If your pooch is staggering, stumbling, or falling over, they could be experiencing a loss of balance due to a number of potentially serious conditions. In today's post, our Rock Springs veterinary team explains why you should seek medical attention for your pet right away if they are unbalanced.
Loss of Balance and Staggering in Dogs
If your dog suddenly loses their sense of balance or begins staggering, they could be suffering from a potentially serious underlying health condition. Loss of balance or staggering in dogs should never be ignored because these symptoms could be indicative of a need for emergency veterinary attention. If your dog has symptoms of any of the following health issues it's time to head to the vet right away.
Although strokes in dogs are uncommon, they can occur as a result of kidney disease, blood clots, high blood pressure, bleeding, parasitic worms, or head trauma. Loss of balance, collapse, head tilt, vision loss, and circling are indications that your dog may be suffering from a stroke.
Brain tumors can occur in dogs of all ages and breeds, but are more common in older dogs. Brain tumors can cause general imbalance, stumbling, and staggering. Depending on the location of the tumor, additional brain tumor symptoms may include changes in behavior and/or appetite, seizures, pain signals, head tilt, swaying, a wide stance, lack of coordination, pacing, eye flicking, and head tremors.
Encephalitis, also known as inflammation of the brain, can lead to dogs losing their balance, stumbling, or falling over. Multiple underlying conditions, such as fungal infections, tick-borne diseases, and parasites, can cause brain inflammation. Additionally, a dog with encephalitis may exhibit symptoms such as fever or depression.
Sensory, Vestibular & Cerebellar Ataxia
Ataxia is a sensory dysfunction in dogs that causes a loss of coordination in the hindquarters, the head, or the limbs. There are three common types of canine ataxia: sensory, vestibular, and cerebellar.
- Sensory ataxia is when the spinal cord becomes compressed due to a tumor or bulging intervertebral disk.
- Vestibular ataxia: an issue affecting the inner ear or brainstem
- Cerebellar ataxia: damage to the cerebellum
Signs of ataxia include staggering, stumbling, and falling over. Your dog may also exhibit behaviors and symptoms such as flicking the eyes from side to side, tilting the head, walking in circles, vomiting, and nausea.
Inner Ear Infection
Frequently, inner ear infections cause dogs' loss of balance. If your dog has an ear infection, you may also observe odor in or around the affected ear, head shaking and scratching, walking in circles, eye flickering, redness, swelling, or discharge.
Injuries such as head trauma or inner ear damage can also cause dogs to lose their balance. Signs that your dog is in pain following an injury include increased panting, slowed reflexes, dilated pupils, biting or licking the injured area, reluctance to lie down, and anxious behavior.