My Dog Can’t Walk Straight-Can Dogs Get Vertigo-Vertigo Symptoms


Is your dog suddenly having problems walking straight, are they stumbling or falling down. Can dogs get vertigo, because this sounds much like vertigo. Yes dogs can get vertigo.

symptoms of dog vertigo

This is my dog with the head tilt. It has improved since it started

This is a new discovery for me, but one I am now well aware of, since my dog just got diagnosed with vertigo. It can be very scary when your dog can’t walk straight and it might have you thinking your dog is coming towards the end of their life.

Understanding Vertigo In Dogs

Vertigo in dogs is actually known as a vestibular disease. It most often affects older dogs, which is why it is often called “old dog vestibular disease.” Larger dogs are most often affected, but any breed or mixed breed is susceptible to getting vestibular disease or vertigo.

Vestibular refers to the inner ear organs. It is a neurological sign that occurs from a malfunction somewhere in the vestibular system. This system is responsible for balance and coordination. When there is a vestibular lesion, that is when your dog will experience the symptoms.

Many times it is unexplainable why it happens, but some times it may follow a recent ear infection.

There are 2 types of vestibular disease. The first one is central vestibular disease. It refers to a problem occurring inside the skull of your dog. It is possibly a tumor or a stroke. This one is pretty serious, and most likely will lead to having to euthanizing your dog.

The second type is known as peripheral vestibular disease. It is caused by something happening somewhere else in your dog’s body. This type is more common and has a better outcome in most cases. Luckily it is believed this is the type that my dog has.

Dog Vertigo Symptoms

There are several symptoms that you will start noticing if you dog has vestibular disease. These symptoms would be for both central vestibular disease and peripheral vestibular disease. Here is what to watch for.

  • Slight tilt of the head. Although it can look cute when our dog tilts their head at us, this is a sign that your dog could have vertigo or vestibular disease.
  • Rapid involuntary eye movements. You might notice that your dog’s eyes are flicking back and forth or they may appear to be squinting.

    can dogs get vertigo

    Watch your dog’s eyes to see if they are going back and forth.

  • Lack of muscle control. They will have a loss of coordination. You might notice that they are traveling more sideways, usually to the same side that they tilt their head. Your dog can’t walk straight.
  • Falling and leaning to one side. Your dog will easily fall, and probably fall often. You might have to physical pick your dog’s butt up to get them back to a standing position.
  • Reluctance to walking and standing. The more difficulties your dog is having walking, the more likely they are to giving up and will just want to remain in one spot.
  • Nausea and vomiting. It is not uncommon for your dog to vomit when they have vestibular disease. They feel dizzy and can’t move in a straight line, so nausea is common. This doesn’t always happen though. In my dog’s case, there hasn’t been any vomiting, but there is a loss in appetite.

Central vestibular disease will experience a couple of additional symptoms.

  • Tight circling. If your dog tries to keep moving in a tight circle, your dog could be experiencing a more severe case.
  • Disoriented. Your dog might be slightly disoriented with the peripheral vestibular disease, but this will be more severe with central vestibular disease.
  • Depressed Mental State.
  • Poor interaction with people and other animals.

This is not my dog I have a Golden Retriever, but I wanted you to see what it looks like.  It is too hard for me to film my dog with his symptoms, since it makes me sad.

Causes For Dog Vertigo

In most cases, the reason for dogs getting vertigo is unknown. It may never be figured out why your dog has gotten vestibular disease. It is still important if your dog is experiencing vertigo, that you take your dog to your veterinarian.

There may be underlying causes for why your dog got vestibular disease, and you would need to treat those causes before you will be able to relieve your dog of their vertigo.

Here are some causes of dog vertigo.

  • A recent ear infection or a current ear infection. According to Ernest Ward, DVM, many times it is caused by middle or inner ear infections.
  • Hypothyroidism. This is when the gland doesn’t make enough of a hormone that controls their metabolism. Your dog’s immune system attacks his thyroid. This is controllable with medications.
  • Trauma or injury.
  • Tumors.

Treatment Of Vestibular Disease

When you first notice your dog doing the head tilt or you notice that your dog seems unstable on their legs, I would make an appointment with your veterinarian. If your dog is experiencing vestibular disease that is idiopathic vestibular syndrome, or no known reason for the symptoms, there probably isn’t much that your veterinarian will do for your dog.

If you bring your dog in right at the onset of the problem, your veterinarian might suggest some anti-nausea medications to help against vomiting. They might also recommend over the counter Meclizine (which is the same product humans take for vertigo) or a doggy dose of Dramamine to help with motion sickness.

If through the exam your veterinarian finds another issue for causing the vestibular disease, they will need to treat that first in order to help with the vestibular disease. That is why I strongly suggest that you get medical attention to make sure there isn’t a cause for the vertigo.

The worst of vestibular disease will start to improve in 48 to 72 hours, and in most cases it will be completely gone within 2 weeks.  If your dog hasn’t greatly improved or it has gotten worst within 2 weeks, contact your veterinarian to see how they want to handle the situation.

Can dogs get vertigo

Your dog will fall from vertigo and it will be hard to get them up after

Some dogs will be left with mild but permanent neurological impairment from this disease. That could consist of a slight head tilt, unsteady when they shake their heads, or slightly wobbly legs.


It can be very scary when you notice your dog can’t walk straight or your dog is walking like a drunk. The first thing that came to my mind was that my dog had a stroke, and I was preparing to say goodbye.

So, can dogs get vertigo, the answer is yes, and it is frightening to watch when it first happens. Contact your veterinarian at the first signs that you see. If what your dog has is idiopathic vestibular syndrome meaning no known cause for the disease, you will still struggle for about 2 weeks with helping your dog, but you will be relieved to know that their is an end in sight for your dog going back to normal.

Watch for the signs of the tilted head, wobbly legs, falling, walking sideways. These are easy to see signs, and signs that you need to get your dog checked out.

I wish you luck if your dog gets vestibular disease.  As for me, I have about 1 more week to work through and then hopefully my dog will be back on track.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will get back to you.  You can follow justforyourdog.com on Pinterest, FaceBook or Twitter.


Some of the links within this post are affiliate links of which I might receive a small compensation from sales of certain items. 





  1. Thank you for this great post! I have to be honest and say that it never really occurred to me that dogs might get vertigo. You have provided such a great breakdown of the symptoms that hopefully will help many owners to better know what is happening to their dog so that they can take the appropriate action.

    • Thanks for reading Chris.  My whole purpose of this article is to help a dog owner who might be scared of what is happening to their dog, and realize that although it looks pretty frightening, it might be vestibular disease or vertigo, which will pass in time.  With my dog currently going through it, I was very afraid it was time for our goodbyes.  He is over 11 years old and a big dog.  I wanted others to find out information before they think it might be the end so they don’t have the same fears that I did before going to the vet.  Spread the information to help others with older dogs.  

  2. Hi, 

    I just wanted to leave a comment here and say that we live in Australia, and dogs here get dangerous ticks so if your dog appears to be wobbly or unstable, the first thing we do is check for ticks!  

    It is very scary when we see dogs who appear to have vertigo, and vet care is often necessary to save their lives.

    Cheers, Kris

    • Wow, thanks for sharing.  We have ticks in the U.S. that can cause serious problems for our dogs, but I wasn’t aware of the Australia ticks that can make your dog wobbly or unstable.  If a dog got bit by a tick with lyme disease, there are many different symptoms that could affect your dog.  Thanks for sharing your information.  I really appreciate.  

  3. Hi there Great article Thank you so much for sharing this great info. My kids have an old dog and it hard for him to stay still and straight when standing. I thought it was because the dog was getting pretty old but I might be wrong. I will definitely check out with a veterinary and see if it has the vestibular disease or some other disease.Thank you again great article.

    • Urbano, it could be old age and them just not being stable on their legs any longer, but it could also be vestibular disease, or their dog could just have and ear infection.  Ear infections that are not treated can cause all kinds of issues for a dog.  Here is more information about dogs and ear infections.  This might be useful for them to see what the signs of ear infections are and how to prevent them.  

  4. I read your interesting article, and was not really surprised to learn that dogs get vertigo.  I have a website on cats, and just recently wrote an article about balance in cats.  Apparently they have a similar problem, caused usually by some damage to the inner ear.  I wonder if it’s the same term in dogs — in cats, the condition is called “ataxia,” and there are three forms of ataxia:  cerebellar, vestibular, and sensory.  You don’t think of cats having a balance problem, but as you described in dogs, it can happen to them, too.

    As many people are not even aware of this condition, it’s really good that you are putting the information out there.  Keep up the good work!

    • I was not aware that cats can also get vertigo, but until it happened with my dog, I wasn’t aware that dogs could get vertigo.  The term they use for dogs is different than what is used for cats.  For dogs it is vestibular disease, with 2 different types.  The central vestibular disease which is much more severe and the peripheral vestibular disease, which is the more mild form.  Frequently coming from a problem with the inner ear, but at times the reasons are unknown what is causing the problem.  Thanks for sharing that cats get a similar problem.   Is this more common in older cats?   That is the case with dogs.  Usually an old dog’s disease.  

  5. I did not know that dogs could get vertigo. There was a dog that we were watching for a friend once and it had most of these symptoms. We didn’t know what was wrong with the dog at all. Now I am pretty sure that the dog had vertigo. It was always leaning to one side, had difficulty walking. It would try to run with the other dog that we were also watching but it kept falling over. It was heartbreaking really. It would lay it’s head down on my daugther lap and seemed like a really loving dog. It was really hard to watch it struggle like that. My friend had just recently gotten both the dogs and didn’t realize there was a problem with one of them at the time.  He didn’t end up keeping the dog and I can only hope that the dog got the help that it so badly needed.

    • Until my dog got vertigo, I didn’t know it was possible either.  It is very hard to watch, but I am glad it didn’t turn out to be a stroke.  My dog is still falling and walking sideways and it has been 1 1/2 weeks since the first symptoms of vertigo.  We are hoping this disease goes away soon.  

      Thanks for reading my article, and now if you see this issue again, you will know what is happening to the dog.  

      • Hi. I know this is a complete random message but I’ve come across your post while researching vertigo because I am at my wits end with my baby. He is 5 years old and last October he was diagnosed with a brain infection by his neurologist- he completely lost his ability to walk for almost a month and was on an extreme antibiotic regimen for 6 months he took 8 pills a day. Slowly but surely he seemed to be getting better. And then a few weeks ago he started getting bad again. We went back to the neurologist bc I was afraid we needed to start talking about quality of life because he seems so miserable. Dr said let’s put him back on antibiotics again bc it looked like he’s getting another ear infection so he suggested saline ear washes every day along with meds and we are 3 days into that and so far I have seen no improvement. It’s so hard to see him like this and I was just hoping someone could share with me if they had a similar experience, if their dog came out of it or if and when you had to make the decision that there was no quality of life anymore.
        Devastated and Concerned,


  6. Kat, I am sorry for what your dog is going through. It is so hard to see our buddies struggle. I will search out further to see if anyone has had these same experiences with their dog and get you any information that I find out. As for making the decision about when it is time, that is never easy to make that decision. I am currently in the same position with one of my dogs. The vet keeps saying I will know when it is time. When we had to make the decision for his brother who had cancer, I did know. It was very clear to me. I hope you will have a clear signal when the time is right, since it is already painful. I will let you know if my readers have any experience with what your dog is experiencing. Thoughts are with you.

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