POV: your dog is suddenly looking a little unsteady on his feet. If you didn't know better, you'd suspect your canine companion of being blind drunk. If your dog is suddenly looking a little off balance, wobbly on its legs, and a tad uncoordinated, you've come to the right place.
While it may sound amusing, it can be super alarming to see. Especially when it's so severe your beloved pup is stumbling around and barely able to coordinate a few small steps.
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Let's look at the possible reasons for a wobbly dog to understand better this condition and what you need to know to get your dog the necessary treatment.
- Why is my dog wobbly?
- Types and symptoms of ataxia in dogs
- How is ataxia in dogs diagnosed?
- Treatment of ataxia in dogs and prognosis
- The secret weapon every pet owner needs to have
Why is my dog wobbly?
When your dog looks uncoordinated, wobbly, and generally unstable on their feet, it's known as ataxia. This is the medical term for an uncoordinated gait. According to research, ataxia in dogs is an indication that, somehow, the brain isn't communicating correctly with the rest of the body, and it can stem from various areas in the brain.
Common causes for your dog being wobbly and off balance:
- Ear infections;
- Brain conditions;
- Old dog vestibular disease;
- Spinal cord conditions;
Types and symptoms of ataxia in dogs
Many things can cause ataxia in dogs, ranging from nutritional deficiencies to congenital disabilities and even spinal cord disease. These various causes of ataxia in dogs can be grouped into three main categories and will have unique symptoms to look out for:
Vestibular ataxia in dogs
This is arguably the most recognizable type of ataxia in dogs as it presents with a characteristic head tilt, abnormal eye movements, and a gait that looks a great deal like walking in a circle.
One of the more common causes of vestibular ataxia in dogs is an idiopathic vestibular disease.
- Tilting of the head;
- Excessive drooling;
- Stumbling when walking;
- Walking as though drunk – wobbly and off balance;
- Rapid, involuntary eye movements;
- Walking in circles.
Cerebellar ataxia in dogs
Caused by lesions on the cerebellum, a walnut-sized portion of the brain, cerebellar ataxia shows up as a very strange walk. With this condition, your dog cannot control the rate and range of their gait. What results is some wildly exaggerated walking, like your dog is trying to tackle some stairs, except there aren't any stairs.
- Exaggerated high-stepping gait;
- Rear legs that stand wider apart;
- Tremors of the head and body.
Proprioceptive ataxia in dogs
This type of ataxia is focused on the spinal cord, so symptoms affect the limbs and body rather than the head. A dog with proprioceptive ataxia will be very unsteady on their feet and show signs of weakness in the limbs. The term proprioception refers to the ability of the body to sense and change how the limbs are positioned.
- Swaying and wobbling;
- When standing, limbs are positioned abnormally;
- Unable to move affected limbs.
How is ataxia in dogs diagnosed?
Ataxia in dogs is easy to spot because of its pronounced and characteristic symptoms. Your vet will most likely be able to tell whether your dog has ataxia just by looking at them.
Determining what is causing the ataxia is somewhat more complex, and your vet will need to run some diagnostic tests like x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and blood tests.
Treatment of ataxia in dogs and prognosis
How your vet treats your dog's ataxia will depend greatly on the underlying cause. Treatment for ataxia in dogs will center around pain management and supportive care. Additionally, as the parent of a dog with ataxia, you'll need to spend some time ensuring that your dog's environment is safe. This may include limiting access to things like stairs and balconies and making sure that the environment is clear of obstacles that could pose a danger to your dog.
Your dog may also benefit from supplements to their diet, including calcium, potassium, glucose, or B vitamins. In some cases, surgery may be required to correct abnormalities or remove any tumors.
You may also be wondering, “What is the prognosis for a dog with ataxia?” Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this question. The effect of ataxia on life expectancy is highly variable and will depend on several factors. Some dogs with ataxia can fully recover and have a good quality of life after that (with a few modifications, of course.)
Some forms of ataxia are not treatable, and others may require an aggressive treatment that your dog’s body may not be able to handle.
The secret weapon every pet owner needs to have
When you bring a dog into your family, their health and well-being become your responsibility, which is why having a plan for emergencies is highly recommended. In the worst-case scenario, you want to find yourself with the financial means to care for your canine companion's health.
Petcube's Emergency Fund is an affordable alternative to traditional pet insurance. For just $29 a month, you have 24/7 access to an online vet and up to $3000 per year of emergency veterinary care for up to 6 pets.
In an unexpected veterinary emergency, you can enjoy peace of mind that your pet will be taken care of.
My dog is acting drunk and wobbly suddenly – what should I do?
It is called ataxia if your dog is suddenly off balance and walking around as though he's had one too many cocktails. Ataxia is the medical term used to describe an uncoordinated gait in dogs.
A very drunken appearance to your dog's walk is a typical symptom of vestibular ataxia, which commonly affects the inner and middle ear and part of the brain responsible for overall balance.
What is ataxia in dogs?
Ataxia in dogs is a broad term used to describe uncoordinated and abnormal movement. There are several different types of ataxias in dogs that affect distinct areas of the brain, each causing slightly different symptoms.
What is an idiopathic head tremor in dogs?
Idiopathic head tremor in dogs is a condition that causes head shaking. What causes the condition is unclear, which is why it is called 'idiopathic.' The condition is often seen in young to middle-aged dogs. While it can affect any dog, some breeds are more predisposed to the condition than others, including Dobermans, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boxers, and Labradors.
What is wobblers syndrome?
Wobblers syndrome is a painful neurologic disease in dogs that affects the spine in the neck and cervical region. The condition has various names but is most commonly referred to as cervical spondylomyelopathy.
The condition typically affects large breeds of dogs like mastiffs, Weimaraners, German shepherds, Great Danes, and rottweilers, among others. The most common symptoms include:
- Neck pain and stiffness;
- A strange wobbly gait;
- Using very short strides;
- Weakness in the front limbs;
- Difficulty getting up from a sitting position.
Cerebellar ataxia in dogs – life expectancy?
Cerebellar ataxia is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms will appear in a certain order and get gradually worse over time. In some dogs, symptoms can occur slowly, resulting in mild disability over a period of up to five years. In other dogs, symptoms can come on swiftly, causing severe disability quite quickly.
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