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My Dog Can't Stand Up and Keeps Falling Over

My Dog Can't Stand Up and Keeps Falling Over

A dog that can't seem to stay on their feet may be experiencing a number of possible conditions or health concerns. Here, our Lacey vets share some reasons why your dog is staggering and falling over and what to do if they can't seem to stand up.

Why is my dog staggering like they are drunk?

There are a variety of possible issues where a dog can't stand up as a result. Signs of loss of balance should not be ignored since they can indicate a serious medical emergency. If your dog shows signs of any of the following health issues it's time to head to the vet straight away. 


Ataxia is a condition relating to sensory dysfunction that results in a loss of coordination in the rear end, head, or limbs. Three kinds of ataxia are commonly seen in dogs: vestibular, cerebellar, and sensory.

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

As well as staggering, stumbling and falling over, signs of ataxia include:

  • flicking of the eyes from side to side
  • head tilt
  • walking in circles
  • vomiting
  • nausea

Ear Infection

Inner ear infections are a common cause of balance loss in dogs. If your dog has an ear infection, you may also notice additional symptoms like:

  • head shaking and scratching
  • walking in circles
  • eye flicking
  • redness
  • swelling
  • discharge
  • odor in or around the affected ear

Injuries or Physical Trauma

Head trauma, injury or damage to the inner ear can cause balance issues in dogs. It can be difficult to tell if a dog is injured because dogs tend to be very good at masking pain. Signs and symptoms of pain in dogs include:

  • heavy panting
  • slowed reflexes
  • change in appetite
  • enlarged pupils
  • biting or licking the wounded area
  • reluctance to lie down
  • anxiety


Strokes in dogs are fairly uncommon, nonetheless, they can happen. A stroke can be the result of blood clots, high blood pressure, hemorrhage, head trauma, kidney disease, or migrating worms. Signs that your dog may be having a stroke include:

  • loss of balance
  • head tilt
  • circling
  • loss of vision
  • collapse

Brain Tumor

Sometimes brain tumors will occur in dogs, particularly senior dogs, and can lead to a general loss of balance, staggering, and stumbling. Other symptoms of a brain tumor depend upon the location of the tumor and include:

  • changes in behavior and/or appetite
  • seizures
  • signs of pain
  • head tilt
  • swaying
  • a wide stance
  • lack of coordination
  • head tremors
  • pacing
  • flicking of the eye

Brain Inflammation / Encephalitis

Brain inflammation or encephalitis can result from a number of issues including fungal infections, tick-borne diseases, and parasites. Symptoms of encephalitis include:

  • depression
  • fever
  • staggering
  • stumbling
  • falling over

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is showing concerning symptoms please contact our Lacey vets for emergency care. If they are in need of diagnostic services, ask your vet for a referral for your pet to see one of our veterinarians at Olympia Pet Emergency.

Walk-in Patients Welcome

At Olympia Pet Emergency, you can always access our full complement of emergency services without an appointment. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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Contact (360) 455-5155