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Health Topics  >  Musculoskeletal  >  Incoordination and Falling

What does incoordination or ‘falling over’ in dogs look like?

By Dr. Alison Norwich, DVM. Reviewed by Dr. Elizabeth Davis, MVB

Veterinarians use the word ‘ataxic’ to describe a dog who is uncoordinated and doesn’t know where their own limbs are in space. (Ataxia means incoordination within the nervous system, and can occur in any part of a dog’s body – head, torso or legs.)

Dog owners, on the other hand, may describe their pet as looking ‘drunk’ or ‘falling over’ when they try to walk – and this paints a pretty accurate picture.

In mild cases, ataxic dogs might appear to stumble or trip a little over their feet. Moderate cases may stagger around the house. In more severe cases, they may be completely unable to walk or even stand. 

Depending on the cause of ataxia, dogs may fall repeatedly to one side or sway side to side. 

In some cases, dogs aren’t ataxic by the technical definition, but they sure aren’t walking normally. For example, a dog who is suddenly walking in circles or making really exaggerated motions with every step.

Whatever the appearance, any sudden change in your dog’s ability to get around can be a scary sight, and one that merits veterinary attention.

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