“My oldest dog (a shaggy black dog named Duchess, a possible flatcoat retriever, to be 14 in 2 weeks) had 2 instances of geriatric vestibular syndrome 2 years ago, in late July of 2007, then again in late September of 2007. The first time, she was falling over, couldn’t walk on slick floors, could walk a little on concrete or grass, had a serious head tilt.

I had no idea what it was, was very scared, rushed her to my vets, where they quickly diagnosed it. I had just lost one of my old dogs and was about to lose another, and I was very scared I was suddenly going to lose her, too. They said it usually went away in a few weeks unless caused by a tumor or something, gave her some nausea medication. They said that most of the time it was not caused by anything obvious. I took her to a specialist that afternoon, where I left her for a CAT scan to rule out a tumor. I picked her up the next morning, and she was doing much better, still a head tilt and a little wobbly walking, but able to walk on the slick vet floors. The CAT scan showed nothing, which was good.

Duchess got much better within a few days, and I stopped the medication after a week or so. A slight head tilt persisted for a while, but she was otherwise all right. When it came back, she was suddenly falling down again, big head tilt, but I had some medication left and immediately gave her some, and she was much better by the end of the day. Within a few days she was pretty much normal again, and she has been since, for the following 2 years.  I will have had Duchess for 12 years on September 2, a stray I took in at about age 2, and she has so far had very few problems, one of the healthiest dogs I have ever had to this point. Other than the vestibular syndrome, she had a slight case of heartworms when I took her in (which I treated successfully), and she had an abscessed tooth (and several other bad ones) that had to be removed last October 1. None of my past old dogs (now all deceased) had the problem, and she is now the senior pet in the household, queen of the house, after the previous queen, Misty, died 2 years ago at over 15.

So my experience is that it may recur, but unless it is caused by something else is not something to worry about. Just treat it until it gets better in a few weeks. I don’t think it has anything to do with MG. MG has to do with muscle weakness, and I don’t know of any muscles in the inner ear. My MG dog, Emmy, never had anything like that. Of course, she is now 8 1/2, approaching old dog status herself (being only a puppy of 2 when the MG came on).

Like the “geriatric” in the syndrome name suggests, this is primarily a problem with old dogs. It mostly seems to be idiopathic (like most ME), meaning they haven’t a clue what causes it. My Duchess was about 12 when it happened, which is moderately old for a medium sized dog. There has been at least one other occurrence of vestibular syndrome on this list, one in late 2007, I think.

Checking for any ear infection would be a reasonable thing. I would be surprised if the vet did not do that at the outset. I think mine did.”

Vernon Williams & Emmahlee