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What is Falling Down?

Dogs have the ability to support their own weight for long periods of time. They have strong legs and a musculoskeletal system that is firm for supporting their weight while standing, running, jumping, and romping. This is why when a dog falls over continuously, or even sporadically, there may be a cause of concern. Stumbling or falling down occurs when a dog’s sense of balance goes awry, or when another health condition that brings weakness, dizziness, or pain to the dog causes the dog to fall over. 

Typically, dogs can fall over because of mild to moderate disorders, such as injuries or inner ear infections, or they can fall over because of more serious conditions, such as stroke or poisoning. Either way, if your dog is falling over you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. There are several different reasons why dogs can fall over uncontrollably, and they may include:

  • Injury or trauma to the legs, back, or hind area
  • Ataxia
  • Vestibular disorders
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Stroke
  • Illness
  • Poisoning

Why Falling Down Occurs in Dogs

If your dog is falling down without any real known cause or any visible signs of injury, contact your veterinarian. Falling down or falling over may be a sign of something serious. Causes may include:

Injury or Trauma

An injury or trauma can include a cut, bite, scrape, sprain, or similar incident to the leg or other area that makes them sore and causes weakness and pain.

Vestibular Disorders

The vestibular system is responsible for the balance of the dog. In this vital system, there are several components which are centered in the brain, middle ear and inner ear.

Cardiovascular Disorders

The heart and related systems are comprised of the organ and the blood vessels. The blood which is pumped through the body from the heart has oxygen and essential nutrients needed in order for your dog’s cells to do work. If this system has a deficit or disease, your dog can become quite weak and have other symptoms of illness. These symptoms may result in falling down.

Stroke

A stroke is a serious disorder that can make the dog fall over, and even become unconscious. When a stroke occurs, the blood vessels to the brain become inflamed and burst if the brain becomes deprived of oxygen due to a blockage.

Illnesses

Other illnesses, such as dehydration, high fever, infections, seizure disorders, tumors, and diseases can also make your dog weak and shaky, thus causing them to fall over.

Poisoning

If your dog ingests a toxic substance, this can cause many side-effects, including seizures and dizziness that can cause your dog to suddenly collapse.

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What to do if your Dog is Falling Down

If your dog is falling down for no apparent reason known to you, make an appointment as soon as possible or take him to the emergency veterinarian clinic. This may be a sign of a serious condition, such as a stroke or seizure, and it may need to be treated as soon as possible. 

Once you arrive at your veterinarian’s office, he will immediately begin assessing your dog’s vitals and possibly hook him up to IV fluids, oxygen, and any other immediate treatment to get your dog stabilized. He may begin by asking about his symptoms and taking a few laboratory tests. A biochemistry profile to check the functionality of his organs, blood work, and urinalysis may be performed. 

If your veterinarian notices your dog may be having a stroke, he will stabilize him and perform any treatment for this condition. He may also order scans and imaging of his brain to diagnose where the stroke occurred and to lead him to the next step in treatment.

Poisoning will be immediately assessed and treated with IV fluids and decontamination of your dog, as well as using a gastric tube, activated charcoal, and other treatments for this potentially serious condition.

Other tests may be conducted to check for other illnesses or diseases your dog may have that is causing him to fall over. One illness he may check for is an inner ear or middle ear infection. Each test conducted will rule out other conditions and alert the veterinarian as to what to test for next. Neurological exams, CT scans, imaging, and other tests may need to be performed in order for him to find the cause of the falling over.

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Prevention of Falling Down

Depending on your dog’s health condition, in order to prevent him from future falls you must take care of him by monitoring him at home. If you are working during the day and he is home alone, you may want to have someone come and watch him or put him in a crate. This may be very hard to do, especially if your dog is not used to being crated. Another option is a doggie day care if you are very concerned that your dog is falling over.

The medication your dog is taking may help him not fall as much. It is important to administer the medication as your veterinarian has advised you do so. Try to limit running and jumping and other rough play in order to prevent him from falling over as well. 

You can also ask your veterinarian for ways to prevent him from falling. Your veterinarian will be very knowledgeable of your dog’s health condition, and will know exactly what to do to prevent further falls. Also, once the health condition is treated, the falls should decrease or cease altogether.

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Cost of Falling Down

If your dog is falling down and needs treatment for a specific cause, the cost will vary. For vestibular disorders, the cost can be approximately $1000. For an ear infection, treatment can cost $300. Other, more severe health conditions, such as tumors of the nerves, can cost $7500.

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Falling Down Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Pit Bull

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My dog was just fine this morning now she can't walk i heard her crying and when I seen her she tried to get up but fell back down she won't even eat a treat which is definitely not her what can be wrong and what should I do

Dec. 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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2 Recommendations

Sudden paralysis can have a number of causes including a slipped disc, stroke, brain tumour, exacerbated arthritis etc. A vet check is necessary so we can determine what is going on and start treatment right away.

Dec. 31, 2020

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Pug

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9 weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Falling Over And Shaking

Why does she do this. She's very playful but once she sits down or stops she falls over and start shaking

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I am sorry for the delay, this platform is not set up for urgent emails. It is possible that your pup is having episodes of low blood sugar, or that she has a problem with her neurologic function. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian if she continues to have this problem.

Oct. 10, 2020

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Pomeranian

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Fourteen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Legs Will Not Hold Him Up

diabetic dog keeps falling over

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It is possible that your dog is having problems with their insulin levels. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 21, 2020

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Rambo

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Puggle

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Imbalance
Imbalance; Paralysis

My 12 year old Puggle was diagnosed with Cushing's and is now being treated for this disease (10 days in), but prior to the official diagnosis we have been treating him holistically w/ ongoing vet care for the past year. Three weeks before we had him officially tested and diagnosed he started have difficulty walking and getting up. His entire right side is affected. The worst time is in the evening and morning, but he seems to improved during the day. He eats and drinks well, but some mornings are so bad that he can't walk at all. I am wondering if this is a normal symptom of the Cushing's or if there is something else going on that we should look for with the vet? Can there be an inter ear infection that does not show on the blood work they have done for Cushing's? I just want to make sure we are doing everything to support his health.

Aug. 27, 2018

Rambo's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Muscle atrophy is a characteristic of Cushing’s especially of the legs and may result in some leg weakness; the blood test for Cushing’s is specifically for the condition and your Veterinarian may not have run standard blood tests (haematology and/or biochemistry). Keep an eye on Rambo and monitor for any changes, if you are concerned you should bring this up with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 27, 2018

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Angel

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Mutt

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Falling Over

My dog has recently had about 3 occurances within the last month ( 2 of which happened in just the last 24 hours). She suddenly loses balance and stumbles/ falls over to one side when she tries to walk. During this time her body sways from side to side when she is actually able to stand. I usually have to pick her up and carry her outside to help nurse her back to health there. While I try to help by keeping her from walking, trying to get her to drink water (which she refuses) and comforting her I’ve notived she salivates heavily, almost uncontrollably as it just drips and drips from her mouth. I’ve also noticed that she poops (solid poop) during this time while she may be sitting or while she walks, it looks as though it comes out without any force from her at all. Typically after she’s pooped she begins to feel better and suddenly becomes playful again, wanting to run around the yard and jump up on me or our trampoline. Her episodes typically go on for about 10-15 minutes and then she’s back to her usual self. After she’s through she drinks some water and socializes and then takes a nap or lays down. (Side notes: she doesn’t tilt her head or shake it. Her eyes don’t anything that seem strange. She just has a worried look about them and I also want to mention that she has had an ear infection about 5 months ago that I took her to the vet for and was treated with prescription ear drops and an ear wash)

April 30, 2018

Angel's Owner

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1 Recommendations

It is difficult to say what the cause of these episodes are, they may be neurological or cardiac in origin; you should try to determine if there are any triggers which induce these episodes since sometimes some noises, lights or smells may cause similar types of episodes to occur. Another possible cause is heart disease where the heart cannot pump enough blood to the brain which results in a loss of balance and other symptoms. You should visit your Veterinarian for a thorough examination including the heart and a neurological examination to try to determine an underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 30, 2018

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Lily

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toy poodle

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Falling, Stumbling

My 9 year old toy poodle started to have weakness in walking about a month ago,then periodically falling down. I took her to her vet. She has chronic right ear infections and have been on many meds for allergies. She is now intermittently falling face planting and tipping over. Been to two vets and neither could tell me why she is getting worse. I stopped all of her medications, thinking maybe she is having an adverse reaction, and was starting to get better. The last two days she is worse again. I am at a loss of what to do next. At times, she acts like her legs are paralyzed. But then will get back up like nothing is wrong.

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Kona

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Miniature Pinscher

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8 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Fall

Today, our min pin as fallen right over while pooping. He just laid there for a few minutes like he couldnt get up. It wasn't that he just laid down while pooping, he fell right over. I went over to help him and he just wouldnt move. It has happened twice today. He is fine while peeing. Other then that, he had been fine today. Eating and drinking well. His normal active self inside. What could be wrong with him?

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Prince

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Chihuahua

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Falling Over
Fall

1 week ago Prince jumped the bottom step of the staircase and landed on the floor, his front legs gave way and he banged his face into the tiled floor. His back end dropped to the floor with him and he lay unmoving. When I picked him up he was intitrely floppy and started pooing himself and dribbling. He gradually staggered up and over to his bed. He was checked by two vets who found no injury to any limbs and prescribed metacam but he still can’t walk without falling over and looks very depressed. When he walks he walks diagonally and then falls over in a heap and struggles to regain balance. I don’t know where to go from here?

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Furball

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Chihuahua

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7 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Falls Over

7 year old chihuahua has fallen down twice only in morning and then is fine. His legs go out and he falls over. This has happened twice and only after he wakes up in morning after that he is fine. I pick him up and seems to be ok then.

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