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My dog is staggering and falling over...what does it mean?

My dog is staggering and falling over...what does it mean?

If your dog is staggering, stumbling, or falling over, it could be due to a number of medical issues, such as an injury, stroke, poisoning, or infection. Our Memphis Emergency Vets explain why you should get to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible.

Why is my dog staggering?

If your dog suddenly loses their sense of balance, it could be suffering from one of the serious health issues listed below. This indicates that your dog requires immediate medical attention and that you should take him to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible.


Ataxia is a sensory dysfunction condition that causes a loss of coordination in the head, limbs, or back end. In dogs, there are three types of ataxia: cerebellar, sensory, and vestibular.

Cerebellar ataxia is caused by damage to the cerebellum. When the spinal cord becomes compressed due to a bulging intervertebral disc or a tumor, the condition is known as sensory ataxia. Vestibular ataxia is caused by a problem with the inner ear or the brain stem.

Signs of ataxia include head tilt, walking in circles, vomiting, nausea, and eye flickering from side to side, in addition to staggering, stumbling, and falling over.

Ear Infection

In dogs, inner ear infections are a common cause of balance loss. If your dog has an ear infection, you may notice additional symptoms such as head shaking and scratching, circular walking, and eye flicking, as well as redness, swelling, discharge, and odor in or around the affected ear.


Dogs can lose their balance as a result of injuries such as head trauma or inner ear damage. Because dogs tend to mask pain, it can be difficult to tell if your dog is injured. Heavy panting, slowed reflexes, change in appetite, enlarged pupils, biting or licking the injured area, anxiety, and reluctance to lie down are all signs that a dog is in pain.


Strokes in dogs are uncommon, but they do occur. Blood clots, high blood pressure, hemorrhage, head trauma, kidney disease, or migrating worms can all cause a stroke. If your dog is having a stroke, you may notice him losing his balance, tilting his head, circling, falling down, and losing his vision.

Brain Tumor

Brain tumors can cause staggering, stumbling, and general loss of balance in dogs, especially older ones. Other symptoms of a brain tumor include changes in behavior and/or appetite, seizures, signs of pain, head tilt, swaying, a wide stance, lack of coordination, head tremors, eye flicking, and pacing.

Brain Inflammation

Brain inflammation (encephalitis) can cause a dog to stagger, stumble, or fall over. Encephalitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including fungal infections, tick-borne diseases, and parasites. Fever and depression are also encephalitis symptoms.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is showing signs of balance loss like stumbling, staggering, and falling down, contact Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists + Animal Emergency right away.

Emergency Care

Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists + Animal Emergency is open 24/7 for emergencies and is accepting patients for advanced diagnostic appointments. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Lexington companion animals. 

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Contact (859) 268-7604