RIKKI “Tails”

Long haired chihuaha tilting head

Why Foxy Woke Up With a Tilted Head

By | Disease and Medicine, RIKKI "Tails"

Foxy was perfectly fine when I put her to bed the night before, but when I went to get her the next morning, she could barely walk, and kept stumbling and falling down. Her head was cocked at a 45° angle and she had pooped and thrown up in her bed.

My first thought was that she had had a stroke or perhaps a spider had bitten her. My next thought was to call Marc. He knew what it was just from my description of her symptoms and a trip to the clinic only confirmed the diagnosis.

Foxy had “Idiopathic Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome”

a disease found primarily in dogs seven years and older. It comes on suddenly and dramatically with ‘idiopathic’ meaning ‘arising spontaneously’ and ‘from an unknown cause’.

Telltale signs include:

  • Loss of balance – stumbling, staggering, even falling down or rolling around
  • Head tilt
  • Nystagmus or erratic eye movements, where the eyes have trouble focusing and can’t stay still
  • Loss of appetite due to nausea and/or vomiting

Now there could be other reasons for these ailments such as an ear infection, a perforated ear-drum, a virus or an adverse reaction to a medication. It could even be something really serious like a stroke, polyps, a tumor or brain damage.

But since my 12 year old dog was normal and healthy only the day before, odds are it’s a vestibular problem. The vestibular system is comprised of parts of the brain and ear and is responsible for maintaining a sense of balance so when something goes wrong the dog experiences vertigo where everything is spinning.

Marc assured me that while the condition is frightening (both for me and Foxy) and there’s no specific treatment or cure . . .

Most Dogs Do Improve.

Meanwhile though, I had to help Foxy get around since she could barely walk or even position herself to go potty.

It took a few weeks but Foxy did get better, and while she’s left with a bit of a lingering head tilt, she can run and jump again and her quality of life has not been affected.

Marc did warn me however, that it is possible for dogs to have more than one episode of idiopathic vestibular disease. If it happens again at least I’ll recognize what it is.

Have a question about your pet or its behavior?
Contact us at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic by
texting or calling 480-987-4555.

Married man and woman smiling

How Did the Dog Get to the Turkey?

By | Behavior, RIKKI "Tails"

One day, just after Thanksgiving, I arrived at the clinic in time to witness two technicians trying to get a 40-pound dachshund to throw up.

“Boy that’s the biggest, fattest dachshund I’ve ever seen,” I observed.

“Well he’s even fatter than usual after eating a turkey leg, “said one of the technicians.

Soon, the hydrogen peroxide mixture was doing its job and the dog was heaving miserably into a bucket.

“How did the dog get to the turkey?”

I asked. “I mean it’s a big dachshund but it still has those short little legs.”

“Oh, at about two in the morning the dog snatched the turkey off the coffee table,” another vet tech mentioned casually.

“Why was the dog prowling around the house in the middle of the night, and besides, who leaves a turkey out all night on a coffee table?” I wondered out loud, my housekeeping sensibilities offended.

About an hour later I noticed there was still a dachshund sitting on the exam table, but this one looked considerably smaller.

“Is that the same dog I saw before that ate the turkey?” I asked. “He looks so little now. He must have thrown up the whole bird.”

“This dog ate turkey all right,” Dr. Marc told me. “But it’s the other dog’s sister. They both stuffed themselves but the bigger dog got the lion’s share.”

During my next visit to the clinic, I noticed a tiny black and brown dog the size of a Chihuahua. The poor dog, which must have weighed all of three pounds, was standing on the exam table shivering and shaking.

“What’s wrong with this little guy?”

I asked.

chihuahua“It ate a ham” one of the technicians said.

“That dog’s not even as big as a ham,” I observed. Then, remembering the coffee table turkey I added, “How could it have snatched a ham? Where was this ham? On the floor?”

“I don’t know,” Marc sounded exasperated. “Owners didn’t even realize the ham was gone. Besides, this is nothing new. Had a beagle in here that ate a whole ham as well.”

“Why are there so many untended hams and turkeys around?”

I wondered aloud as the small dog started vomiting. The clinic was turning into a support group for bulimics.

“You know,” I mentioned to Marc, “it seems they should change that expression, ‘eats like a pig’ to ‘eats like a dog.’”

Have a question about your pet or its behavior?
Contact us at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic by
texting or calling 480-987-4555.


By | RIKKI "Tails"

“Tails” from the Vet Clinic


by Rikki Schmidt

One day a golden retriever was brought into the clinic by a concerned couple. The beautiful animal, named Sunny, appeared to be in the peak of health.

“And why are we seeing Sunny today?” Marc asked as the technician led the obedient dog and his owners into an exam room.

“Well Doc,” the woman began, “he’s been drinking an awful lot of water lately. Like maybe a gallon a day.” The possibility of diabetes began to loom large in Marc’s mind.

“Is he losing weight?” Marc asked. “Does his eyesight seem to be getting worse?” While he was talking to the people he put a water dish down in front of Sunny but the dog paid no attention.

Sunny looking at the water but not drinking.

Sunny looking at the water but not drinking.

“Nope,” the man said quickly. “Nothing seems to be wrong with him at all. He’s just drinking like a fish for some reason. Like my wife said, about a gallon a day.”

Marc examined the sweet dog who was quite amenable to all the poking and prodding. “With excessive thirst,” he explained to the couple, “we always have to consider diabetes. Although Sunny doesn’t seem to exhibit any of the other symptoms.  And he didn’t drink any of the water here. I’d like to take some blood tests to see what’s going on.”

The couple readily consented so Marc drew the blood and told them he would call in a few days with the results. But two days later when the tests came back, everything was normal. It seems Sunny didn’t have diabetes or anything else. Marc asked the owners to come back for another consultation. He put a water bowl down but once again, Sunny didn’t seem interested.

“How’s Sunny doing,” he asked.

“Still drinking a gallon a day,” the husband told him.

“How do you know it’s that much?” Marc pressed for more information on this puzzling case.

“Well,” the wife explained. “You know how terrible the tap water here tastes. So we buy bottled water. And we got Sunny one of them ‘self-filling’ coolers. You know, like the kind you see in offices? The ones with the big jug on top? But instead of having to press the lever to get water, this one is set up so it automatically fills Sunny’s water dish as soon as it’s emptied. Makes it real convenient for us. But less than a week goes by and I have to replace that five gallon jug.”

“When do you notice the dog drinking?” Marc asked. “And what is he doing just before he’s drinking? Is it after he’s been walked or chased a ball?”

The woman thought for a moment “Seems like there’s no one time he drinks more than others. And I can’t tell you what he’s been doing beforehand.  We have a big fenced yard and a doggy door so he pretty much comes and goes as he pleases. I can tell you what he does right after he drinks though.”

Marc was interested “What’s that?”

“Well, you know how when you drain enough water out of them jugs, it sort of has to readjust itself with the pressure and all? Kind of makes that ‘glug’ sound and a bunch a bubbles come up?”

“Yes..” Marc said slowly.

“Well, it seems Sunny likes that part.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he gets real excited about it. Every time he hears that ‘glug’ and sees the bubbles he wags his tail and gets all happy. Seems like he looks forward to it. While he’s drinkin’, he’s watching the jug like he can’t wait for it to happen.”

“Really?” Marc stroked his chin as a ridiculous, yet plausible explanation began to take shape in his mind. “You think it’s possible that Sunny may be drinking all the water just to hear that glug sound?”

The husband and wife looked at each other.

“I mean it sounds almost like a learned response,” Marc continued. “Sunny knows if he drinks enough water, sooner or later he’ll see the bubbles and hear that sound he likes. So he keeps drinking to make it happen. Look, we’ve offered him water the two times he’s been in the clinic and he hasn’t touched it.”

At first, the dog’s owners sat there in silence. But then, they too, realized that, as bizarre as it sounded, Marc’s theory had possibilities.

“Well I’ll be!” the husband exclaimed. There’s nothing wrong with that dog at all.”

The wife chimed in, “yeah, he just been ‘conditioned.’ Like Pavlov’s dog.”

“More like Perrier’s dog” Marc said and they all laughed.



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