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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

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Falling Down Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Chevy
Labrador Retriever
2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Depression
falling

My two year old lab use to be very active and even came to work with me everyday. I am now on maternity leave and she seems to be very depressed. And to make things worse she is now having a hard time getting on and off furniture and tends to fall. Got her hips x-ray done and they said they look really good and they don’t know what’s wrong. We are going back in for a 4th visit and singing her up for swimming. What else could it be? Or what should I try? I feel like I’m running out of options!

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1828 Recommendations
It is possible that a decrease in activity is having a negative effect on Chevy as she is unable to dissipate her energy like she did before, there is no real answer I can give you but you should try to get her some more exercise even if it is just taking her to a dog park or letting her out in the garden for an extended amount of time. If your Veterinarian cannot find anything medically wrong, it may be just a lack of activity and change in routine. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Sammy
Miniature schauzer
12 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Falls over, sudden onset

Our mini schnauzer Sammy is 12 y.o. He just had an extensive dental surgery 2 weeks ago losing 26 teeth. Since then he was put on antibiotics, but started vomiting after a week of taking them, so we stopped giving him the medication. Yesterday all of a sudden, he fell on his hind legs and then on his back. Then he fell 4 more times that evening. He walks and runs fine, and only falls over while he is standing. He eats well, his nose is cold, and his behavior is not affected. We have an appointment with his vet the day after tomorrow. Any advice until then?

Thank you for your response.
Ann.

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
301 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without examining Sammy, it is hard for me to comment on what might be going on with him, but I am glad that you are taking him for a recheck with your veterinarian to find out what is happening. Until then, if he stops eating and drinking and acting normally otherwise, he should probably be seen sooner. I hope that he is okay!

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Scooby
Miniature Pinscher
14 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Falling Over
Disorientation

Our family dog within the past couple of days has become extremely inactive. Normally, even though he is older, he's up and about, especially when there's the possibility of food around, but he rarely walks around now. His back legs seem to have less strength than usual, and sometime it seems as if he just completely can't hold his weight and falls over. He also seems to be leaning more towards one side. He's eating fine, but we've recently moved to from California to Tennessee and are wonder if the cold is giving him arthritis.

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
301 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. I'm sorry that Scooby is having these problems. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, have them do a good examination and see what sort of muscle strength and joint mobility he has left. They will be able to prescribe pain medication for him if he needs it, or suggest other alternative therapies such as acupuncture or physical therapy if he would benefit from those treatments. I hope that he does well, the cold weather can definitely be hard on the older guys.

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Ozzie
Chihuahua
3 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Depressed

I have a 3 year old Chihuahua who is usually really active. Today he woke up moping around or just lying in a ball close to us. When I got him up to go to the bathroom he started to walk and fell over. When he goes to itch he falls over. His nose is wet, paws and ears are warm but not hot. He is dry heaving and eating grass. Could he have the flu or is it something more serious?

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
301 Recommendations
Thank you for your question. Without examining him, I can't diagnose anything, but it is concerning behavior, and I do think that he should see your veterinarian. Is there any chance that he ate anything toxic, or medicinal, that he wasn't supposed to? Your vet will be able to examine him, perform a neuro evaluation, and give him the appropriate treatment to stop being nauseous and to address his instability. I hope that he feels better soon!

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Scrappy
Shih Tzu
12 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Increased breathing
Panicking
Increased Heart Rate
Falling Over

I have a 12 year old male Shih Tzu. About 2 weeks ago my dog jumped off my couch about 2 feet off the ground and suddenly, in the best way I can describe it, looked like a small animal that has just been shot with gun. Freaking out and panicking on the floor. I immediately ran and picked him up thinking he was about to die, but about a minute later he calmed down and was able to walk with no problem. I didn't think to much of it until it just happened again yesterday. I would love to take him to the vet but I can't afford it right now. If anyone could please help me with an idea of what they think it is or if anyone has ever heard this happening to a dog. Thank you for your time.

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
301 Recommendations
Thank you for contacting us about Scrappy. It is possible, from your description that he is having heart problems, and is having episodes of what is called syncope. A partial seizure is also possible. Without examining him, I can't comment on what might be happening to him, and it really would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. Many clinics offer a 'free first visit', that you could use, and most clinics offer CareCredit as a form of payment for unexpected expenses. I hope that he is okay.

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Piper
Mix
7 1/2
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

My small mix bread was showing sings of possibly injury to her front legs. We took her to our vet. He said it was definitely a neck injury. he put her on steroids, pain meds topples over and her legs give out. At times she looks normal, but has gained 2 pounds since this began. I do not want to loose her but I am not financially able to spend unlimited funds due to my small daughter having heart and lung failure. This is her dog, and it is making her very upset. How do I save my dog? my vet said only an MRI can tell us.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1828 Recommendations
Without examining Piper I cannot say whether or not there is a neck injury or leg injury; it would be worth visiting another Veterinarian in your area for another opinion to see what their thoughts are before deciding to spend money on an MRI. I would recommend that you put Piper on a diet so that she is carrying less weight; you should also try reaching out to nonprofits and other organisations to help with the cost of Piper’s care, especially if she gives comfort to your daughter during her illness. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://iheartdogs.com/cant-pay-for-your-pets-needed-care-these-12-programs-can-help/

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Soco
Shiba Inu
9 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Poor motor function of all
Uncoordination
Loss of Balance
Disorientation
Confused
Shaking

Twice in the past year he has somewhat abruptly stopped, looked confused or disoriented attempted to walk when I called him but it's as if he can't even hold himself up and all four legs give out and he falls flat on his stomach. At this point should I take him to the vet? He is fine and able to play/fetch a stick with in 5ish minutes. Once was a fluke but twice could be a pattern...help!

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1828 Recommendations

There are many different possible causes for these types of symptoms and they may be attributable to heart conditions (heart cannot pump an adequate amount of blood leading to lack of oxygen to brain) and other conditions. It would be best to have a physical examination and given an age of nine, a full blood panel may catch some conditions if present. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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