The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining the orientation of the dog in respect to its environment. Think "up is up, down is down, etc" Dysfunction in the vestibular system usually results in a loss of balance, trouble walking, incoordination, circling, falling, and a head tilt to one direction Its sometimes described as a massive case of seasickness or motion sickness. Vomiting or rapid jerky eye movements may also be a part of this disease, known officially as Idiopathic Peripheral Vestibular Disease. Although clinical signs are severe frequently, there is usually improvement within 1 -2 weeks with primarily supportive care (medication to control anxiety and motion sickness, ensuring the pet is eating and drinking adequately, and so on.) But what about using physical therapy to help these guys?
The structure of a dog's ear is similar to that of a human ear. In humans, dysfunction of the vestibular system is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. It may be a primary condition or secondary due to a viral infection or head trauma. Crystals in the ear were first noted in humans in 1992, and while this has not been investigated in dogs, it is reasonable to speculate the possibility. In treating humans, there are several positioning techniques that have proven successful. Adapting these technqiues to dogs is always challenging but in severely affected dogs, it may be done and may provide some relief.
Veterinary Physical Rehabilitation is a rapidly growing field and many techniques that have worked well in people can be modified to help dogs too. Dogs with Vestibular disease may benefit from the same treatments that help people with Vertigo find relief. Just a thought.