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Why is my dog shaking and losing his balance?

Why is my dog shaking and losing his balance?

Is your dog losing balance, shaking, or falling over? Your dog's loss of balance could be the result of a serious medical issue, such as poisoning, stroke, injury, or an infection. Today, our Winston-Salem vets explain why you should head to an animal hospital right away if your dog is experiencing balance issues.

Dog Losing Balance, Shaking or Staggering

If your dog suddenly begins losing their balance, shaking or staggering they could be suffering from a potentially serious underlying health problem. Balance issues in dogs should be taken seriously since these symptoms can indicate a medical emergency. It's time to head to the vet right away if your dog is showing symptoms related to any of the issues below. 


Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain which can cause dogs to lose their balance, stagger, stumble, or fall. Encephalitis can result from number of underlying issues including tick-borne diseases, parasites, and fungal infections. Besides balance problems, other symptoms of brain inflammation can include depression and fever.

Brain Tumor

Brain tumors are relatively rare in dogs but can occur, particularly older dogs, and may lead to a general loss of balance, shaking, stumbling and staggering. Other symptoms related to brain tumors will depend upon the location of the tumor, and may include changes in behavior and/or appetite, seizures, head tilt, swaying, a wide stance, lack of coordination, pacing, flicking of the eye, head tremors and signs of pain.

Ataxia - Sensory, Vestibular & Cerebellar

Ataxia is a condition in dogs related to a sensory dysfunction which results in a loss of coordination in the rear end, head, or limbs. In dogs, there are three kinds of ataxia commonly seen: sensory, vestibular, and cerebellar.

  • Sensory ataxia is when the spinal cord becomes compressed due to a tumor or bulging intervertebral disk.
  • Vestibular ataxia results from an issue with the inner ear or brainstem.
  • Cerebellar ataxia occurs when the cerebellum becomes damaged. 

Symptoms of ataxia typically include staggering, stumbling and falling over, walking in circles, vomiting, and nausea as well as flicking of the eyes from side to side and head tilt.


Although strokes in dogs are uncommon, they can happen. Strokes can occur as a result of kidney disease, blood clots, high blood pressure, hemorrhage, migrating worms, or head trauma. Indications that your dog may be having a stroke include loss of balance, collapse, head tilt, loss of vision, and circling.

Injury & Head Trauma

An injury such as head trauma or damage to the inner ear could lead to balance issues for your dog. Signs that your dogs is experiencing pain due to trauma include anxiety, slowed reflexes, change in appetite, enlarged pupils, biting or licking the wounded area, reluctance to lie down, and heavy panting.

Inner Ear Infection

Inner ear infections are a common cause of balance problems in dogs. If your dog has an ear infection, you may also notice additional symptoms such as odor in or around the affected ear, head shaking and scratching, walking in circles, and eye flicking, as well as redness, swelling, or discharge.

If your dog is in need of urgent veterinary care visit our emergency animal hospital in Winston-Salem. At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, our emergency vets are here to care for your pet when you need them, including late nights, weekends or holidays. If your dog has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition that requires specialist veterinary care, ask your vet for a referral to our team of veterinary specialists.

Caring for Winston-Salem Pets

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, we accept new clients to our specialty services by referral only. Our 24/7 emergency service welcomes all clients.

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