Dog Keeps Falling Down (cont.)

What to Do

Next, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your dog's head tilt to one side? If so, your dog may be off balance due to an ear infection or some other process that is affecting her inner ear, resulting in vestibular syndrome. Take your dog to the vet to be evaluated and treated. Only in very few cases do such presentations resolve spontaneously.
  • Are your dog's eyes moving in a rapid, repetitious, side-to-side or up-and-down pattern? This is called nystagmus, and it is often associated with vestibular disease.
  • Does your dog complain, flinch, or drop to the floor when you palpate her intervertebral spaces? If so, there is a strong likelihood that she has some form of spinal disease, such as intervertebral disk disease, spinal arthritis, or even some type of vertebral mass. Take her to your vet or a veterinary neurologist.
  • Is your dog's tail tucked up underneath her? This is usually a sign of fear, discomfort, or anxiety. It's the discomfort that is of the most concern, particularly if it is spinal in origin, as mentioned above. A tucked tail can also be an indication that your dog's spine or anal sacs are bothering her. Be sure to be thorough when you examine her spine in the hopes of identifying the source of the problem. Any spinal pain should be evaluated by a veterinary neurologist. Anal sac discomfort, on the other hand, would be an incidental finding, correctable by following the advice in “How to Empty Your Dog's Anal Sacs” [not available online].
  • Does your dog fail to right her paws when you perform the “knuckling” maneuver? If so, she has a proprioceptive deficit. This means she doesn't know where her paw is, like your leg feels when it “falls asleep.” This is a neurological problem and should be evaluated by a veterinary neurologist. If the “pinching” procedure doesn't cause your dog to withdraw the paw, you should see the neurologist right away. If the paw is briskly withdrawn, then the proprioceptive deficit may resolve on its own and it's all right to wait a day or two for improvement. Sometimes an inflammatory process can cause the problem with proprioception, and once the inflammation improves, so does the proprioception.
  • Did your exam reveal nothing abnormal? Your dog's problem may be due to weakness or circulatory problems. Make sure that your dog has had enough to eat over the last few hours. If she hasn't, try rubbing some Karo corn syrup or pancake syrup over her gums. This will get some glucose into her system and improve her strength. If this seems to happen repeatedly and she appears to be drinking excessively, have her tested for diabetes. If you notice that your dog's gums and the tissues lining her mouth are pale, her circulation may be poor due to heart disease or some internal bleeding. Have her evaluated.