CATastrophes video – it’s under one minute and tells you what to do if your cat is scratching up the couch!