My Dog Is Walking in Circles

Normal dogs don't typically walk in circles, except when they are either preparing to urinate or defecate, or their attention is drawn by a smell or another animal to the extent that they are forced to do so to avoid losing the scent or direct contact. If you discover your dog walking in circles without any such reason for it, be immediately suspicious and try to figure out what the cause is.

What to Look For

Dogs with neurological reasons for circling typically find it difficult to turn in the direction opposite the one they are circling in. Start your investigation by attempting to get your dog to turn away from the direction in which she is circling. Next, conduct a neurological exam. This should include an evaluation of her eyes, ears, spine, and limbs.

What to Do

Now ask yourself these few questions:

  • Did your exam reveal evidence of an ear infection? If so, the circling might be due, in part, to the imbalance that sometimes results from an acute middle ear infection. See your vet for the appropriate course of action and that should help resolve the circling behavior.
  • Did your exam uncover any eye asymmetry? Different pupil sizes often indicate neurological problems that are best handled by a veterinary neurologist. The sooner your dog sees one the better.
  • Was every aspect of your physical exam completely normal? If it was, there is a strong possibility that the circling behavior is just that; a behavioral issue only. If it persists for more than a few days, it might be worthwhile to consult an animal behaviorist.

When to Get the Vet

A recent head trauma can easily be the cause of a dog's circling behavior. Because these effects may be the beginning of something significantly worse, it is always wise to seek the immediate attention of a veterinary neurologist any time your dog exhibits even the slightest behavioral abnormality following head trauma.