If your dog is walking in a wobbly manner, most likely it's not because he went to a party and had a sip or two from a bottle of Jack Daniel's. Balance problems in dogs can be due to a variety of problems, and some can be serious.
Understanding the Balance System
Don't take your dog's ability to stand, sit, walk around and act like a dog for granted. The vestibular system is the apparatus responsible for providing your dog with the sensations of balance and motion. In other words, this important system tells your dog's eyes and extremities how they should move, courtesy of several nerves that begin in your dog's brain and continue toward the inner ear.
Problems of the Balance System
When the vestibular system is disrupted by a disorder within the brain or the nerves of the inner ear, the end result may be a wobbly dog who looks as if he had too much to drink. A middle ear infection or a lesion in the brain may be some possible culprits for your dog's balance problems, according to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. In several cases, age may be a factor: this disorder is often referred to as "old dog vestibular disease". When no specific cause is found for a dog's wobbly gait, the disorder is classified as "idiopathic," a fancy medical term that simply means "of unknown cause."
Other Causes of Balance Problems
If you suspect your Hoover dog may have sucked up something toxic, consult with your vet or contact a poison control unit immediately. Some toxins are known for causing neurological symptoms and balance problems. Other causes for balance problems in dogs include a brain tumor, a growth in the inner ear, a foreign object stuck in the ear canal, or, in some rare cases, even a stroke. Also, keep in mind that it is normal for dogs to be temporarily wobbly and groggy when you pick them up right after surgery, due to the "hangover" effects of the anesthesia.
Symptoms of Balance Problems
With an out-of-whack balance system, it is normal for poor Scruffy to feel sick, confused and disoriented. Stumbling, staggering, circling and falling are some of the most evident symptoms of a compromised balance system. Your dog may also feel motion-sick as if he just got off a super-fast merry-go-round. Nausea, vomiting, a tilted head and an unusual side-to-side or rotational eye movement are a few other symptoms that may accompany a vestibular disorder.
Treatment of Balance Problems
Life already has too many ups and downs to allow poor Scruffy to live in an unsteady world. The best way to remove the woozy feeling is to have your vet diagnose the underlying cause and treat it accordingly. Motion-sickness medication is often prescribed to help your dog get relief from the annoying spinning sensation. Make sure that during treatment you keep your canine companion safe by keeping him away from stairs and preventing him from jumping off of beds and couches.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.