Prepare for unexpected vet bills

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 designed to support 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
  • Chronic joint disease

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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 brain becomes deprived of oxygen due to a blockage. Strokes are not as common as most owners assume.

Other 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.

Chronic Joint Disease

Those with ongoing disease such as arthritis may fall as the disease progresses. This is especially true if they have muscle atrophy and are weaker than they used to be.

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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. They will perform both an orthopaedic and neurological exam.

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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Chloe

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Japanese Spitz

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Collapsing

Hi, my nearly 10 yr old female Japanese Spitz has been out of sorts for 3 days now. The first day she was crying but not obvious where the pain was, Vet wasn't too sure either. She was given 2 pain injections, one Metacam and the other a "stronger opiate" i'm told. The day after and today she has been very wobbly/unbalanced on her legs, often collapsing, slipping and bumping both her face and back end off of the furniture. Can tell from her eyes she is slightly disoriented and upset. Eating normally and managing to do toilet business fine. Note her back end is slightly rounded now too, as if she is scared and has her tail low. I am concerned it may be her hips, it could be her ribs, perhaps legs or even a slipped disk. I have an appointment tonight at the vet. Do you have any ideas or advise? Thanks

April 5, 2018

Chloe's Owner

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If not done so already I would have an x-ray done to look at the hips and spine to look for any anomalies which may explain the symptoms; in the meantime keep Chloe rested and try to prevent her from walking. If an initial x-ray doesn’t show much, myelography should be considered to get better detail of the vertebral canal. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 5, 2018

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Bailey

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Labrador Husky

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Disoriented
Wobbly

Hi, I have a 1 year 8 month old lab/husky mix. She is extremely playful and by anyones definition she is a perfectly healthy and happy pup. However last night (i work third shift) I came home on my break as I always do and let Bailey out of the kennel. Like any other night I let her outside, we play a little fetch, she does her potty jobs (everything was normal) and I let her back inside. 10 minutes later I hear a boom and look to my shock as she is stumbling around like she was drunk! She couldn't balance enough to even stand up properly. I then immediately check her mouth for something she could have gotten into and found nothing. I picked her up and carried her outside where i sat with her for 10 minutes. After this time passes she was completely back to normal! Like nothing had ever happened, she walked fine, she was panting a bit due to what she had just gone thru im sure. Brought Bailey back inside and set out fresh water and she drank normally. I am going to call my vet this morning to make an appointment but was wondering if you could offer an opinion on what it could possibly be. Her eyes were not jolting back and forth like a typical seizure episode that i have read about and she wasn't foaming at the mouth or had any kind of head tilt or spasms that were very apparent. Just the very wobbly and disorientated look. Please if you have any kind of opinion it would be much appreciated as to what I could maybe ask the vet to check for if they potentially miss something. Thank you.

March 21, 2018

Bailey's Owner

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It is difficult to think of a specific issue since it occurred so quickly and resolved as fast as it started, I cannot say with any certainty but I would pay close attention to the heart in case there was an issue pumping blood when Bailey was exercising and excited which lead to a reduction of blood flow to the brain. Again, I am not saying that is the cause but I would focus on the heart. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 21, 2018

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