Your dog’s behavior is a good clue as to what is going on inside his or her body. Walking in circles is actually a normal behavior for many dogs just before they urinate, defecate, or lie down. Other than in those instances, frequently walking in circles, or slowly or quickly spinning, is often a sign that the dog has an underlying health issue. If you observe your dog walking in circles, don’t ignore it. Your dog should be examined by a professional veterinarian as a precaution because circle walking could be a sign of a serious health problem.
Identifying Your Dog’s Condition
Walking in circles could be a symptom of any one of these conditions:
Ear Infection: An ear infection is one of the most common reasons why dogs walk in circles. An ear infection usually has one or more additional symptoms, such as offensive smells coming from the ear, redness, head shaking, and scratching at the ear. An ear infection must be treated quickly by a vet, as infections can move deeper into the dog’s ear and cause more serious problems. Treatment for ear infections involve a deep ear cleaning that must be done by the vet to avoid damaging the dog’s inner ear, and prescription medications including antibiotics.
While ear infections are by far the most common, your dog may have an infection somewhere else in the body that is causing discomfort or interfering with their balance. Again, it’s important to work with a professional vet who can examine and determine the issue without causing more harm to your dog.
Vestibular Syndrome: This is a disease that is most common in older dogs. Vestibular syndrome affects the dog’s inner ear and balance. What causes the disease is unknown, but animal health experts believe it can result from a variety of factors such as ear damage due to an injury, nutritional deficiency, infection, or abnormal tissue growth. Dogs needs to be examined by a vet to diagnose vestibular syndrome. Other symptoms include frequently falling down, excessive drooling, walking with the head down, and circling.
Neurological Disease or Bodily Injury: A disease or injury that affects your dog’s neurological system can also likely cause your dog to walk in circles. Common diseases that can cause incoordination include:
- Distemper: a deadly disease that includes other symptoms such as nasal discharge, incoordination, aggression, lethargy, wandering, and excessive thirst).
- Neosporosis: a potentially deadly disease spread by parasites found in some raw meat and in the feces of infected animals.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): an autoimmune condition that is genetically predisposed to affect the German shepherd, Shetland sheepdog, collie, poodle, beagle, Afghan hound and Irish setter.
Alternatively, a head, back, or neck injury that impacts the neurological system can also cause incoordination, as well as pupil dilation, whining, or loss of appetite. If you spot any of these symptoms, get your dog to the nearest vet right away for a comprehensive diagnosis and immediate treatment.
Ways to Determine What the Problem Could Be
You can try a few things to help you figure out what could be causing your dog to walk in circles. If your dog is spinning in one direction, see if you can get them to move in the opposite direction or to walk normally. If there is a neurological issue, the dog will not be able to change direction easily. Moreover, a neurological issue can also affect your dog’s ability to focus its eyes, making them seem blind in one or both eyes. Also, inspect your dog’s ears. Do you see any signs redness that could indicate an ear infection? Whatever the case, doing it yourself should never take the place of a professional evaluation by a veterinarian. Walking in circles can be a serious issue that may require immediate treatment.
You can reduce the odds of your dog suffering from many of the aforementioned conditions by taking a few simple steps:
Ear Hygiene: The best way to prevent an ear infection is regular cleaning. Make cleaning your dog’s ears part of your dog’s regular hygiene regimen. This will go a long way toward preventing an ear infection due to wax buildup, ear mites, or injury.
Annual Vet Checkups: Stay on top of your dog’s health by keeping up with annual vet wellness checkups. During the annual wellness checkup, the vet will examine the dog’s vital signs, palpate the entire body for pain or lumps, and check the dog’s weight, skin, vision, and hearing. It will also include vaccinations to prevent deadly diseases, and if necessary, perform blood work to diagnose a developing health condition.
Know Your Dog Well: Most dog parents love their dogs and know what constitutes “normal behavior.” They also likely keep a close watch on their dogs when they are at the dog park or interacting with other dogs or people, as well as what environmental triggers (food, people, other dogs, etc.) their dog responds to. Monitoring their dog like this helps minimize their risk of injury by ensuring that you can discern between normal and irregular behavior. When an injury does occur, dog parents who know their dog will see it happen quickly and can take swift action to give it appropriate treatment.
Contact A Professional Veterinarian Is Your Dog Is Acting Abnormally
If your dog is walking in circles, acting strange, or “not themselves,” you may be noticing the onset of a serious health condition. Catching it early and getting proper treatment can help prevent more serious problems from developing in the future. If you spot any of the signs or symptoms described here, schedule an appointment with your local vet today…it could save your dog’s life!
*Paw Pals Pet Sitting provides dog walking and pet sitting services in Northern Virginia. While we write about many topics concerning pet care, we are not veterinary professionals. As such, while our articles are well researched and informative, we recommend you talk to your own vet to inquire about conditions specific to your own pet that you may be concerned about.