Walking in Circles in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 06/07/2017Updated: 09/02/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Why is my dog walking in circles?

What are Walking in Circles?

Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not commonly walk around in circles before settling down or sitting. They may turn in place a couple of times before they lie down, or before they clear out their bowels, but that is all. If you notice that your dog has begun to walk in circles regularly, you will want to visit a vet as this may be a sign of something amiss with your pet’s health. Considerations would include:

  • Inner ear infection
  • Vestibular syndrome
  • Injuries
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders

It is important to schedule an evaluation for your dog in order to receive proper medication and care for any of these situations.

Why Walking in Circles Occurs in Dogs

Surprisingly, there are quite a few underlying issues that can cause your dog to start walking in circles. We would consider ear infections, an injury, stroke, brain tumour, idiopathic vestibular disease or anxiety disorder. As serious health issues can be at play, it is of the utmost importance that your dog is taken in for a medical check up right away. That will determine what course of action is needed for each of these situations. 

Inner Ear Infection

One of the most common reasons why dogs walk in circles, any ear infection needs to be treated right away. If your dog is having an ear problem, you will be able to tell by its behavior. If there are any offensive smells coming from the ear, a head tilt, ear scratching, redness or head shaking, there is a very high chance your dog has an ear infection. 

Without proper treatment, this infection can creep further down into the ear, eventually causing more major issues. So, take your dog to the veterinarian right away. Treatment is typically simple, depending on the severity, and involves a deep cleaning and prescribed medications. 

Vestibular Syndrome

A condition that tends to be found in older dogs, vestibular syndrome is a disease that affects the inner ear and balance. While the exact cause has yet to be determined, there are a number of factors that could bring about this issue:

  • Ear Damage From Injury
  • Nutritional deficiency 
  • Infection of upper respiratory tract
  • Abnormal tissue growth

Despite what may be causing this loss of balance, if your dog is showing signs of vestibular syndrome he needs to be taken to the vet as soon as possible. The most common signs are falling down constantly, excessive drooling, walking with the head down, vomiting and circling. It is easy to mistake vestibular syndrome for a stroke, as the symptoms can be similar. 


Injury can be a cause for circular walking in dogs (specifically head injuries). If you notice that your dog is walking in circles, has strange pupil dilation, whines when touched in certain areas of the head, or has a loss of appetite, he may have a head injury. Take your dog to the vet right away if you are aware of or suspect a recent head injury. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

While there may be medication to help this particular issue in dogs, you can try visiting a behavioral specialist in order to curb this issue with your pup. Chat with a vet about the best possible solutions to help any unusual behavior problems your dog may have. Anxiolytics may be prescribed and your behaviourist can talk you through a tailored program.

What to do if your Dog is Walking in Circles

If you suspect that your dog may have a problem that is causing it to walk in circles, there are a couple of tests that can be performed. 

First, try to distract your dog and encourage it to move in the opposite direction that it is spinning. This is because is there is some kind of neurological issue, the dog will not be able to change direction easily. 

The second test is to check your dog’s eyes. One who has no brain issues will have the ability to focus easily on things. If you check your pet and they are unable to focus, have eyes that dilate randomly, and act blind in both or either eye, then you will need to have them inspected for brain injury. Ask yourself these three questions after performing these tests:

  • Did the exam reveal symptoms of an ear infection?
  • Did the exam uncover any problems with the eyes?
  • Did everything seem relatively normal?

If you answered yes to either or the first two questions, get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible in order to treat whatever the issue may be. If you answered yes to the third however, it may just be a behavioral issue and could be resolved over time or with help from a behavioral specialist. In any case, an evaluation by a veterinary professional is warranted.

Prevention of Walking in Circles

In order to prevent infection occurring in the ear, the best course of action is annual check ups and cleaning of the ears. After the ears get wet, always dry them thoroughly. By doing this, you can at least lower the chance or your dog receiving an infection through wax buildup, mites, or injury. Additionally, the annual wellness check will include vaccinations and blood work if necessary, aimed at preventing or diagnosing early a potential health risk.

Although it is difficult to be protective of your dog at all times, monitor him when outside so that you can be aware of any head injuries your dog may have received. In doing so, you can catch any primary or secondary issues early and get your dog to the clinic for treatment as soon as possible.

Cost of Walking in Circles

If your canine has an ear infection that is leading him to walk in a circular pattern, the expense to treat may average $450, while vestibular syndrome may cost an average of $1000.

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Walking in Circles Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals





Sixteen Years


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
We found our dog Spazzing on floor with clear spit around him. He was pretty limp and couldn’t stand immediately after the episode and seemed confused. It was difficult for him to walk on right side after, leaning to the right as he walks.

Aug. 4, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It sounds like he may have had a seizure. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him, run lab work, and get medication if he needs it. I hope that he is okay.

Aug. 4, 2020

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American Pit Bull Terrier



Nine Years


4 found this helpful


4 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
continuously walking in circles for an hour now, even after meds where given

July 16, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

4 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Some dogs with neurologic problems or seizure activity need multiple anti seizure medications to manage their problem. If the medication that she is on is not controlling the signs, it would be best to have a recheck with your veterinarian, let them know what is going on, and see what their next recommendation might be. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 16, 2020

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