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Why does my dog keep staggering and falling over?

If your dog is staggering like he's drunk, stumbling, or falling over, it may be the result of a variety of medical issues, including injury, stroke, poisoning, or an infection. Here, our Douglasville vets explain why you should get to a veterinary hospital right away if your dog can't stand up properly.

Why is my dog staggering?

If your dog suddenly loses their sense of balance, it could be suffering from one of the following health problems. Loss of balance symptoms should not be ignored because they can indicate a serious medical emergency. If your dog exhibits any of the following symptoms, you should take him to the vet right away.


Ataxia is a condition relating to a sensory dysfunction that results in a loss of coordination in the rear end, head, or limbs. Three kinds of ataxia are commonly seen in dogs: vestibular, cerebellar, and sensory.

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

As well as staggering, stumbling, and falling over, signs of ataxia include flicking of the eyes from side to side, head tilt, walking in circles, vomiting, and nausea.

Ear Infection

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


Balance problems in dogs can be caused by head trauma, injury, or damage to the inner ear. Because dogs are very good at masking pain, it can be difficult to tell if a dog is injured. Heavy panting, slowed reflexes, change in appetite, enlarged pupils, biting or licking the injured area, reluctance to lie down, and anxiety are all signs and symptoms of pain in dogs.


Strokes in dogs are relatively uncommon, but they do occur. Blood clots, high blood pressure, hemorrhage, head trauma, kidney disease, or migrating worms can all cause a stroke. Loss of balance, head tilt, circling, loss of vision, and collapse are all symptoms of a stroke in your dog.

Brain Tumor

Brain tumors can occur in dogs, especially senior dogs, and can cause a general loss of balance, staggering, and stumbling. 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, pacing, and eye flickering.

Brain Inflammation

Encephalitis, or brain inflammation, can cause dogs to stagger, stumble, or fall over. Inflammation of the brain can be caused by a variety of factors, including fungal infections, tick-borne diseases, and parasites. Depression and fever are also encephalitis symptoms.

Are you concerned about your dog's staggering? Contact our Douglasville vets today to book an appointment.

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