My Puppy Is Wobbly and Off Balance – Is This Normal?

wobbly puppy

While I have gotten used to my older dog’s wobbly antics in the morning due to her arthritis, I was surprised when my new puppy was suddenly wobbly and seemed off balance too. What was wrong? I was concerned, so I did a Google Search and then booked an appointment with my local vet.

Reasons Puppies Appear Off Balance: A Quick Overview

Puppies can become off-balance and seem to wobble due to inner ear infection, stroke and epilepsy, canine vestibular syndrome, head trauma, brain tumor, and genetic causes such as hip dysplasia. 

Knowing why your puppy is wobbling can help you treat it. If the condition is serious, a vet can help you manage your puppy’s health so they can live a full and pain-free life.

Now you know what can cause wobbly legs in a puppy, let’s look at these closer to help you diagnose the cause of their wobbliness.

Reason One: Inner Ear Infection

Dogs, like humans, can also develop an inner ear infection. This inner ear infection is usually due to water entering the ear canal and creating a blockage. Bacteria breed in the fluid, and the ear becomes infected, leading to a loss of balance.

Other signs of an inner ear infection could include your dog carrying their head tilted to the side of the infection or shaking their head to try and reduce the itching and buildup in the ear canal.

How to Treat Inner Ear Infection

If your puppy has an inner ear infection, and this is causing wobbly walking in your puppy, then you should get a prescription from the vet for an antibiotic ointment to drip into your puppy’s ear canal to help clear up the infection.

Reason Two: Stroke and Epilepsy

Puppies and older dogs are prone to stroke if they have a previous experience of head trauma or if they have a genetic predisposition to it. A stroke will influence the blood flow in the brain and circulatory systems.

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As a result, the puppy may experience uncoordinated movements, wobbly legs, and loss of balance.

How to Treat Stroke and Epilepsy Triggered Wobbly Dogs

Sadly, there isn’t much that can be done for dogs that have had a serious stroke, except to manage their symptoms and try to keep them comfortable.

If the stroke was not that severe, you may be able to ask your vet’s opinion on putting your puppy or adult dog on blood thinners to help increase blood flow to the brain and affected areas where the pressure may influence your puppy’s coordination.

Reason Three: Canine Vestibular Syndrome

Sometimes, it is not the dog’s ears or brain that are the cause of their wobbliness but rather the connecting tissue between the ears and the brain. The vestibular area is the sensitive part of the dog’s ear, where nerves connect to relay signals to the brain.

When this area begins to degrade or calcify, it can lead to a canine vestibular syndrome, which is characterized by wobbly movement. This is most often seen in older dogs, but some puppies are born with it, and if left untreated, it can lead to complete loss of hearing.

Dogs develop damage to the vestibular area due to meningitis, trauma, and other environmental factors.

How to Treat Canine Vestibular Syndrome

With the sudden onset of canine vestibular syndrome, it may be necessary to place your dog in the vet’s care where they will receive IV fluids into their ear canal to help flush their ears and clear out the vestibular area.

Depending on the cause of the canine vestibular syndrome, surgery may be recommended, and most dogs who have a successful surgery make a full recovery in 2 to 3 weeks.

Reason Four: Head Trauma

If your dog has been hit by a car or fell badly while playing, they may be suffering head trauma. This can lead to swelling in the brain, which can cause pressure on the vestibular area, resulting in drunken walking, where they wobble and seem uncoordinated.

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If you saw the incident happen, you can give your vet feedback, which may help your dog. However, if you only notice the results of wobbly walking, it may be up to the vet to run some tests.

How to Treat Head Trauma Lack of Coordination

Your vet will have to treat the head trauma with antibiotics, cortisone, or steroid injections. This may take some time, but within a few days, there should be an improvement. If the symptoms worsen, then your puppy may have suffered irreparable head trauma, and the prognosis isn’t good.

Reason Five: Brain Tumors

Puppies don’t often have brain tumors, but they can happen. Intracranial pressure caused by trauma may result in tumors that can have wobbly walking as a symptom. The treatment may be the same as for head trauma if the tumor is small.

Technology now exists to treat tumors with chemotherapy and even radiation. This is an expensive option, but the results are promising.

How to Treat Tumor Related Wobbles in Dogs

Consult with your vet about the treatment options, but monitor your puppy closely to ensure their wobbles don’t become so severe they end up walking into furniture and injuring themselves. Medication for the tumor will help, but eventually, it may require surgery or that your puppy be euthanized.

Reason Six: Genetic Conditions

If your puppy has been wobbling since you got them, you may need to consider genetic conditions such as malformed toes, lack of tendon strength, and hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is a common culprit for puppy wobbling, and it is a condition that your puppy would be born with. It may cause them to wobble, fall over, and easily stumble when they run. You may notice they seem to do the splits when they slip.

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How to Treat Genetic Conditions Like Hip Dysplasia

There is not much that can be done if the condition is very severe as it is already a degenerative condition, which will progress from wobbles to a lack of strength to stand or run.

However, you can consider surgical options that may replace hip joints, shorten the elongated tendons, and help position the puppy’s hips for better strength. Over time, this will improve the puppy’s strength and coordination.

What to Do If Your Puppy Seems Off Balance

If you suddenly notice your puppy seems off-balance, be sure to check them over for signs of injuries. Inspect their ears, noticing if there is any sign of blood or dried flakes that may indicate a mite infestation. Be sure not to insert anything into the ear canal.

Next, note any other symptoms such as the way they carry their head, if they are eating, and whether they have normal bowel movements. Use a treat that you move from side to side past their face to see if they can follow the treat with their eyes.

Should your puppy be unable to see and follow the treat with their eyes, it means you need to take them to a vet immediately as they may have suffered a head trauma. If you are not sure what is causing the wobbliness, then also contact your vet immediately.

The Final Wobble

As a responsible dog owner, I immediately took my puppy to the vet when I noticed her wobble all over the floor. She had been carrying her head slightly sideways for a day or so, and I had thought it was cute, not realizing it was a sign of something being wrong.

At the vets, they discovered she had a mite infestation that had caused an inner ear infection. Luckily, the vet could flush her ear, prescribe some medication, and in a day or two, my puppy was romping around straight as an arrow and without a care in the world.

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