Dogs have an incredible level of balance that humans can only dream of having, particularly when they are firmly planted on all fours. So if your dog falling over or down the stairs has become a regular occurrence, it could be a sign your dog has a more severe illness, disease, or condition that needs professional attention.
Your dog stumbling or frequently losing balance shouldn't be happening regularly if your pet is fit and healthy. These disruptions in your dog's balance could be a symptom of an infection, ataxia, or possibly a tumor that needs urgent attention.
A dog falling down the stairs isn't normal, so in today's article, we’ll explore the reasons why your dog can't walk without falling and what you can do about it.
Why is my dog falling over?
Dog's are sturdy, balanced animals. They are agile and strong, and if your dog can't walk without falling over, then there's definitely a problem.
However, the problem can vary from dog to dog and from one home to the next. On the drastic end of the scale, your dog stumbling and falling down unexpectedly can be a symptom brought on by a severe medical condition, disease, or tumor. On the lighter end of the spectrum, your dog falling downstairs could be the result of a one-off slip or fall. Or maybe it’s just as simple as your stairs being wonky and too steep!
However, if the issue is repeating itself regularly, then it's a sign any pet owner should not ignore. If the incidents are confined to the stairs, there could be a problem with the stairs themselves.
However, if there's no apparent issue with the stairs and the incidents repeat themselves in other locations around your home, then there's likely to be other underlying causes. In this situation, always seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
Owners aren't always in the house or the same room when their dog keeps falling over. In this scenario, you will need to keep an eye out for symptoms of a fall.
If the fall is sudden, then your dog might well be in shock. They could be quivering, shaking, or visibly scared and anxious. They may well be in severe pain, too, although this is difficult for dogs to express to humans. There might be visible injuries, such as cuts or swelling, which need to be looked at by a vet.
What causes my dog to fall over?
There are various possible reasons why your furry friend can't walk without falling. If you’ve ruled out faulty stairs, loose rugs, or any other household-related issues, your vet will likely look at several common conditions your dog could have.
Your dog might lose its balance or struggle to keep on its feet because of an injury it has sustained. Physical injuries can often be difficult for owners to spot. Still, they can worsen and become readily apparent when dogs attempt unnatural movements such as walking up or downstairs or jumping on or off sofas.
Injuries can be cuts, sprains, strains, fractures, or complete breaks. If your dog is unsteady and limping, it likely has a physical injury to its legs or back. If you see no obvious signs of trauma to the body, then your dog could be suffering from a head injury.
Schedule a visit with your vet if you notice any major injuries.
Ataxia is one of the most common causes of severe imbalance that lead to dogs being unsteady on their feet and falling over suddenly. Ataxia in dogs is a severe sensory dysfunction, leading to a lack of coordination and difficulty controlling the body.
Ataxia in dogs manifests itself in three significant ways:
- Cerebellar ataxia - the brain is damaged.
- Sensory ataxia - the spinal cord is damaged.
- Vestibular ataxia - inner ear or brain stem is damaged.
Ataxia and vestibular disease in dogs can cause other symptoms in addition to a loss of balance, including vomiting and nausea. Consult with your vet if you notice any of these symptoms.
Inner ear infection in dogs
Dogs can suffer a loss of balance due to an inner ear infection, a common problem in dogs of all ages and breeds. Ear infections can cause temporary loss of balance and difficulty moving, particularly down the stairs.
Your vet will be able to spot an ear infection quickly, and your dog will require a course of antibiotics to remove the infection. While not usually serious in the long term, an ear infection can cause permanent damage if left untreated for too long.
Tumors can cause severe loss of balance, especially if they are present in the brain. Tumors vary in severity but often require surgery to remove them.
Your dog falling down the stairs or suddenly keeling over can be a symptom of a brain tumor. However, there are likely to be other symptoms too. Brain tumors also cause vomiting and nausea, as well as weight loss and apathy.
Contact your local vet if you notice major changes in your dog’s health.
Just like with humans, dogs are capable of suffering from strokes. A stroke occurs when the brain's blood flow suddenly stops causing parts of the brain to no longer receive oxygen. A dog stroke is a medical emergency, and your dog should be immediately evaluated by a professional if you suspect this could have occurred.
What should I do if my dog falls over?
If your dog falls over, then you first need to treat them for any injuries they might have sustained. If there's obvious pain or swelling, then you can apply an ice pack to the affected area to help calm your dog down and numb the pain.
You need to check if there are any serious injuries, and you can do this by running your hands over your dog, checking for cuts, bumps, and bruising. If the injuries are clearly painful, take your dog to the vet for a more thorough check-up.
What happens if my dog keeps falling over?
If your dog keeps falling down, then you can be confident that it's not an isolated incident. In this case, it's best to take your dog to the vet as soon as you can. A quick diagnosis can potentially save your pet's life if the problem is severe.
Treatments will vary. Infections require antibiotics, while tumors could result in surgery. As an owner, you'll need to prepare your dog for the recovery stage and make life around the home more comfortable for them (to avoid further injuries, particularly on stairs.)
If your dog struggles to take on stairs, either because the layout is too difficult for them or because they have a condition causing imbalance, you can consider installing a dog ramp for bed. Help your dog safely make their way up and downstairs, as well as onto sofas or beds.
You can also consider using stair gates to limit your dog's access to parts of the house where they could fall over easily. Position the gates at the bottom of the stairs to deny access to the upper floors of your home.
Dog falling: how serious is it?
Your dog falling over like it’s drunk shouldn't be taken lightly, even if there's no lasting injury or pain. Dogs are well-balanced animals and typically only fall over if they become seriously imbalanced.
Owners shouldn't panic at first if they have a dog losing balance because the fall's root cause could be as simple as a minor injury or a problem with the stairs or in the home itself. If falling does persist, or if your dog has sustained a visible or painful injury from the fall, then an owner must seek out veterinary advice for their pet dog as soon as possible.
Dog falling is a serious issue, so why not bookmark our guide if your dog sustains a fall in the future?