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What is Wobbling?

A loss of coordination can cause wobbling in your dog. You may see your dog sway, drift, or stagger, or use a wide stance to keep upright. There are many reasons why your dog could lose his balance and wobble, including: 

  • Disorientation 
  • Spinal cord problems 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Gait problems
  • Inner ear problems
  • Brain condition
  • Canine distemper 
  • Dehydration 
  • Anemia

Why Wobbling Occurs in Dogs

Why your dog may be wobbling has to do with the cause of the incoordination he is experiencing.

Disorientation

Disorientation is an altered state where your dog’s direction is lost. It can occur as a result of many conditions that affect the central nervous system or inner ear. Age related dementia can also affect your dog, causing him to become confused even in familiar places. 

Spinal Cord Problems 

Many conditions that can occur to the spinal cord can affect your dog’s balance and coordination. These can include bulging disks, tumors, infections, inflammation, trauma, and diseases such as degenerative myelopathy that can result in paralysis. Wobbler syndrome affects the spine in the neck area, and causes a wobbly gait that is especially seen when the affected dog walks slowly, or on slippery floors.

Muscle Weakness

Muscle weakness and atrophy can result from many conditions, and can cause dogs to be wobbly and unbalanced. Myasthenia gravis causes a disruption in electrical signals from the nerves to the muscles, while myositis is an inflammation of muscle tissue that can result in an inability to walk.

Gait Problems

Many injuries and malfunctions in the nerves and muscles of the limbs and feet can result in a loss of balance and incoordination, or ataxia. Such conditions as a ruptured cruciate ligament, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, or osteochondritis dissecans can cause pain that can influence your dog’s ability to walk. 

Inner Ear Problems

The inner ear is where the sense of balance originates, and when it is damaged, that balance can be lost. Infections, inflammation, tumors, and trauma to this sensitive area can cause your dog to be shaky and uncoordinated. When the inner ear is functioning abnormally, or a disruption is caused by the brainstem, it is often referred to as a vestibular syndrome.

Brain Condition

Brain tumors, infections, and inflammation can affect your dog’s ability to balance and walk properly, as well as affect nerve function. Abnormalities in the cerebellum and degenerative changes that can occur due to disease and old age can also affect nerve function.

Canine Distemper 

Distemper is a highly contagious viral infection that your dog can catch from contact with infected animals. The virus affects the nervous system, resulting in twitches, seizures, and eventually, paralysis.

Dehydration

 

When the body loses too much water, it can cause water levels to become dangerously low. As the body compensates by drawing water from individual cells, essential electrolytes are lost. This can severely affect muscle function. Dehydration can also occur from high levels of sugar, as the body increases urination in an attempt to balance those levels.

Anemia

Anemia is a condition where the amount of circulating red blood cells are significantly reduced. Red blood cells transport oxygen to all the cells of the body, including those in the muscles. If there aren’t enough red blood cells to take the oxygen to the muscles, then those cells become starved and weaken. Anemia can also affect the brain and cause disorientation and dizziness.

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What to do if your Dog is Wobbling

If your dog is wobbling, you may need to monitor him. If it does not pass on its own and continues for a period of time, he may be suffering from a serious condition.

Your veterinarian will need to know about any other symptoms you may have noticed besides the incoordination, and may ask you questions about your dog’s feeding and elimination habits, exposure to sick animals, or if he has had any injuries. A complete physical and neurological exam will be performed, along with blood and urine tests, imaging techniques such as MRIs, X-rays, and CT scans. Muscle and nerve biopsies, and cerebrospinal fluid, may be taken and analyzed. 

Diagnostic testing should reveal the cause of your dog’s instability, and treatment should follow accordingly. Dehydration and electrolyte loss often only needs fluid therapy to replace what is missing. Inner ear infections can be cleared up through the use of antibiotics. Many muscle, nerve, and brain conditions may need surgery, depending on the severity. Tumors can be treated through surgical removal, chemotherapy, or radiation. If canine distemper is found to be affecting your dog, medications to control digestive and neurological symptoms can be administered, as well as other supportive therapies. Pain medications are also given as needed for many conditions.

A dog affected by a chronic wobbling or instability can benefit from small environmental changes that can help him stay balanced, such as non-slippery surfaces and the removal of obstacles.

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Prevention of Wobbling

Many of the conditions that can lead to a loss of balance are not predictable. Routine check-ups can help you to catch any conditions before they progress beyond the point of treatment. To ensure your dog does not become dehydrated, always have water available for him to drink, and report an excessive increase in urination to your veterinarian. Getting your dog vaccinated for canine distemper is the best way to protect him from this fatal virus.

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Cost of Wobbling

A wobbling dog who is suffering from a loss of coordination may need treatment that will vary depending on the cause. Treatment for canine distemper for example, could cost as much as $1800 while costs for Wobbler syndrome could be approximately $4000. Generally, most treatments can range from $100 to $3000. 

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Wobbling Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Irish Wolfhound

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly

My dog was fine this morning and all of a sudden started to get wobbly as if he was dehydrated and going to pass out. But he isn’t drinking water, barely eating and can barely stand. He’s eating his food laying down.

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is difficult to say what would cause that in such a young dog, but he may have an electrolyte or nerve or muscle abnormality. Is is possible that he got into a toxin of some kind? It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and see what might be causing this problem, and get treatment for him. I hope that he is back to his normal self soon.

Aug. 5, 2020

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Pit Bull mix

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly Gait Overall

She seems drugged ot drunk

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, without being able to see her, it is hard for me to say what might be going on. It sounds like she may have gotten into a toxin, or she may be weak. If this is not getting better, it would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian right away. They would be able to look at her, see what might be going on, and get a new treatment that she needs. I hope that all goes well for her and she feels better soon.

July 31, 2020

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Boston Terrier

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9 weeks

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly Walking

Is it okay for my puppy to be a little wobbly and disoriented when he is tired?

July 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Puppies can be a little bit wobbly when they are tired, yes. As long as your puppy is bright and alert and happy when he is awake, and he is eating and drinking normally, that may be normal for him. If he is wobbly more often than he is walking normally, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. I hope that he is okay.

July 30, 2020

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Chug

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Wobbly, Flinching, Shaking

What is going on with my poor little puppy? My mom and dad just left for a trip and she has been acting really weird. She has been wobbly, she flinches when you pet her, and she is very limp, floppy.

July 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. It is possible that she has had an intoxication of some kind, or is having a nerve or muscle problem. If this Behavior continues, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. They can examine her, see what might be going on, and get treatment for her if needed. I hope that she is okay.

July 22, 2020

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Shih Tzu

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1 1/2 yrs

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly

Sudden onset, wont drink water, will barely eat a treat

July 16, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that it's happening with your dog, that sounds quite unusual. Is it possible that your dog got into a toxin of some kind? Otherwise there may be some other kind of GI problem going on. It would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian right away, as those are not normal signs. They will be able to examine him, see what might be going on, and get treatment as needed. I hope that everything goes okay.

July 16, 2020

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SAW

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local

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Wabbeling And Having Sever Pain

MY DOG WAS WELL THE OTHER DAY BUT SUDDENTLY SHE WAS LIMPING ON ONE SIDE OF THE LEG AND AS I WENT NEAR HER TO LOOK AT HE MATTER SHE FEELS PAIN EVERY WHERE AS I TOUCH HER BODY. PLZ SUGGEST WHAT I SHOULD DO AS I AM SO WORRIED AND LIVE 50KM AWAY FROM THE VET.

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Lady

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Bugg

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly
Rocking

It had happened a few times before, where our dog would go against walls and start rocking. I sent the video to my family and we decided it was best if we took her to the animal hospital because she has been rocking for hours. We got there and she was slowly becoming herself again but I had the videos to show. They called it wobbly doggy syndrome, and told us to have her take a nap, and no matter what make sure she has a crate that she is comfortable in so she can go in and sleep it off.

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Kaci

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Beagle

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly
Falling Over
Wobbly Shaking

My 9 year old beagle that I adopted a weeks ago has been great until Monday night she went outside and came back like she was drunk. Extremely wobbly on all 4 legs and kept falling over. Took her to 2 different vets and had extensive blood work on her and the lab results came back okay. Both vets are totally baffled and have know idea why this happened within minutes. She is still eating good and drinking water and is urinately and pooping okay. Don't know what to do at this point. She was heartworm positive and completed treatments about a month ago when I was fostering her.

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Tobee Taylor

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Yorkshire Terrier

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3 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly

My 3 months yorkie is experiencing wobbling....all of a sudden after driving around with me....gave him honey and took him to the vet they said everything was fine...came home he will jump and play and run but he still wobbles A little....please help me, what’s wrong with my baby?

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Luga

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German Shepherd

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9 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Hard Tummy
Panting
Drooling
Dizzy
Uncoordination
Limping
Not Standing

Hello! My name is Dorina, I have your number from Maliha Vayid in Moka. Since i am at work i cannot really call. I am contacting you regarding my German Shepherd Luga. She's 9 years and not neutered. On Wednesday (1 week ago) we noticed that she was limping. We took to a vet close to us on Saturday (we live in Roches Brunes). While we were waiting we noticed that the half of her face was a bit swollen, has a head tilt and she is not coordinated. We took blood tests and her white and red cells were elevated. He told us that it's related to toxins in her body. He gave her some shots:one of it was a neuroblocker and have us some pills. An orange one, yellow one and white one. We asked him what would be the cause of the poisoning and he told us he cannot know, then we told him that we have an avocado tree where she is. He told us that avocado is dangerous for dogs so we moved her with us on Tuesday night (she was staying with our parents) When we came home she was really weak and tired. She was eating normally, pooping and drinking water. On Sunday she was ok, a bit of a limiping but could actually walk. On Monday night we noticed that she was really really bad. Not able to get up, really dizzy, drooling a lot and panting and her tummy huge and hard. Even her eyes seemed to bulge. We called the vet and he told us to give her Paraffin Oil and Gaviscon. On Tuesday morning she was fine, walking around but still a bit dizzy. On Tuesday night she was even worse than previously and our vet was closed. We went to another vet and after the car ride she was extremly bad. He looked in her ears and said she had a mild infection and gave us a gel. She had 39 fever. He reached the same conclusion as being poisoned as the previous vet. Gave her an anal insert to lower her fever, a painkiller shot, an antibiotic and a syrup antibiotic (Gemil?) and told us to continue with the prescription the first doctor gave us. When we reached home we thought we were going to lose her. Barely holding her head and breathing heavily. Since the second doctor is further, we went the next day to the first one. Told him about the conclusion and asked for more checkups since her situation is worsening by the day. During morning she is a bit better, after 18.00 she gets really bad. He gave her other sets of shots, put her on IV on DNS and NS, took other blood tests and the white cells were normal and fever went down. He gave us neurorubin, electrolites and predinesole. Yesterday morning she was a bit better, but last night she was barely able to move. Vomited twice and refusing water. Her tumny big again and no passing stool. Her treatment finished but she is progressively worse. She can barely stand. We asked if it can be related to vestibular disease, but they both said no. We don't know what to do anymore and we are afraid that another car ride will kill her in her condition. Thanks a lot

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