We are supported by commissions earned for purchases made through the links in our articles. Learn more.

Is Your Dog Walking In Circles? 7 Possible Causes And What To Do

Key Takeaways

  • A dog walking in circles can mean several things including anxiety and stress, ear infections, head injuries, or canine vestibular disease.
  • Identifying the issue and triggers is the first step in helping your dog stop this behavior.
  • Seek professional help if your dog constantly walks in circles. Only a veterinarian can do a proper diagnosis and treatment in such cases.

Have you ever wondered why your dog walks around in a circle? Lots of dog owners ask this same question. Watching your dog walking around in circles can be confusing to a dog owner as well as troubling since it’s hard to figure out what his movements mean.  

It’s important for pet parents to try and figure why a dog is acting weird and engaging in this behavior sooner than later. A dog walking in circles is actually a normal canine behavior and is completely harmless. However, if your dog walks in circles constantly or in a seemingly uncontrolled way, it can be a sign that your pup has anxiety and stress. It could also be the result of an undiagnosed medical condition which can be as bad as brain injuries, neurologic issues, or metabolic disorders. Because of how serious the causes can be, I always make sure to consult the vet when I notice any unusual behavior in my dog. There are several other reasons why a dog may walk around in a circle that you should know about, especially if he does it several times each day. Below, I’m sharing with you more of these reasons and the possible treatments.

Reasons Why Dogs Walk In Circles

Anxiety and Stress

Woman and dog lying on the couch.

It’s possible that your dog may be walking in a circle due to anxiety and stress. If something is bothering him or if he is in a stressful situation, like the dog is dying or his owner has left him for a long period of time, then it is possible that your dog may express his anxiety or stress by walking around in a circle.

Another situation where your dog may walk in circles is when you leave him, which is a sign of separation anxiety. I also noticed that some dogs may also express anxiety in such a way if there is a person present that causes them stress.

Ear Infection

Ear infections are major reasons for dogs to behave in an abnormal way. Usually, when a dog is constantly circling and ear infection is to blame, it will also be accompanied by other symptoms that include:

  • Offensive smell
  • Discharge from an affected ear
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Ear scratching
  • Head shaking
  • The inability for his eyes to focus as well as a constant left-right flicking

Requiring immediate treatment, an ear infection needs to be seen by a veterinarian since infection may penetrate farther in the ear of your pet. This can lead to hearing loss, inner ear infections, and other serious health issues.  

One of the better treatments for ear infection in a dog includes an ear cleaning that is performed by a veterinarian, which will help to prevent damage to your dog’s inner ear. Your veterinarian may also administer a prescription medication like an antibiotic.

While an ear infection can be a common cause, your dog may also be afflicted with an infection in a different part of his body that can be causing him problems or pain with their coordination and balance. It is still important that you take your pup to the veterinarian where he can look at your dog and determine what the cause of his walking in circles is without causing him any harm.

Head Injuries

A dog that walks in a circle may also be suffering from head trauma. Along with suffering from a head injury, the dog may also act lethargic, however, he may seem very clearly hurt. If you have a dog that is walking in circles, has dilated pupils, a poor appetite, and acts hurt, then he may have had a head injury. I suggest you take him to an animal hospital immediately.

For those that suspect their dog may be walking in circles because he has harmed his head or has fallen from a high surface, it’s vital that you take your dog to pet care professionals right away. A concussion is actually very common in dogs and cats, and it’s possible your dog can suffer from permanent damage if not given proper treatment. I must warn you that in some cases, this condition can be a life-threatening one.

A dog that is walking in circles can also be showing a sign of an injury like head trauma. It can be difficult to determine when a dog is in pain since a dog may display certain evolutionary habits that are typical to dogs that will hide when they are in pain or sick. This behavior happens along with a dog’s inability to tell you when they are in pain, so it’s important to look for a telltale sign like:

  • Pupil dilation
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Heavy panting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Whine when certain areas of his body are touched  
  • Eyes focus at a very slow speed when you direct his vision on a target

It’s important to take your pup to the veterinarian right away if you observe circling and you know of any recent trauma to his head. The treatment of head trauma can be more difficult to ascertain and can involve a series of tests.

Canine Vestibular Disease

Also known as canine doggie Alzheimers, canine dementia, and canine cognitive dysfunction, the canine vestibular disease can include symptoms such as loss of balance, irregular eye movements, pacing disorientation, and walking in circles. If you see that your older dog is exhibiting this circling behavior, then he may be suffering from cognitive dysfunction syndrome. 

Similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans, this condition can be accompanied by a few other symptoms and signs that include incontinence, disturbed rest, and abnormal vocalization. When a dog walking a circle in a disoriented manner and disrupt’s the dog’s ability to perform normal activities, it is a result of their confusion—dog dementia in display.

To diagnose canine vestibular disease a veterinarian will do some blood work and other diagnostic exams. Through these tests, he will also be able to rule out other possibilities like cancer. The vestibular system allows to maintain a dog’s balance and orientation along with their movement. A complex sensory system, the vestibular system originates in your dogs’ inner ear. This dysfunction of the vestibular system, referred to as vestibular disorder or vestibular syndrome, tends to manifest in a dog walking in circles and typically affect older dogs more often.  

Other symptoms that you may notice along with your dog walking in circles are:

  • Uncoordinated movements and stumbling
  • Constantly falling down
  • A flicking of the eyes side to side
  • Excessive drooling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Walking with his head down
  • Head tilting

Some of the symptoms of vestibular disorder may abruptly appear and can be confused with your dog having a stroke. Although the exact cause of canine vestibular disorder is not yet known, the following factors are considered to play a role in the condition’s development and the symptoms that are associated with a dog walking in circles:

  • Nutritional deficiencies such as a thiamine deficiency
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Brain diseases or brain injury
  • Ear damage that is due to an injury
  • Neoplasia or abnormal growth of tissues
  • Central or inner ear inflammation that can be the result of a bacterial infection
  • The presence and use of toxic substances in your dog’s ears like some antibiotic

Treatment for a Dog Walking in Circles as a Result of Canine Vestibular Disease

After your veterinarian has determined that your dog has a canine vestibular disease and that is why he walks in circles, he will decide on the right course of treatment. A treatment approach can vary depending on the reason that caused the issue. This support can also typically be given for any secondary symptoms like vomiting, nausea, and dehydration.

Inner Ear Infection

An ear infection can be one of the top reasons why a dog will walk in a circle and also fall over. When your dog doesn’t have the correct treatment, an ear infection may progress to a deeper part of his ear or even lead to complications that can include meningitis. It’s important that you do not ignore an ear infection as a reason for your dog walking in circles and take your dog to the veterinarian. The treatment of an inner ear infection will typically involve a veterinarian cleaning the infected ear along with anti-inflammatory medication, antibiotics, and possibly surgery for chronic or more severe cases.


A stroke is another reason why a dog walks in a circle along with a loss of balance that can manifest in your dog falling down constantly. A stroke is actually pretty rare in a dog and can be an underlying factor that can include blood clots, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and head trauma as well as migrating worms. Along with falling down and your dog circling, a stroke in a dog is typically accompanied by symptoms like loss of coordination and balance, head tilting, abnormal eye position or movements, and loss of vision—it is a potentially deadly disease. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, then you need to take him to the veterinarian immediately to save your dog’s life.

Your veterinarian will provide appropriate care to your dog if he determines that he is circling as the result of a stroke.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Behavior that is compulsive is not uncommon, particularly in an older dog. Dogs walking in circles may also be a sign of an obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. A dog may have an irresistible urge to walk in a circle, but he may not be able to stop. This could be the reason why a dog will walk in circles many times a day over several weeks.

What Should You Do About Your Dog Walking In a Circle?

When you notice your dog walking in a circle, your first question probably is, how do I stop him from doing that? Any animal behavior has a cause and a trigger, even when it’s an unconscious one. So, it’s important to understand what your dog’s triggers are and to ensure what your dog’s behavior is saying about his wellbeing and health. A dog suffering from any of the above-mentioned medical conditions requires immediate help from the vet.

Identify the Issue and Triggers

Chihuahua sleeping on soft textile.

Once you have decided why your dog is walking in a circle and why he is disoriented, then you should work with your veterinarian or trainer to choose the right treatment plan to make sure your dog stops his behavior. Tackling and determining the underlying reason why your dog’s behavior is the key to the plan to have him stop his behavior. This is also really helpful when you need to treat behavioral issues like OCD, stress, and anxiety. 

Requiring patience and consistency, identifying triggers will help your pup overcome his urge to walk in a circle. I highly recommend using positive reinforcement of his acceptable behavior that can eliminate or reduce the undesirable one.

You will need to observe your pup very closely for a situation that encourages circling for you to be able to minimize them. Prescribed medication will not work immediately, so it’s important to give it enough time to take effect. Also, stay in touch with your dog’s veterinarian since your medication dosage may be subjected to changes or your pup may need to take a few other medicines to guarantee the best treatment.

Maintain Your Dog’s Ear Hygiene

Maintaining a good, regular ear hygiene will help prevent ear infections in your dog that may be caused by wax buildup, ear mites, or injury.

Take Your Dog for Annual Checkups

If you cannot determine what causes your dog’s circling behavior and he is doing it too often, it is strongly recommended that you take him to his veterinarian. That will allow you to get professional advice as well as have your dog examined in order to rule out any medical issues.

Make sure you stay on top of your dog’s health by making sure you take him to the veterinarian for annual checkups. This way, your veterinarian will be able to perform tests, look at his vision, hearing, weight, and skin, and check his entire body for pain or lumps. Annual veterinarian check-ups can also include vaccinations to prevent any serious health issues as well as blood tests that will help to diagnose any emerging health problems.


Why is my senior dog walking in circles? 

Senior dogs that exhibit circling behavior can be showing signs of anxiety or cognitive issues. Taking your dog to the veterinarian is important any time your senior dog exhibits an uncommon behavior including circling repetitively and frequently. 

What would cause my dog to walk in circles?

There are many reasons that would cause your dog to walk in circles. This can include ear infections, stress, anxiety, OCD, or a stroke.

How do I stop my dog from walking in circles?

Stopping your dog from walking in a circle requires determining the cause of your problem. It’s important that your dog sees a veterinarian to determine the cause of his abnormal behavior. 

What are the signs of your dog dying? 

Depending on your dog and his overall condition, there are several signs that your dog is dying. These include reduced mobility, incontinence, lethargy, pain, decreased thirst and appetite, labored breathing, and restlessness.

Home » Dog Health » Is Your Dog Walking In Circles? 7 Possible Causes And What To Do

Leave a Comment