Pet Education

Browse our veterinary-reviewed Dog and Cat Illness Guide to learn more about pet health. Always talk to your veterinarian if you have a concern about your pet's symptoms or health.
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Canine Vestibular Disease

The vestibular system controls balance (preventing your dog from falling) with parts in the brain and the ear. Vestibular disease disturbs this system suddenly.

There are two forms of this disease:

  1. Peripheral: when the balance center in the ear is affected
  2. Central: when the balance center in the brain is affected

The peripheral form is more common than the central form.

Older dogs are more susceptible to vestibular disease. It is usually not life-threatening and can be resolved over a few days.






Your veterinarian will do a physical exam of your pet and some of the following:


Most veterinarians recommend the following treatments for dogs with vestibular disease:


If the condition is idiopathic (no known cause), there is no known preventative measure.

For other causes that are preventable, avoid traumatic incidents by keeping your dog on a leash or in an enclosed area. Keep your dog vaccinated and avoid exposure to poisons.


If there is no major underlying cause (idiopathic), the prognosis is very good. A lot of pets show improvement within a few days. Some will have a slight head tilt and may wobble for the rest of their life.

However, if there is something directly causing the vestibular disturbance, the prognosis depends on the cause. Possible causes include:

Peripheral Causes:

Central Causes:

As these causes are from brain-related issues and there may be damage to the brain, the prognosis is generally poor.

Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM

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