3 Reasons Why Your Dog is Acting Drunk and Wobbly

Dog Falling Wobbly

Waking up and noticing that your dog is acting like he is drunk and wobbly is definitely cause for concern. There are a few different issues that could be causing your dog to act drunk and wobbly, but it’s usually not a life-threatening or serious situation.

1. Your Dog Has Vestibular Disease

Vestibular disease is often referred to as “old dog syndrome” and it’s a non life-threatening disorder that older dogs are more likely to get. Before we get into what vestibular disease is, it’s important to know what this system does and is responsible for. The vestibular system helps with the balance of the limbs, neck, head, and eyes.

There are both central components and peripheral components of this system with the central system being the brain. Peripheral components include the inner ear, and the function is to help transmit various types of information to the brain. Balance, spatial orientation, and motion are all a part of the vestibular system.

To put it very simply, vestibular disease is essentially vertigo, although it can be mistaken for other very serious health issues. Brain tumors and strokes are often times what is mistaken for a simple case of vertigo, also referred to as vestibular disease. Peripheral vestibular disease is the most common, but central vestibular disease also exists.

With central vestibular disease, it involves the brain, which could indicate brain bleeding, cancer, and many other possibly life-threatening situations. The good news is that central vestibular disease is rare in dogs and most cases are due to peripheral vestibular disease.

2. Your Dog Has an Ear Infection

Just like with people, an ear infection may cause a dog to lose balance. When this happens and their balance is thrown off, you might notice your dog walking around like a drunk. Your dog also might shake his head, paw at the ear with the infection, and be less likely to chew his food. If your dog stops eating due to the pain of opening his mouth and jaw, you need to seek a veterinarian immediately to prevent dehydration and other issues.

Often times medications are given to help clear out the ear infection and the veterinarian might also take tissue samples to see what’s going on. It’s always a good idea to head to the veterinarian if you think your dog has an ear infection since if left untreated, it can become very serious and potentially life-threatening.

3. Your Dog May Have Had a Stroke

A stroke is one of the more serious health issues that could be causing your dog to become wobbly. Abnormal behavior, falling, uncoordinated walking, head tilting, and other symptoms may be present in a dog that had a stroke. Strokes happen most often in older dogs with other health issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, and other more serious disorders.

The treatment for a stroke depends on the cause, but getting your dog to the veterinarian right away is the most important step. Luckily, strokes are pretty rare in dogs and the veterinarian can easily determine whether it was a fainting spell or stroke and begin proper treatment quickly.

Is Vestibular Disease in Dogs Fatal?

The good news is that vestibular disease is not fatal in dogs and often clears itself up within a couple weeks. A veterinarian will usually just tell you to wait and see and it should be gone within 14 days. If your dog is experiencing nausea as a result of the dizziness, an anti-nausea medication might be prescribed.

It’s also important that you keep your dog away from stairs or any other situations where he could fall and get hurt due to being wobbly until it clears up.

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John at My Pet Child

is the Founder of My Pet Child, where he shares his tips on living with a dog in an apartment.

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Mary Ellen Copeland
Mary Ellen Copeland
5 months ago

You need to add 2 other reasons! Antifreeze and marijuana. My 1-year-old dog ingested marijuana somehow when he got loose. First he threw up. Then when he tried to walk, he fell down after a few steps. His eyes were glassy. The only thing I could think of was antifreeze. I took him to the vet and the antifreeze test was negative. Due to his slow heart rate (poison would cause an increased heart rate), the vet suspected marijuana. There is no reliable blood or urine test for marijuana in dogs, so if the dog recovers by the next day,… Read more »

B P
B P
1 day ago

My dog was acting this way and it ended up being kidney failure. Don’t wait, take them to the vet.