If your dog is walking crooked, or recently developed an abnormal walk, your dog may be showing signs of neurological problems. Suddenly walking sideways can indicate other health issues as well, but the bottom line is that if your dog has started stumbling, dragging his feet, circling, or walking crooked, it is time for a veterinary visit.
Causes for Crooked Gaits
If your dog has always walked kind of crooked or it came on gradually in a young pup, it could indicate a bone or joint abnormality. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to weak or malformed bones, which may change how your dog walks as he grows up.
And conditions like severe hip dysplasia can be extremely uncomfortable, causing your dog to walk abnormally to relieve pain. It could even be due to weakness in the hind end.
For adult dogs who suddenly start walking crooked or gradually worsen, other conditions like neurological problems are more likely. These include:
- Vestibular disease (like doggie vertigo or “dizziness”)
- Inner ear infections
- Traumatic injury
- Brain tumor
- Inflammation or infection in the brain
- Large tumor near a leg preventing normal movement
Sudden Changes in How Dog Walks
Your veterinarian will start by doing a thorough physical exam, including feeling your dog’s legs and joints and testing some basic reflexes, such as fixing her foot if your veterinarian places it upside down. The ears will be checked for signs of infection.
Blood tests can help to reveal if your dog has an infection or organ damage that may have caused a seizure or stroke. Radiographs (X-rays) and ultrasound might be used to look for problems in your dog’s bones, heart, lungs, and abdominal organs.
If a brain issue is suspected, your dog will probably be referred to a neurologist for a full neurologic exam and advanced imaging such as an MRI. An MRI will show if there is a brain tumor and can also show signs of strokes, inflammation, trauma, or infection.
Signs of Neurological Problems in Dogs
Walking sideways is just one sign of a neurological issue in dogs. Other signs that can indicate a neurological problem include:
- Head pressing against walls or other objects
- Dragging feet
- Paralysis of one or more legs
- Sudden blindness
- Head tilt or head shaking
If your dog is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, he should see his veterinarian as soon as possible.