How to Feed a Dog with Vestibular Disease? Expert Tips and Advice

If your dog has recently been diagnosed with vestibular disease, you’re likely feeling overwhelmed and concerned about how to properly care for them during recovery. One of the main challenges is getting your disoriented dog to eat normally. Since nutrition plays a vital role in healing, figuring out how to feed a dog with vestibular disease is important.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll draw from my experiences as a veterinary nurse and long-time dog mom to explain vestibular disease and provide tips to help your dog get the food they need. You’ll also find answers to common questions about caring for a dog with vestibular syndrome. Let’s start with an overview of this condition.

Some key facts about vestibular disease:

  • Primarily affects older dogs, but can occur in pets of any age.
  • Triggers sudden, severe vertigo, and loss of balance.
  • Usually causes a head tilt, circling, vomiting, and nystagmus (rapid involuntary eye movements).
  • Recovery can take days to weeks, but most dogs fully regain balance.
  • Prescription medication can relieve symptoms but isn’t required for recovery.

Understanding Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Vestibular disease in dogs, also known as dog vestibular syndrome, is a condition that affects a dog’s balance and coordination, causing them to feel disoriented and dizzy. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including inner ear infections, toxins, head injuries, and brain tumors.

The symptoms of vestibular disease in dogs can vary but commonly include:

  • Head tilting
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty standing or walking

Vestibular disease can be distressing for dogs and their owners, but it is important to remember that many dogs recover from the condition with proper care and treatment.

Why Won’t Dogs with Vestibular Disease Eat?

Vestibular disease drastically reduces your dog’s appetite for several reasons:

  • Nausea and vomiting – Just like motion sickness makes you queasy, vestibular disease causes nausea and sometimes vomiting. Your dog wants nothing to do with food when they’re feeling this sick.
  • Loss of balance and coordination – Imagine trying to eat a bowl of cereal while the room is spinning. That’s what mealtime is like for a dog with vertigo and balance loss. Reaching for, chewing, and swallowing food is very difficult.
  • Disorientation – Your dog feels “drunk” and isn’t fully aware of their surroundings due to vestibular disease. This confusion means they often won’t even recognize their food bowl.
  • Fatigue – The exertion of getting up, walking over to the food dish, and eating is extremely tiring for dogs with vestibular syndrome. They often choose sleep over eating.

As you can see, vestibular disease robs a dog of their normal appetite and ability to eat. But maintaining nutrition is crucial, so let’s look at techniques to make mealtime easier.

Importance of Proper Nutrition for Dogs with Vestibular Disease

Proper nutrition is crucial for dogs with vestibular disease. A balanced and nutritious diet can help support their overall health, boost their immune system, and aid in the recovery process.

Vestibular disease can often cause nausea and vomiting in dogs. Thus, feeding them small and frequent meals throughout the day can be more effective than providing one or two large meals. It’s also essential to ensure that the dog is consuming enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated.

The dietary requirements of dogs with vestibular disease may differ from those of healthy dogs. Consulting with a veterinarian to create a nutrition plan tailored specifically to the dog’s needs is highly recommended.

Dogs with vestibular disease may also benefit from a diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil, can help reduce inflammation and support brain function. A diet with highly digestible proteins and carbohydrates can also help alleviate digestive issues and provide a source of energy.

While it may be tempting to feed the dog treats or table scraps to increase their appetite, it’s important to ensure that these foods do not contain any ingredients that could worsen their condition. Additionally, any changes to the dog’s diet should be made gradually to prevent gastrointestinal upset.

Selecting the Right Dog Food for Vestibular Disease

Choosing the right dog food for a pet with vestibular disease is crucial to support their overall health and well-being, aid in their recovery process, and manage any potential dietary sensitivities. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting dog food for a dog with vestibular disease:

Factor Considerations
Ingredients Look for high-quality protein sources, such as chicken, turkey, and fish, and avoid fillers and artificial additives. Choose a dog food that is easy to digest and gentle on the stomach, especially if your pet is experiencing nausea or vomiting.
Nutritional Content Make sure the dog food provides balanced nutrition that meets your pet’s age, breed, and health needs. Look for food with adequate levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support your dog’s immune system.
Veterinarian Consultation Always consult with your veterinarian before making any dietary changes for your dog with vestibular disease. Your veterinarian can recommend specific dog food brands and formulations based on your pet’s individual needs and medical history.

In general, it is recommended to feed your dog small, frequent meals rather than one or two large meals per day to aid in digestion and prevent vomiting or nausea. Additionally, it is important to provide fresh water at all times and monitor your dog’s water intake to prevent dehydration.

Types of Dog Food

There are several types of dog food that may be beneficial for dogs with vestibular disease. These include:

  • Prescription dog food: Veterinarians may recommend a specific prescription dog food that is tailored to support dogs with vestibular disease or other medical conditions.
  • Commercial dog food: Look for high-quality commercial dog food that meets the criteria listed above. Avoid any dog food that contains ingredients that your pet may be sensitive to or that have caused problems in the past.
  • Homemade dog food: Homemade dog food can be beneficial for dogs with vestibular disease as it allows for greater control over the ingredients and nutritional content. However, it is important to ensure that homemade dog food provides balanced nutrition and meets all of your pet’s dietary needs.

Ultimately, selecting the right dog food for your pet with vestibular disease requires careful consideration and consultation with your veterinarian. By prioritizing your dog’s nutritional needs, you can help support their overall health and well-being and aid in their recovery process.

Homemade Dog Food Recipes for Vestibular Disease

While commercial dog food is a great option, some dog owners may prefer to make their own dog food at home, especially for dogs with specific health conditions like vestibular disease. Here are a few homemade dog food recipes that can be beneficial for your furry friend:

Recipe 1: Chicken and Rice

Ingredients: Amount:
Chicken breast, boneless and skinless 1 pound
Brown rice 1 cup
Carrots, chopped 1 cup
Pumpkin puree 1/4 cup
Water 2 cups

Directions:

  1. Cook chicken breast until no longer pink, then shred into small pieces.
  2. Cook brown rice according to package instructions.
  3. In a large pot, add shredded chicken, cooked brown rice, chopped carrots, pumpkin puree, and water.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Cool before serving. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Recipe 2: Beef and Sweet Potato

Ingredients: Amount:
Ground beef 1 pound
Sweet potato, peeled and chopped 2 cups
Green beans, chopped 1 cup
Spinach, chopped 1 cup
Water 2 cups

Directions:

  1. Brown ground beef in a large pot over medium heat, then drain excess fat.
  2. Add chopped sweet potato, green beans, spinach, and water to the pot.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Cool before serving. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

When feeding your dog homemade dog food, it is important to ensure that the recipe provides balanced nutrition and vitamins suitable for your dog’s specific needs. Always consult with a veterinarian before making any significant changes to your dog’s diet.

How to feed a dog with vestibular disease?

Feeding Techniques for Dogs with Vestibular Disease

Dogs with vestibular disease may experience difficulty eating due to the related nausea and lack of balance. Here are some tips and techniques to make feeding easier for them:

  • Use an elevated food bowl: This can help reduce the strain on their neck and make it easier for them to reach the food.
  • Offer smaller meals throughout the day: Feeding smaller meals more frequently can help dogs with vestibular disease feel less nauseous and prevent vomiting.
  • Try a slow feeder: Slow feeders can help dogs with vestibular disease eat at a slower pace, which can reduce the risk of choking and gagging.
  • Use a non-slip mat: Placing a non-slip mat under the food bowl can help prevent it from moving around and provide stability for the dog.
PRO TIP: Feeding smaller meals more frequently can help dogs with vestibular disease feel less nauseous and prevent vomiting.


It’s important to be patient and take your time when feeding a dog with vestibular disease. They may need extra time to locate their food and get into a comfortable position to eat. Additionally, offering a quiet and calm environment can help alleviate any stress or anxiety they may be experiencing.

Appetite Stimulation for Dogs with Vestibular Disease

One of the challenges of managing vestibular disease in dogs is ensuring that they maintain a healthy appetite. Dogs with vestibular disease can experience nausea and loss of appetite, which can lead to further health complications. Here are some strategies to stimulate the appetite of a dog with vestibular disease:

  • Try adding flavorful ingredients like cooked chicken or beef broth to their food to entice them.
  • Consider warming their food slightly before serving it.
  • Offer small, frequent meals throughout the day to encourage them to eat.

If your dog still struggles to eat, you may want to consult with your veterinarian about using supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, which can help improve their appetite and overall health.

PRO TIP: Ensuring that your dog is eating enough during their recovery process is crucial for supporting their immune system and facilitating a faster recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian for advice on appetite stimulation.


Managing Water Intake for Dogs with Vestibular Disease

Proper hydration is essential for dogs with vestibular disease, as it can help prevent dehydration and aid in their recovery process. You should monitor your dog’s water intake closely and make sure they have access to fresh water at all times. Some dogs may have difficulty drinking from a regular bowl due to their balance issues, so you may need to offer water in a different container or elevate the bowl.

If your dog is experiencing nausea or vomiting, you may need to limit their water intake and offer small amounts of water more frequently throughout the day. Some dogs may also benefit from adding electrolytes to their water or offering a nutrient-rich broth to keep them hydrated and nourished.

It’s important to note that you should always consult with your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your dog’s water intake or if you have concerns about their hydration level. They may recommend specific water intake guidelines based on your dog’s individual needs and health status.

Water Intake for Dogs with Vestibular Disease

Supporting Overall Well-Being through Lifestyle Adjustments

While managing vestibular disease, it’s important to support your dog’s overall well-being through some lifestyle adjustments. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Provide a calm and quiet environment: Dogs with vestibular disease can easily become disoriented and anxious in busy or noisy surroundings. Try to create a calm, quiet environment for your dog to rest and recover.
  • Offer gentle exercise: Although too much movement can aggravate the symptoms of vestibular disease, some gentle exercise can be beneficial for your dog’s physical and mental health. Short, frequent walks or light play sessions can help maintain muscle tone and improve circulation.
  • Ensure regular veterinary check-ups: Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can help monitor your dog’s progress and ensure they are receiving adequate care and treatment.

By implementing these lifestyle adjustments, you can help enhance your dog’s quality of life and promote a speedy recovery from vestibular disease.

Conclusion

In conclusion, feeding a dog with vestibular disease requires careful consideration and planning. Providing proper nutrition and managing their water intake can support their overall health and improve their recovery process. When selecting dog food, it is important to consult with a veterinarian and consider ingredients, nutritional content, and the dog’s individual needs.

Homemade dog food can also be a beneficial option, with recipes focused on easily digestible ingredients and balanced nutrition. Feeding techniques such as elevating the food bowl and using a slow feeder can help prevent nausea, while appetite stimulation strategies can encourage regular eating habits. Supporting a dog’s overall well-being through lifestyle adjustments, such as providing a calm environment and gentle exercise, can also aid in their recovery and enhance their quality of life. By following these tips and advice, dogs with vestibular disease can receive the proper care and nutrition they need to thrive.

FAQ

What is vestibular disease in dogs?

Vestibular disease, also known as dog vestibular syndrome, is a condition that affects a dog’s balance and coordination. It is often characterized by symptoms such as disorientation, head tilting, loss of balance, and difficulty walking.

Why is proper nutrition important for dogs with vestibular disease?

Proper nutrition is crucial for dogs with vestibular disease as it can support their overall health, strengthen their immune system, and aid in their recovery process.

How do I select the right dog food for a dog with vestibular disease?

When choosing dog food for a dog with vestibular disease, it is important to consider factors such as the ingredients, and nutritional content, and consult with a veterinarian for professional guidance.

Are there any homemade dog food recipes that can benefit dogs with vestibular disease?

Yes, there are simple and nutritious homemade dog food recipes that can be beneficial for dogs with vestibular disease. These recipes often focus on easily digestible ingredients and balanced nutrition.

What are some feeding techniques for dogs with vestibular disease?

Feeding techniques for dogs with vestibular disease include elevating the food bowl, feeding smaller meals more frequently, and using a slow feeder to prevent nausea.

How can I stimulate the appetite of a dog with vestibular disease?

Strategies to stimulate the appetite of a dog with vestibular disease include adding enticing flavors or textures to their food, warming the food slightly, and considering supplements like omega-3 fatty acids.

Why is managing water intake important for dogs with vestibular disease?

Managing water intake is important for dogs with vestibular disease as dehydration can worsen the symptoms. It is essential to provide fresh water at all times and monitor the dog’s water intake.

What lifestyle adjustments can support a dog’s overall well-being while managing vestibular disease?

Lifestyle adjustments for dogs with vestibular disease include providing a calm and quiet environment, offering gentle exercise, and ensuring regular veterinary check-ups.

How long does it take dogs to recover from vestibular disease?

Most dogs fully recover balance and coordination within 2-6 weeks after a vestibular episode, though it varies from dog to dog. Most improve dramatically within the first 7-14 days once the inflammation subsides.

How is vestibular disease diagnosed?

Veterinarians diagnose vestibular disease based on clinical signs, a neurological exam, balance tests, and sometimes MRI or CT scans if the cause is unclear. They’ll rule out conditions like stroke or brain tumor first.

How long does it take dogs to recover from vestibular disease?

Most dogs fully recover balance and coordination within 2-6 weeks after a vestibular episode, though it varies from dog to dog. Most improve dramatically within the first 7-14 days once the inflammation subsides.

Resources:

  1. VCA Hospitals – Vestibular Disease in Dogs
  2. PetMD – Vestibular Disease in Dogs
  3. Wag! – Vestibular Disease in Dogs