Behind every old dog is an owner who would do whatever it takes to make sure their loyal friend is happy, healthy, and living their best life. Our little Bobby has given us a few scares over the last few weeks, but with the help of herbs, oils, western medicine and a little intuition, Bobby is quickly getting back to his sassy Shiba self.
Earlier this year we took Bob to the vet. Because of our current state of affairs, I was not allowed into the clinic but had to wait in the car while my friend was led away. Knowing Bob's tendency to overreact I hated handing him over to a stranger but trying to do the right thing I let him go and we followed the vet’s advice for a new medication. When we received our medicine, I was a little hesitant to give it to Bob. We try to do herbal remedies as much as possible, so a drug just didn't feel right. I should have listened to my gut. After being on the medicine a week Bobby collapsed. He quickly regained consciousness and seemed fine. A few days later when it happened again an inner voice told me to check the medication. After a digging into the side effects of this drug, I learned that collapse and a racing heartbeat were serious side effects that I had no idea were possible. I felt like a complete failure. I had given my pup a drug that could have ended his life. We immediately stopped the medication and went back to just our herbal remedies.
Bob quickly went back to his normal self, with more energy and stamina, and more interaction with us. These subtle side effects weren't as readily noticed until his normal personality came bouncing back. We started a new herb, mullein, that gave him an overall boost and even seemed to help his hearing, which has been slowly fading over the years. Life seemed good for Bob until late last Tuesday night. We did our normal routine of going out in the yard just before bed. I noticed that Bob had a hard time walking but with two bad knees sometimes after a good long nap he can be a little stiff. So, I told myself that it was just the arthritis and carried him to bed, trying to quiet the nagging feeling that something wasn't right.
The next morning, I carried Bob out to the yard to do our morning business and it was clear that something was wrong. He staggered and swayed, stumbled with every step, and fell to the ground more than once. I scooped him up, fighting back tears, and went back to bed to contemplate what to do next. While my first reaction is he needs to be seen by a vet, all the fears of sending my healthy Bob into the clinic by himself quadrupled thinking of sending my very disoriented and scared Bobby in with people he doesn't know or trust. While waiting for the vets to open we did some Google searching and the Hippie Hubby came up with a diagnosis - vestibular disease. After running down a list of symptoms with our vet over the phone she concurred and counseled us on the best course of action.
Vestibular disease is not something I had ever heard of before last week. It mostly affects older dogs and its cause is mostly unknown. Besides walking like he had a little too much to drink, he was vomiting, his eyes were twitching, and his head swayed back and forth as if watching the world spin by. The symptoms are alarming and very much like that of a stroke but instead of being a problem within the brain the vestibular symptoms are most likely coming from the inner ear. He was just a very dizzy, dizzy dog.
Our first priority was to make Bobby as comfortable as possible and of course essential oils were my go-to. I mixed lavender to help keep him calm, and peppermint and dried ginger to help ease his nausea. We ran these oils in a diffuser for up to 15 minutes then off for an hour. When using oils with a pet it is always best to do very short sessions and make sure the pet can leave the room if they desire.
Next, we needed to control his nausea. I'm sure he felt like he just got off of a roller coaster ride that he had no intentions of getting on. While we tried to stick with natural remedies, the ginger powder was just not strong enough to completely help so at our vet's direction we put him on over the counter Dramamine. This allowed him to eat and drink without becoming ill. Becoming dehydrated is a serious potential with this disease so it was important to start keeping the water down. Our appetite still isn't what it should be but we're eating a little of our food and a lot of treats and the occasional takeout pizza (crust only)!
With small bouts of controlled exercise, Bobby is regaining his balance and improving greatly every day, even trying to run and play. Less than a week later he is on his way to a full recovery.
Vestibular disease is scary to watch (and scary for our pups to go through) but with supportive care our old dogs can make a full recovery. As our animals age we know that time isn't on our side. When an illness arises our minds race to the worst case scenario, but I've learned to trust my gut, trust in natural remedies, and that holding space for our companions to heal on their terms is the most important aspect to their wellness. I am incredibly grateful that Bobby is feeling better and I am humbled and blessed by all the people in my life who said a little prayer for his recovery. And if anyone else is out there with sick or aging pets feel free to reach out for support or resources. I am more than happy to share what herbs and oils work for us, what medications we found to be too dangerous to use, and how we make sure to enjoy life while age with grace.