Labyrinthitis in Dogs

Labyrinthitis may sound like some fantastical disorder that is exotic and untreatable but in reality it is just a fancy medical term for inflammation of the inner ear. The word derives from the organs that it affects. The labyrinth functions along with other parts to help with things like balance, posture, and coordination. The organs that compose the labyrinth are the semicircular canals, the utricle, and the saccule.

How Will I Know?
It’s never a great idea to self-diagnose your dog. However, there are some very obvious signs which may point to your dog experiencing ear troubles or labyrinthitis. Dogs who are suffering from this common ear problem usually have a strange posture with head hanging and usually tilted toward the side that is ailing them. You may notice dizziness when they get up and walk along with a lack of coordination and balance characterized by stumbling or tripping. Dogs that are affected will likely circle to the left or right, depending on which ear is affected. You may also notice them walking past walls or furniture and rubbing their affected ear along them. Some other symptoms may include rapid and sporadic eye movements called nystagmus, and vomiting.

What Causes Labyrinthitis?
One cause of labyrinthitis is the prolonged use of antibiotics. Aminoglycoside and neomycin antibiotics can cause the disorder when used for extended periods of time and deafness is also a concern. One way to prevent this from happening is to always make sure the eardrums are healthy and intact before flushing them with any medicated ear solutions. Once these medications come into contact with the sensitive structures of the inner ear, there could be devastating consequences.

Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome is a mysterious illness that affects middle-aged and senior dogs and it is a disturbance of the vestibular system in dogs with an unknown cause. IVS has a sudden onset and the symptoms of it can be debilitating. The dizziness and vomiting are severe and acute. In fact, the symptoms may become so uncontrollable that the dog may need to be hospitalized with IV fluids for several days. Although the signs of illness are usually worst at the 24 hour mark, effects can be seen for up to six weeks. The good news is that recovery almost always occurs and the only permanent damage is a slightly tilted head.

If your dog has not experienced ear infections in the past and suddenly is exhibiting symptoms of labyrinthitis, there may be something else causing it. Some causes could include: head trauma, brain tumor, poisoning, or drug ingestion.

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from an ear problem or has developed any of these symptoms after getting into something foreign, take your dog to the veterinarian to establish a proper diagnosis and treatment plan can be made.

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