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 to try and figure why your dog is engaging in this behavior sooner than later. Sometimes, a dog walks in a circle due to anxiety and stress, or it could be the result of an undiagnosed medical condition. There are several other reasons why a dog may walk around in a circle that you should know, especially if he does it several times each day.
Reasons For Why Do Dogs Walk In Circles
Anxiety and Stress
It’s possible that your dog may be walking in a circle due to anxiety and stress. If something is bothering him or 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 anxious situation where your dog may express his anxiety is when you leave him, which is a sign of separation anxiety. He may also express anxiety by walking in circles if there is a person present that causes him stress.
Ear infections are another major sign of why a dog may walk in a circle. An ear infection can have more than one symptoms, which can include offensive odors that originate from the ear as well as redness, head shaking, and ear scratching.
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.
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.
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 the veterinarian 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 treated. And, 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
- Unusual focuses of his eyes especially when his eyes focus at a very slow speed or 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 or treat and can involve a series of tests to determine a proper diagnosis and treatment.
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, it is a result of their confusion.
Even a veterinarian cannot diagnose canine vestibular disease. While he can do an exam and some blood work and diagnostic exams, he will only be able to rule out other possibilities like cancer. The vestibular system in a dog allows them to maintain their orientation and balance along with their movement. A complex sensory system, the vestibular system originates in your dogs’ inner ear. Along with this dysfunction of the vestibular system, it is a condition that is referred to as Vestibular disorder or vestibular syndrome and tends to manifest in a dog walking in circles, 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
- 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. It is not yet known what the exact cause of the canine vestibular disorder, however, these factors have been considered to play a role in the condition’s development and the symptoms that are associated with your dog walking in a circle:
- Nutritional deficiencies such as a thiamine deficiency
- Metabolic disorders
- Brain diseases and 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 ear 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, your vet 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. Usually, when a dog is circling, ear infections will also accompany the other symptoms that include:
- Offensive smell
- Discharge from an affected ear
- Ear scratching
- Head shaking
- The inability for his eyes to focus as well as a constant left-right flicking
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 right to the veterinarian. The treatment of an inner ear infection will typically involve a veterinarian cleaning 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 balance, head tilting, and loss of vision.
Your veterinarian will provide appropriate care to your dog if he determines that your dog is circling is the result of a stroke. A stroke has other effects that also need to be treated correctly. A stroke may have other signs like falling to one side, abnormal eye position, loss of coordination and balance, inability to walk correctly, blindness, loss of consciousness, abnormal eye movements, and a tilted head. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, then you need to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately.
Behavior that is compulsive is not uncommon, particularly in an older dog. A dog may also be walking in a circle because 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.
Identify the Issue and Triggers
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. You can also use positive reinforcement of his acceptable behavior that can eliminate or reduce this behavior.
You will need to observe your pup very closely for a situation that encourages circling to help minimize them. Prescribed medication can take time in order to work, so it’s important to give it enough time to make sure it is working correctly. Also, stay in touch with your dog’s veterinarian since your medication dosage may need to be changed or your pup may need to take a few different medications to guarantee the best treatment.
Maintain Your Dog’s Ear Hygiene
Regular cleaning will help to prevent ear infections in your dog. Regular ear hygiene will help you maintain your dog’s ear and prevent any ear infections that are caused by wax buildup, ear mites, or injury.
Take Your Dog for Annual Checkups
If you cannot determine what the cause of your dog’s circling behavior is, your dog may be having weirdly in some other way or he may be doing it several times a day, 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 work 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 can indicate that your dog is dying. These include reduced mobility, incontinence, lethargy, pain, decreased thirst and appetite, labored breathing, and restlessness.