Why Is My Dog Wobbly And Off-Balance?

Reviewed By Kim •  Updated: 11/19/21 •  5 min read
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Why Is My Dog Wobbly And Off-Balance

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If your dog seems to be walking like a drunk or acting as if he has lost balance, something is definitely wrong. Sometimes the dog may even tilt the head sideways, constantly moving the eyes back and forth, and may even fall and not be able to stand. When any of this happens,  there could be a number of things wrong with your dog’s health. Let’s take look at some illnesses that may cause your dog to be wobbly and off-balance. As we look at the ailments, we will also see symptoms of each that match the ones displayed by a sick dog.


Vestibular dysfunction affects the part of the inner ear connected to the brain that controls balance and movement. Vestibular disease affects the peripheral and central Vestibular system.

When a peripheral Vestibular system disease occurs, it may be due to an infection in the inner part of the ear, ruptures, idiopathic vestibular disease, or cancer. Some breeds of dogs experience this more because they have long ears that breed mites. When such dogs don’t have their ears cleaned regularly, then, the vestibular disease may result.

The central vestibular disease affects more of the brain. The central type affects older dogs more, and that is why it’s commonly called old dog vestibular disease. And this may result in inflammation or cancer. Nonetheless, both peripheral and central vestibular diseases have almost the same symptoms. Here are the symptoms:

See a veterinary doctor for a diagnosis.

Dog stroke

Dog stroke is another possible reason why your dog may be walking wobbly and off-balance. Stroke affects older dogs majorly or dogs with underlying serious health problems like diabetes or kidney disease. Dog stroke happens due to loss of blood to the brain which can be caused by blood clots, bacteria, or cancerous cells growth.

Another cause could be bleeding in the brain which is generally known as a hemorrhagic stroke. Dog stroke affects a dog’s speech and consciousness when it occurs. Sometimes it may last for minutes or hours. The symptoms of dog stroke are:

When a dog stroke occurs, see a veterinary doctor for proper health care.

Note: unlike other ailments, dog stroke cannot be prevented by taking any preventive measures. It occurs when a dog advances in age. Also when treatment plans are not working for a dog battling stroke, most dog owners choose to go for euthanasia.

Dog tumor

Merely seeing the word “tumor”, you may already guess that this condition is a severe and life-threatening one. Well, you are correct. Dog tumor is an extreme case of cancer that has affected millions of dogs in the United States alone. Dog tumors can lead to death and in most cases difficult to spot unless some physical signs are evident, such as a swollen head. Symptoms of dog tumor are:

The diagnosis and treatment of dog tumors can be done at veterinary health care.

Dog head injury

A head injury can also cause an off-balance walk for your dog. Head injury may result from different forms of accidents during which a dog ends up with a huge impact to the head. It could be automobile accidents, falling from an elevated platform, and a number of injurious events.

When a dog suffers an impact to the head, it causes severe injury. Some may be serious while some are less brutal. The effects could be; concussion, brain bleeding, or swollen brain. Concussion may just require rest for it to fade off, but brain bleeding as well as swelling can be fatal if not treated. So, if you happen to see your dog get hit or fall, seek immediate medical care. The symptoms of dog head injury may include:

When you spot any of these signs, make sure to seek medical help. Your promptness could save the life of your dog.

Canine Distemper

Canine Distemper is a viral infection that is contagious among dogs. An infected dog can transmit the virus to another close by. It affects the various systems of a dog including the nervous system. When it advances, the virus can lead to loss of sight and paralysis. At the critical stage, loss of coordination accompanied by other skin diseases will result.

Canine Distemper affects puppies within 3-6 months of age more. When a dog gets infected, a fever could arise within the first few days of infection. However, the illness gets severe after 14 days with serious symptoms. Some symptoms of Canine Distemper are:

See a doctor if you see any of these symptoms for proper treatment.

Note:  Hygienic environment could help reduce your dog’s chances of getting infected. Also, be careful of the type of dog you allow your dog to play with.

Spinal injury

A spinal injury can be a fracture, inflammation, infection, or slipped disks that may cause loss of balance for a dog. In this type of condition, a dog will feel excruciating pain that will make it difficult to stand and walk correctly. Symptoms of spine injury can be:

Note: Spinal injury is not deadly. Nonetheless, it’s important to see a veterinarian for proper treatment to treat the pain.

As you take care of your canine companion, always endeavor to keep the surroundings clean, be watchful of the dogs that come near your dog, see a veterinarian periodically for a checkup, and most importantly, be watchful. When you are watchful, it’s easy for you to spot changes in your dog and quickly take the necessary steps to prevent a sad experience.

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Kim is a talented author, who loves animals especially dogs. She engaged in writing books and articles relating to animals a decade ago. Kim resides in Chicago with her husband and son. The family is the proud owner of a dog and a parrot (Jack and Lily). Kim wanted more than these two pets, but her husband put his foot down... She often visits elementary schools to talk to the kids about what she learned about pets and how they could learn from them.