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My dog staggering and falling over...what should I do?

My dog staggering and falling over...what should I do?

Is your dog staggering, stumbling, or falling over? Loss of balance can result from a number of serious underlying medical issues, including poisoning, stroke, injury, or an infection. In today's blog, our Rock Hill Emergency and Specialty Vets explain why you should get to an animal hospital right away if your dog is experiencing balance issues.

Dog Losing Balance & Staggering

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 since these symptoms can indicate a medical emergency. 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 relatively uncommon, they can happen. Strokes can occur as a result of kidney disease, blood clots, high blood pressure, hemorrhage, migrating worms, or head trauma. Indications that your dog may be having a stroke include loss of balance, collapse, head tilt, loss of vision, and circling.

Brain Tumor

Brain tumors can occur in dogs, particularly older dogs, and can lead to a general loss of balance, stumbling and staggering. Other brain tumor symptoms will depend upon the location of the tumor, and may include changes in behavior and/or appetite, seizures, signs of pain, head tilt, swaying, a wide stance, lack of coordination, pacing, flicking of the eye and head tremors.

Brain Inflammation

Encephalitis, commonly known as inflammation of the brain, can cause dogs to lose their balance, stagger, stumble, or fall over. Brain inflammation can result from number of underlying issues including fungal infections, tick-borne diseases, and parasites. Other symptoms of brain inflammation can include depression and fever.

Sensory, Vestibular & Cerebellar Ataxia

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

  • Sensory ataxia is when the spinal cord becomes compressed due to a tumor or bulging intervertebral disk.
  • Vestibular ataxia results from an issue with the inner ear or brainstem.
  • Cerebellar ataxia occurs when the cerebellum becomes damaged. 

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

Inner Ear Infection

Loss of balance in dogs often occurs due to inner ear infections. If your dog has an ear infection, you may also notice additional symptoms such as odor in or around the affected ear, head shaking and scratching, walking in circles, and eye flicking, as well as redness, swelling, or discharge.


Injury such as head trauma or damage to the inner ear can cause balance issues in dogs. Signs that your dogs is experiencing pain due to trauma include heavy panting, slowed reflexes, change in appetite, enlarged pupils, biting or licking the wounded area, reluctance to lie down, and anxiety.

If your dog is in need of urgent veterinary care in the Rock Hill, South Carolina area, visit our emergency vets at Carolina Veterinary Specialists. We are here to care for your pet when you need us, including late nights, weekends or holidays. If your pet has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition that requires specialty veterinary care, ask your vet for a referral to our team of veterinary specialists.

Vet Care for Rock Hill Pets

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Rock Hill, accepts new patients to our specialty services by referral only. Our emergency/urgent care service welcomes all patients.

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