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Neurological Disorders in Dogs

Neurological disorders are illnesses that affect three main areas of your dog, including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Neurological disease causes sudden and very obvious changes in a dog’s behavior and mobility.

If your dog exhibits any signs of neurological distress note these three things:

  1. When the symptom was first noticed
  2. The frequency the symptom occurs
  3. Immediately contact your Veterinarian

Neurological conditions show clear physical changes in a dog’s body, mobility, and behavior. Understanding the signs and symptoms of a neural disorder is important to helping your dog get the care they need.

Signs & Symptoms of a Neurological Disorder in Dogs

The symptoms of disease affecting the brain, spinal cord, or nerves have easily identified symptoms. The most common neural symptoms involve a change in your dog’s behavior or gait.

Loss of Balance or Stumbling

A neurological disorder in dogs can significantly affect their hind legs and leg strength. A sudden loss of coordination is typical with most canine neurological issues. Dogs that tumble suddenly struggle to stand, or experience sudden mobility loss should immediately visit their Vet.

Persistent Head Shaking

A healthy dog shakes its head to remove water from its ears. However, a dog that shakes its head for no apparent reason without stopping may have an underlying medical condition that must be checked out. A head tilt can also be an indicator of a canine neurological disorder. 

Dragging Paws or Knuckling

Any change in your dog’s natural gait is a cause for concern. Dogs that drag their feet during walks or begin walking on the top of their feet may suffer from “knuckling.”  Knuckling paws lead to scrapes and other painful paw wounds and are usually the first sign of a neurological condition and, eventually, mobility loss.

Depending on the severity of the knuckling and the underlying cause, your dog’s knuckling may be treated through physical therapy or with a No-Knuckling training tool.

Vision Loss

Sudden loss of vision is a cause for concern. Dogs struggling to see will stumble into furniture or stare blankly at a wall. Dogs that appear disoriented or appear suddenly clumsy should immediately see their Vet.


Although typically an inherited condition, sudden seizures may be an indicator of neurological problems as well. Depending on the diagnosis, canine seizures are usually managed with medication.


Many different factors can cause pain. Along with whimpering, uncontrollable shaking and trembling also indicate your dog is experiencing pain. Your dog must see its veterinarian if it exhibits any signs of pain or distress.

Loss of Appetite

Neurological conditions can cause persistent nausea. If your pet suddenly appears unwilling to eat, there may be a serious underlying condition requiring treatment.

There are many different neurological disorders, and as each disease can present itself differently, there is no definitive telltale sign you should watch for. Be your dog’s advocate. You know your dog better than anyone. If you notice a sudden behavior change and are concerned, contact your Veterinarian.

What Causes a Neurological Disorder?

There are countless neurological conditions, and the causes can vary greatly depending on the dog. A dog’s spinal cord, brain, and nerves are sensitive to force; when something impacts these areas, it can lead to neurological issues. The signs of a neurological disorder can come on quickly.

Common Canine Neurological Disorders

Chihuahua in a Walkin' Wheels Mini Quad Wheelchair
  • Cerebellar Degeneration
  • Vestibular Disease
  • Wobbler’s Syndrome
  • Inherited Polyneuropathy
  • Epilepsy
  • Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
  • Parkinson’s Disease

Every case is different, and the care needed will vary. If diagnosed, your veterinarian will work with you to develop the proper course of treatment for your dog. Diagnosis of a neurological disease will be a significant life change for both you and your dog. Luckily, there are mobility tools that you can use at home to help make your pet (and your) life more manageable!

Mobility Assistance for Dogs with Neurological Disease

Dog Wheelchairs

Quad Wheelchair

Most dogs with a neurological condition will need a wheelchair at some point. Neurological disorders affect both your pet’s balance and mobility. Wheelchairs provide the necessary support and help your dog continue getting the exercise they need. An active dog is a happy dog.

Wheelchairs can be used as a part of your pet’s physical therapy session, during long walks, or on an as-needed basis. Dogs benefit from an early introduction to a wheelchair. An early introduction makes for a smoother transition to the time when your dog needs to fully rely on it.

Many neurological diseases are degenerative in nature. Your pet’s symptoms and mobility will worsen as their disease progresses. Their Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair can adapt with them as their needs change. A Walkin’ Wheels Rear Support wheelchair provides support and stability for pets with rear-end weakness. As the condition progresses, a front attachment can be purchased to convert any rear Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair into a full support cart. Providing support to both the front and hind legs.

Watch the video below to see how the Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchair can change your dog’s life!

Pet Boots

Due to the loss of balance and stability expected with most neurological disorders, boots can be helpful. With the additional traction provided by pet boots, you can prevent slip-and-fall accidents caused by slippery surfaces. Dog boots also help to protect your dog’s paws from scraping wounds caused by dragging feet.

Dog Lift Harness

Harness to help dog up stairs

Your pet’s symptoms may not be as severe during the early stages of neurological disease. Many dogs require only occasional assistance getting around. Your help and the use of a lifting harness can give your pet the boost they need to catch their balance, or a lifting harness can give your pet the boost they need to catch their balance or get them up onto their feet.

  • Up-n-Go Rear Support Leash this leash is designed to slide on from a lying down position. Offering light support in the rear end can be used to get your dog into a standing position or help them during quick bathroom trips.
  • Warrior Rear Harness – this harness offers great rear support for all-size dogs. It’s easy to use; simply pull up your dog’s rear legs like a pair of shorts, clip it over their back, and you’re ready to go. It also clips right into the Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchair when needed for a comfortable and supportive seat.
  • Buddy Up Harness – specifically designed to accommodate larger breed dogs. The front and rear Buddy Up Harnesses can be purchased separately or as one unit. Allowing you to customize the lifting support needed for your dog. As a progressive harness system, the Buddy UpHarness adapts to your dog’s ever-changing needs as their strength changes. Both the front and rear harnesses offer optional Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair compatibility.

No-Knuckling Training Sock

Dragging their feet when walking is a common side effect of most neurological conditions. A no-knuckling device is a corrective tool that, along with physical therapy, can help retrain your dog to walk correctly. The No-Knuckling Training Sock is used for two to five-minute walks to help correct your dog’s gait. This is a temporary training tool and should be removed after each session. This should only be used with the guidance and support of a veterinarian or rehab specialist.

Paw Knuckling in Senior Dogs
Before & After the No-Knuckling Training Sock

The training sock is designed to enhance proprioception and improve your dog’s paw placement. The sock’s cord stimulates the nerves between your dog’s toes and encourages your dog to pick its foot up higher when walking. Available only for veterinary professionals, this is a perfect addition to your dog’s rehabilitative training and can even be used during hydrotherapy sessions.

Learning your dog has a neurological condition is heartbreaking, but it’s not the end. Dogs can live happily for years after a diagnosis. Give your dog every opportunity to live a happy, active life, and know that there are options available to make the journey a smooth one.

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