Dog Staggering And Wobbly | Signs, Causes, Action, Prevention


Dog Staggering and Wobbly is common during the recovery period from an anaesthetic, or during convalescence, hind leg weakness is to be expected, as it is in very old dogs.

Why Your Dog is Staggering And Wobbly:

During the recovery stage from a fit, gait may be uncertain and wobbly. In any other circumstances, lack of a firm and steady hind leg movement is abnormal and, as this sign may be associated with serious conditions, veterinary help should be sought promptly.

Other Possible Causes Why Dog Is Staggering Include:

Cerebral hemorrhage (stroke, CVA)

May occur in older dogs. This condition has been observed to occur more often in winter and may be triggered by turning an old dog out into a very cold atmosphere.

Signs Of Cerebral Hemorrhage

Confusion, dilated pupils, lack of response to owner, head tilt, circling, sudden blindness.

Any combination of these signs may appear suddenly, but may gradually improve.

Action To be Taken:

Veterinary advice as soon as possible to confirm diagnosis and as medication may be needed.

German Shepherd Syndrome (CDRM Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy)

This breed in particular is associated with a condition of increasing weakness in the hind legs of older dogs, with a tendency to collapse when turning corners, and to drag the hind paws which may become grazed.

Pain is not a sign in this condition. Consult the veterinary surgeon to obtain advice on how best to cope with the problem and to prevent secondary complications developing.

The condition is, unfortunately, progressive, despite treatment.

Wobbler syndrome

Inherited or congenital damage to the vertebrae results in pressure on the spinal cord causing ataxia (a wobbly gait) and poor position sense, usually in animals 10-24 months of age, although the signs may not develop until the dog is 5-6 years old.

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The wobbler syndrome is seen particularly in Great Danes and Dobermans but other large breeds are also affected. The condition has also been reported in Basset Hounds.


Consult a veterinary surgeon as soon as any signs are noticed, as rest and medication may bring about an improvement. Surgery may be necessary in some cases.

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy (skeletal scurvy)

This is a complex condition that affects rapidly growing puppies (3-6 months of age) of the larger breeds, and particularly Boxers, Dobermans and Afghans.

Dog is Staggering
Skeletal Scurvy

Signs Of Skeletal Scurvy:

Pain and swelling of the joints of the legs, staggering gait, unwillingness to walk, acute pain on being touched. Possibly bleeding from the gums.

Cause Of Skeletal Scurvy:

The cause of this condition is an imbalance of vitamin C metabolism. The condition may be associated with cramming growing puppies with food and with an excess of Vitamins and minerals in an effort to put weight on what should naturally be a lean, lithe frame.


Veterinary consultation promptly for accurate diagnosis, probably via X-ray, and medication to relieve pain.

Subsequently a balanced and moderate diet must be devised and the pup allowed to grow normally. Rest is also important.

Advice For Dog Owners:

Be prepared to lead the dog up and down for some time so that the veterinary surgeon may have the opportunity to observe the gait.

Dog Staggering

Make a note of whether the staggering gait is consistently bad or whether the dog is better at some times of the day or before or after exercise.

Be prepared to tell the veterinary surgeon about the onset of staggering -was it sudden or progressive?

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