World Animal Day
Since 4 October is World Animal Day, I visited Veterinarian Quadrant in Herne, a stone's throw from House4balance.
Stefaan Van Hoegaerden is running the practice
with 5 vets and 3 veterinary assistants.
He encounters dizzy critters on a weekly basis! The most common balance disorders?
At number 1: Twirling bunnies
1 x /week
Every week - all year round - Stefaan sees rabbits that fell ill with Encephalitozoon Cuniculi, a single-celled parasite. Stefaan: "It's not contagious in itself, all rabbits come into contact with it. But one will develop the illness while another won't. It's random. The tricky thing is that you can't see a unicellullar parasite, as opposed to fleas and worms, that are multicellullar and visible to the eye, which allows you to intervene quickly."
And yet it is higly important to act swiftly with this illness. It can lead to kidney or brain damage. In that case you get a rabbit with a tilted head (torticollis). Stefaan: "As long as it's just the tilted head, we can cure half of them with drugs. But if the rabbit is sick to the point of spinning around, the outlook is very bad. Then there is no other solution than euthanising the animal."
Number 2: Senior dogs
1x / 2 weeks
It's called canine ideopatic geriatric vestibular syndrome. Twice a week Stefaan comes across dogs with this disorder in his practice. "We see this most often in dogs from 6 to 7 years. Strangely mostly in Golden Retrievers and Labradors, but I am not sure it's due to having more of these types of dogs as patients here, or whether they actually are more prone to this disease. Professional literature also mainly mentions these 2 breeds though."
What you get is a dog with a tilted head, leaning against the wall, eyes showing nystagmus, its posture instable (ataxia), toppling down. Stefaan: "We administer a low dose of cortisone and sometimes the situation improves after a few days. We make a photo of the vestibulum and only when we don't detect anything there and symptoms persist, we continue with an RX - a deviation in the bony structure might indicate a tumor for example - and only after that we pursue a CT scan of the brain and the vestibulum. As a vet you are obviously more limited than as a regular doctor. How far can you take the tests and accompanied cost?"
At 3: Snoring & dizzy cats
2x / year
Stefaan sees dizzy cats too. "What we sometimes witness in cats are feline inflammatory polyps in the middle ear. They find their way through the Eustachian tube to the throat, or to the auditory canal. If the polyp grows towards the throat you end up with a snoring cat. If it grows towards the auditory canal on the other hand, the cat becomes dizzy. But polyps - even if your cat has multiple - are usually reasonably good news; they're treatable. Although a feline polyp, after removal, could still result in a tilted head, because of the damage it has caused to the balance system."
'Eyes - brain - vestibular organ'
Another affliction that Stefaan diagnoses in dogs from time to time, is Horner' Syndrome.
"In that instance the eyes of the dog aren't lying: the third eyelid is showing on the impaired side, as well as a shrinking pupil, an eyeball that recedes and drooping eyelids. Typical again of middle aged Labradors and Golden Retrievers. The cause is often unknown and usually symptoms spontaneously disappear after 2 or 3 months. But if we look closer, we notice swelling of the nerves connecting eyes, brain and cervical vertebrae (T1 and T2)."
It shows that it's all connected and balance comes down to a good collaboration of the vestibular organ, the eyes and the brain!
Ahum ahum... Is there any protocol for vets to rely on?
How nice of Stefaan to make some time for House4balance!
And I hope you learned something new on this World Animal Day!
Your founding president,