Topics to Talk About
Loss Of Balance In Senior Dogs: What You Should Know
As our dogs begin to enter their golden years, there are some possible health issues you need to be aware of to ensure that your elderly dog has a good quality of life.
One of the most prominent issues can be a loss of balance in senior dogs. It’s a serious issue and can be the result of any number of different health issues.
And as a pet parent, it can be worrying when you start to notice stiff legs and balance issues in your beloved pooch.
As our four-legged resident Editor-in-Chief, Honey, here at knowmydog.com says:
“Us senior dogs can sometimes have difficulty with our balance, but this guide is here to help you understand more about our balance, what affects it, and what you can do to help!”
- Loss of balance in senior dogs has many causes, including arthritis, vestibular disease, and other neurological disorders.
- Look for symptoms such as disorientation, frequent falls, stiffness, or limping
- If you have concerns, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, who will be able to help you diagnose and treat your dog’s poor balance.
Understanding Loss of Balance In Senior Dogs
If you’re the owner of a senior pup, understanding more about how their balance works and the common causes of balance issues can go a long way in helping your pooch!
The Role Of The Vestibular System
Consisting of the inner ear, vestibular nerve, and the brainstem, the vestibular system is essential for helping to maintain a dog’s balance.
“Woof! Our vestibular system can deteriorate as we get older, which means that balancing how we used to as an adult can be difficult!”
Deterioration can lead to falling, stumbling, and overall disorientation, making life uncomfortable for your pooch.
Common Causes Of Balance Problems In Senior Dogs
There are several common causes for balance problems in your old canine companion, and understanding more about them can help you to identify them early on.
Things such as diabetes, strokes, spinal disease, vestibular disease, cancer, canine cognitive dysfunction, and kidney failure can all play a part in affecting your dog’s balance.
“They all sound super scary, but there are treatment options available. Woof!”
Vestibular Disease In Senior Dogs
One of the biggest causes of loss of balance issues in senior dogs is vestibular disease. This can be catastrophic to your dog’s sense of balance. It is one of the most common reasons dogs lose their balance suddenly.
It is often referred to as “old dog” vestibular disease because it often impacts senior dogs the most. It’s the equivalent of how humans feel when they suffer from vertigo.
Symptoms And Diagnosis
Some symptoms that can point toward vestibular disease include stumbling, wobbly steps, dizziness, and sudden lapses in balance.
Your vet can provide you with a diagnosis based on your pooch’s medical and clinical history, symptom evaluation, and urine and blood tests.
Treatment And Management
Vestibular disease is treatable, and your vet will try to treat it at its source if they can find one.
The road to recovery can take 3 to 7 weeks, and there may be some lasting conditions, such as head tilt or a slight wobble.
Neurological Disorders can cause a loss of balance in Senior Dogs
Neurological disorders can also affect a senior pooch’s balance, so it’s worth considering that it could be something like cognitive canine disease or a stroke.
“I don’t like the idea of my brain not working!”
Symptoms And Diagnosis
Neurological diseases can be hard to diagnose, but symptoms such as trembling, dragged paws, tail chasing, head shaking, lack of appetite, disorientation, and lapses in balance are signs your dog needs to be seen by a vet.
A veterinarian neurologist can diagnose the issue with an MRI scan and a cerebrospinal fluid analysis.
Treatment And Management
Treatment of issues such as cognitive canine disorder can result in the prescription of medicines, nutritional supplements, and advice from your vet on engaging and enriching your dog mentally.
“At least it means more play time for me!”
Joint Problems And Other Health Issues
Vestibular disease and neurological conditions aren’t the only causes of loss of balance in senior dogs, as joint problems and other issues can also play a significant role in the deterioration of your dog’s balance.
“Everything aches a little more than it used to, but I’m still balancing fine for now!”
Arthritis And Other Joint Conditions
With age, your dog’s joints will weaken as their bone density decreases, but it can also mean that arthritis can set in too. There are also things such as elbow dysplasia and osteochondrosis, which can also affect your senior pooch’s balance.
Symptoms of arthritis and other joint conditions include stiff walking in the morning, irritability, lameness or limping, and a reluctance to have their joints touched.
Underlying Medical Conditions
“My human always says that more people should know that underlying medical conditions can cause me and my senior pals to lose balance too!”
As well as vestibular disease, neurological issues, and joint problems, such as ear infections, epilepsy, wobbler’s syndrome, cancer, and kidney failure.
Your vet will be able to help identify any of these potential issues should you suspect that there is something acutely wrong with your dog’s balance. They will then be able to provide you with the best course of action regarding your dog’s treatment and recovery.
How To Help Your Senior Dog Maintain Their Balance
If your older dog is struggling with their balance, then there are some things that you can do as an owner to help ensure that they can maintain what balance they do have.
“I might slip now and then, but I still feel like a puppy at heart. Woof!”
Exercise And Mobility Aids
If your dog struggles with their balance, their inability to do the activities they once loved can cause depression. This is why you shouldn’t stop your dog from walking or exercising, which can only make the problem worse if their lack of balance is down to joint issues.
Things such as swimming, gentle walks, and stretches will all help to maintain your dog’s balance.
Some dogs have balancing issues so bad that they’re unable to walk very far, which is exactly why exercise and mobility aids are the perfect fix.
“I’ve never used one, but one of my doggy friends has, and I’m jealous of his wheels!”
For some dogs, a lift support harness will be all that they need. This harness will provide your dog with support on the section that they need it most. It’s a good idea to consult a vet first, though, as they’ll be able to advise you on where the harness should be.
Alternatively, a doggy wheelchair might be needed instead, granting your dog independence without worrying about falling.
Many varieties are available, including 2-wheeled and 4-wheeled options, so it’s all about figuring out what your dog needs!
And again, depending on your dog’s requirements, perhaps more appropriate could be the option of a dog wagon. (Read this in-depth article on the best dog wagon for larger dogs)
Home Safety Modifications
In addition to mobility aids and exercise, you should also be helping to make your dog’s life at home safer too.
You should be sure that all of your flooring is non-slip and that there are no objects for your dog to fall into that could cause them serious harm.
If you haven’t already, you might also want to move your dog to the bottom floor of your house, as walking up the stairs might become more difficult for them.
Proper Nutrition And Supplementation
Ensuring your dog gets the proper nutrition they need is essential for their mobility. Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can go a long way in supporting your dog’s joint, muscle, and brain health.
“Us senior dogs find it harder to absorb nutrients as we age, so my vet makes sure to prescribe me nutrient supplements, yummy!”
Regular Checkups And Monitoring
Finally, as with any senior dog, you should ensure that they receive regular checkups with their vet. At least twice a year is the recommended amount.
If your dog is beginning to struggle with their balance, be sure to monitor their health and their ability to move so that you can inform the vet each time you see them.
Daisy Chan is an experienced writer at KnowMyDog.com who is dedicated to providing senior dog owners with the knowledge and resources they need to take care of their aging pets. Her expertise in dog care and nutrition, coupled with her exceptional writing skills, has made her an essential part of the KnowMyDog.com team. Through her writing, Daisy shares her knowledge on a wide range of topics related to senior dog health and wellness, from exercise tips to advice on managing chronic health conditions.
Daisy’s passion for dogs and her commitment to excellence have made her a trusted source of information for pet owners seeking guidance on how to care for their senior dogs. Her ability to distill complex information into easy-to-understand articles has earned her a loyal following among dog owners who appreciate her expertise and her ability to make difficult topics accessible. Overall, Daisy’s work at KnowMyDog.com has made a significant impact in the pet industry, and her dedication to helping senior dogs and their owners is sure to continue benefiting countless pets and their human companions for years to come.