Wobbly Gait in Dogs – Is it Serious?

Cassie tripped as she walked on the driveway, caught herself and kept walking toward me.  How many times had this happened today?  At least ten, or was it closer to twenty?  I watched her walk, awkwardly curving to the left.  My vet thought she had arthritis in opposite legs, causing her to trip and walk abnormally.  A week later, she couldn’t walk and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We had to put her down less than a week later as her condition deteriorated.

Ataxia or abnormal gait, takes many different forms, most of which are neurological, although there could be joint issues such as arthritis.  If your dog shows any of these symptoms, take her to the vet immediately (https://www.petpremium.com/pet-health-center/symptoms/wobbly-gait/ )

Cassie being guided in her harness and sling when she couldn't balance.
Cassie being guided in her harness and sling when she couldn’t balance.
  • Misplacement of the paws,
  • Taking large and/or odd steps,
  • Progressive weakness in the legs,
  • Leaning to one side,
  • Body swaying,
  • Tipping, falling or rolling over,
  • Unusual eye movements,
  • Head and/or body tremors
  • Drowsiness or stupor

Possible illnesses that could cause these symptoms include:

  • Wobbler’s Syndrome (Cervical spondylomyelopathy (CSM)), which occurs mostly in giant breeds, but also in Basset Hounds. It is due to compression in the spinal column or the vestibulocochlear nerve that carries information from the inner ear to the brain.  It usually comes on slowly, but sometimes can happen suddenly https://www.petpremium.com/pet-health-center/symptoms/wobbly-gait/
  • Vestibular disease is a disorder of the inner ear causing imbalance. My vet had thought Cassie might have this since her symptoms progressed so rapidly.  But motion sickness pills did not help, and her gait was quite different from in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCzhxrUNFU4
  • Coon Hound paralysis is a disease that Cassie developed when she was three years old. It is a temporary condition similar to Guillain Barré Syndrome in humans.  A wobbly gait was one of the first symptoms, then paralysis in her rear end, then her front.  Luckily, she was only ill for about a week.
  • Poisoning
  • Nervous system diseases or injuries

Your veterinarian should check out a sudden development of a wobbly gait, or even tripping, immediately.  Sometimes treatment within hours can prevent complications later.

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