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Q&A: Why Is My Dog Staggering and Falling Over?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

There are many reasons an older dog may begin to stagger or limp. Some are more easily treated than others.

There are many reasons an older dog may begin to stagger or limp. Some are more easily treated than others.

Why Is My Old Dog Struggling to Walk and Falling Over?

"Is there anything that would cause my dog to have a hard time walking? He is a 15-year-old blue-nose Pit Bull. At times it seems like he's got hip dysplasia, but is there something else that could be going on?

All of a sudden one day, he fell over. A couple of days went by and it happened again, except this time he had a curve to his body and he was having trouble walking. Could there be an underlying issue going on with my dog?" —Lara

Possible Reasons for Lameness in Old Dogs

With a senior dog of that age, there are numerous things that can be going on.

Hip Dysplasia or Arthritis

It could be hip dysplasia or any other form of arthritis. Dogs his age will start having trouble getting up, especially in the morning when they have been asleep in one position for a long time. Some dogs are just lame when out walking but others have trouble walking and even falling over is not unheard of if the arthritis is affecting the dog's neck.

Inner Ear Infection, Stroke, or Poisoning

Falling over is also a sign of an inner ear infection, but that is much less likely. It could also be a stroke, an injury secondary to his arthritis, or even weakness due to poisoning.

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Underlying Disease

It is hard for me to tell if the weakness you describe is due to arthritic change or another disease. Yes, there may be an underlying disease-causing problems, but I cannot tell you without an examination where his joints can be flexed.

Visit Your Local Veterinarian

The best thing you could do for your dog is take him to see your local veterinarian and have him examined. As well as checking for arthritis, the veterinarian will evaluate the pupils and look for signs of problems in the inner ear and the neck. Hopefully it is just arthritis, as an old Pitbull may still be with you for many more years if he is treated with anti-inflammatories.

My senior Pit had been showing slight lameness when out for a long walk, so I put her on meloxicam, an anti-inflammatory, which (besides making her more comfortable) will probably extend her life by several years. She seems happier and is ready to jump in the truck, something that she had stopped doing. If your dog responds well, you may even be able to reduce the dosage; it is an inexpensive drug to give and will cost even less as your dog feels better. (1)

Be sure to have him examined before starting the medications.

Source

  1. Wernham BG, Trumpatori B, Hash J, Lipsett J, Davidson G, Wackerow P, Thomson A, Lascelles BD. Dose reduction of meloxicam in dogs with osteoarthritis-associated pain and impaired mobility. J Vet Intern Med. 2011 Nov-Dec;25(6):1298-305. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22092620/

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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