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Why is My Dog Falling Down?

A dog suddenly losing their balance, stumbling, or falling over is cause for concern. If your dog is staggering, unsteady on their feet, or having trouble standing something is wrong and you need to visit a veterinarian right away. When a pet is suddenly unable to support themselves it is likely that they are experiencing a medical issue, such as a stroke, infection, or injury. All of which need immediate medical attention. The quicker your dog is diagnosed and treated the better. 

What Causes a Dog to Fall Over?

how to help a dog with balance issues

Sudden loss of balance in a dog is likely due to a medical condition. Dogs are built to be strong and active, when they start to stumble and fall over these are clear indications that something is wrong. A dog’s balance and coordination are both controlled by their inner ear, brain, and spine, and when these areas of a dog’s body are compromised a dog can struggle to maintain their equilibrium.

Dog’s don’t fall over for no reason. When a dog loses their sense of balance something is causing them to become dizzy, disoriented, weak, or they’re in pain. Many canine mobility issues, including neurological or spinal conditions can cause a dog to lose their balance and fall over. There are several different reasons why your dog may fall over, here are just a few:

Ataxia in Dogs

Ataxia occurs when a dog loses their coordination due to a sensory dysfunction. A dog diagnosed with ataxia may have unusual movement in their legs, head, body or all three depending on the type of ataxia. Additionally their gait and proprioception, or a dog’s awareness of their feet while walking, can be impacted. You may be asking yourself, but how does this happen? When pressure is placed on a dog’s spinal cord a dog’s paw placement and their proprioception is impacted. Spinal cord pressure may be caused by a tumor, herniated disc, swelling, or bulging intervertebral disk. 

Understanding Different Types of Canine Ataxia

Ataxia in dogs is a condition that causes sudden loss of coordination and balance problems. Vestibular ataxia occurs when a dog’s brainstem or inner ear are affected. This disrupts a dog’s equilibrium, causing the dog to lose their balance. Causes of vestibular ataxia include: ear infections, hypothyroidism, trauma, or tumors. Cerebellar ataxia impacts a dog’s fine motor movement and control. A dog’s brain can also impact their coordination, this type of neural condition is called cerebellar ataxia. Symptoms often include making exaggerated movements, experience head tremors, and are unable to control their gait. Symptoms of cerebellar ataxia can range in severity and frequency. 

Treating Ataxia in Dogs

Treatment for canine ataxia will depend on the underlying cause. If caused by injury, infection, or tumor the vet may recommend medical management or corrective surgery if needed. There are many ways dog mobility challenges can be treated. Your veterinarian will work with you and create the right treatment options for your dog. Ataxia caused by spinal pressure, spinal instability, or mobility condition (such as degenerative myelopathy) supportive care, rehabilitation, and further assessment may be recommended. 

Canine Stroke and FCE

Canine Stroke and FCE

Just like in humans a canine stroke occurs as the result of a blood clot, high blood pressures or trauma. A dog experiences a stroke when the blood flow to their brain is restricted, which causes neurological issues and symptoms. A dog experiencing a stroke may experience loss of balance, circling, falling down, or loss of eyesight. It’s common for a stroke to cause a dog to be wobbly and unsteady on their feet.

FCE is one of the most common strokes in large dogs. An FCE is a spinal stroke that occurs suddenly leaving a dog weak and possibly paralyzed. Learn more about FCE symptoms and diagnosis in this article.

Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

Just because your dog is unsteady on their feet, doesn’t necessarily mean its a major health problem. Ear infections in dogs can cause equilibrium and balance issues as well. Bacteria and yeast can build-up in a dog’s ear leading to infection.

How to tell if your dog has an ear infection:

Signs of a canine ear infection can be easy to spot if you know what to look for. Here are the telltale sales that your dog has an ear infection:

  • Whining or visible signs of ear pain
  • Ear is painful to touch
  • Head shaking or tilting
  • Dog is frequently scratching or itching their ear
  • Examine your dog’s ear and look for signs of discharge or any bad smell
  • Visible irritation or redness inside the ear canal

Other causes of dog’s falling over include:

Balance issues can be caused by a minor infection or a more serious medical condition. Here are a few reasons why a dog may stumble and fall:

  • Head trauma such as concussion, hemorrhage, or swelling
  • Poisoning
  • Hypoglycemia 
  • Diabetic complications or changes in glucose levels
  • Injury or illness
  • Vestibular disorders
  • Cardiovascular concerns

By determining the reason why your dog is falling over you are better able to provide your pet with the care they need.

Help Your Dog to Stand and Prevent Falling Down

Lift harness for dog back legs

If your dog is falling down, your first step is to pay attention to their symptoms. Pay attention to their immediate medical need and have them checked by a medical professional. Stay calm and follow all of your veterinarian’s guidelines and medications.

For persistent balance issues dog’s may need your assistance to stand, walk, and stay upright. Supportive dog harnesses can help you lift your dog off the ground from laying down and make it easier to walk your dog outside. Your support will keep your dog upright and the harness will reduce the weight your dog is placing on their legs. Any dog diagnosed with chronic balance issues, will likely need a dog wheelchair to help them maintain their independence.

Most importantly, dog’s with balance issues need to be treated by their Veterinarian. Dog’s showing any sign of balance issues or an inability to stand on their own, need to seek immediate treatment. As a pet parent the best thing you can do is get your dog the care they need and follow your vet’s treatment plan. By sticking to the treatment plan you will see improvement in your dog’s coordination, mobility, and balance.

german shepherd wheelchair for DM


  1. Does anyone have a used dog walker for balance deficit, ataxia. My dog is small 9# maltese..I can even rent it, if possible. Thank you, Cheryl

    • Hi Cheryl – a wheelchair is an excellent source of balance and stability for dogs with ataxia. A four wheel cart will give your maltese the most balance and support. If you have any questions, please give us a call at 888-253-0777 we’re always happy to help.

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