If your dog or cat is staggering, stumbling, or falling over, it can be caused by s number of things including injury, stroke, poisoning, or an infection. Here, our Gainesville vets explain.
Why is my pet staggering?
If your pet suddenly loses their sense of balance they could be suffering from any of the following serious health problem. This means your dog or cat requires immediate attention and you should get to a veterinary hospital right away.
Ataxia is a condition relating to sensory dysfunction that results in a loss of coordination in the head, limbs, or rear end. There are three kinds of ataxia seen commonly in pets: cerebellar, sensory and vestibular.
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. Vestibular ataxia is the result of an issue with the inner ear or brainstem.
Along with staggering, stumbling and falling over, signs of ataxia include head tilt, walking in circles, vomiting, nausea, and flicking of the eyes from side to side.
Inner ear infections are a common cause of balance loss in pets. If your dog or cat has an ear infection, you may also notice additional symptoms like head shaking and scratching, walking in circles, and eye flicking, as well as redness, swelling, discharge, and odor in or around the affected ear.
Injuries such as head trauma or damage to the inner ear can cause pets to lose their balance. It can be hard to tell if your pet is injured because dogs and cats tend to mask pain. Signs that indicate your pet is in pain include heavy panting, slowed reflexes, change in appetite, enlarged pupils, biting or licking the wounded area, anxiety, and reluctance to lie down.
While strokes are fairly uncommon in pets, they can happen. A stroke can be the result of blood clots, high blood pressure, hemorrhage, head trauma, kidney disease, or migrating worms. If your cat or dog is having a stroke, you may notice a loss of balance, head tilt, circling, falling down, and loss of vision.
Brain tumors sometimes occur in our pets, especially older ones, and can lead to staggering, stumbling and general loss of balance. Other symptoms of a brain tumor depend on 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, flicking of the eye, and pacing.
Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) may cause a cat or dog to stagger, stumble, or fall over. Encephalitis can come about as a result of fungal infections, tick-borne diseases, and parasites, among other causes. Other symptoms of encephalitis include fever and depression.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.