Why is My Dog Walking in Circles? What Do I Do

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"My old dog started walking in circles. "
"Why is it happening, and what should I do?"

Puppies may have a habit of running around in circles chasing their tails, but when a fully grown dog starts walking in circles, it’s usually a sign that something is wrong.

And while dog’s spinning in circles before lying down is considered normal, you should be worried if your old dog walks in circles for hours or excessively repeats the behavior.

Why is My Dog Walking in Circles?

So why do dogs spin in circles? There are multiple answers to this question, but circling usually means something is not quite right with your dog’s ears or brain. Some reasons for your dog walking in circles can be:

Inner Ear Infection 

One reason for your senior dog walking in circles can be an inner ear infection. Unfortunately, such conditions are pretty common in older dogs, and long-eared dogs are especially vulnerable.

HOW TO DIAGNOSE: If your dog walks in circles and is disorienting, it is likely due to an ear infection. Other symptoms include odor from the ears, itchiness, redness, an inability to focus the eyes, and repeated shaking of the head.

IS IT SERIOUS: If the infection has already started affecting your dog’s behavior, then it’s serious and needs immediate treatment.

HOW TO TREAT: Clean the visible parts of the ear with a cotton ball soaked in a mixture of one part vinegar and one part filtered water to reduce itch and discomfort. Use a homemade or store-bought mullein mix to help with the infection.

Vestibular Syndrome 

Old dogs are particularly prone to vestibular disease, which affects the inner ear and balance. Old dog vestibular disease is likely due to damage due to injury or infection but can also be due to a nutritional deficiency. 

HOW TO DIAGNOSE: If your old dog has a vestibular disease, it will repeatedly fall, excessively drool, and walk with its head down. 

IS IT SERIOUS: Although it can be frightening, most dogs recover from vestibular disease independently in a matter of days. 

HOW TO TREAT: Vestibular disease home treatment in dogs includes making your dog lie down, offering it water, and not feeding it for 12 to 24 hours to prevent vomiting. You can also use homeopathic remedies like cocculus indicus.

Behavioral Disorder 

Dogs are prone to behavioral disorders like humans, which can also be the cause of their circling. For example, obsessive-compulsive disorders can compel your dog to circle a spot before completing an activity repeatedly. 

HOW TO DIAGNOSE: In the case of a behavioral disorder, your dog will not have any medical symptoms but might exhibit other repetitive strange behaviors. 

IS IT SERIOUS: The seriousness of such disorders depends on their intensity and other accompanying behaviors. 

HOW TO TREAT: Keep your dog away from any triggers and make sure they’re getting sufficient mental and physical exercise.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)

A slow decline in the cognitive function of dogs as they get older is known as canine cognitive dysfunction. It results in loss of memory, learned behavior, and motor function. 

HOW TO DIAGNOSE: A dog suffering from CCD will be disoriented, sluggish, irritable, and more prone to house soiling. It may also undergo sleep changes.

IS IT SERIOUS: It is a progressive disease that cannot be cured and gets more severe with time. Therefore, proper management is key to maintaining the quality of life.

HOW TO TREAT: Manage a dog with CCD by keeping a consistent routine and ensuring mental and physical stimulation. Feed your dog food rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids to help alleviate symptoms.

Neurological Disease

Neurological disorders and other brain ailments like head injuries and tumors can also lead to circling behavior in dogs. Old dog neurological disorders include seizures, spinal diseases, intervertebral disc degeneration, etc. 

HOW TO DIAGNOSE: Old dogs walking in circles and standing in corners could be due to a neurological disorder. Other symptoms include fever, pain, skin changes, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. Dogs with neurological problems are also unlikely to be able to stop or redirect their circling when distracted.

IS IT SERIOUS: Neurological disorders are pretty severe but can often be cured with proper medical care.

HOW TO TREAT: Take your dog to the vet and support it with supplementation. Omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, and MCT oil are excellent supplements for dogs with neurological problems. 

Pain or Anxiety 

If you’re still asking yourself, “Why is my dog walking in circles?” then the answer could be pain or anxiety. Pain can also lead to stress which can become especially bad if your dog is the anxious type.

HOW TO DIAGNOSE: An old dog walking in circles and panting is likely to be anxious or in pain. Other signs of pain and anxiety are aggression, excessive barking, house soiling, agitation, growling, hiding, and shallow breathing.

IS IT SERIOUS: Pain is a sign that something is wrong with the body, so your dog’s condition could either be severe or nothing to worry about, depending on the cause of the pain.

HOW TO TREAT: Identify the source of the pain and give your dog turmeric mixed with coconut oil, black pepper, and water for instant pain relief—calm anxiety using exercise, massage, and gentle grooming. 

dog anxiety

How Do You Know if It’s Nothing Serious? 

Your old dog may be spinning in circles just because he wants to, and this is especially likely if your dog turns in circles before pooping or laying down and shows no compulsion or other medical symptoms. 

Dogs also circle when investigating. That is usually accompanied by sniffing and is nothing to worry about.

Other Things You Can Do to Help 

If you’re still wondering how to stop a dog from spinning in circles, here are some things that can help.

  • Exercise: If your old dog has no underlying medical conditions, then he could be circling due to pent-up energy. Give him longer walks and more active playtime to help reduce the behavior.
  • Eliminate stressors: Specific environmental stressors can also lead to circling in anxious dogs. Eliminate these stressors to put an end to the circling behavior.
  • Dietary changes: Your old dog could be spinning in circles due to dietary issues in some cases. Consult your vet for nutritional changes to help reduce this circling.  

Final Thoughts

Some dogs with neurological problems or seizure activity need multiple anti-seizure medications to control their problems. If a furry friend is out controlling the symptoms, it would be good to recheck with your vet, let them know what is happening, and see their following recommendation. I wish her all the best.

Don’t forget to leave your questions below the comments at the end of the article. If you found this article useful and interesting, please don’t forget to share it with your friends and family.


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