Could problems with my dog’s ear be causing him to lose balance?

Original Question: My dog has started staggering as if he were drunk. Do dogs have the same inner ear as people? Can I give him Gravol as a treatment or is there specific canine treatment? Thank you. - Cindy

Could problems with my dog’s ear be causing him to lose balance? Apr 26, 2018

Hi Cindy,

Thanks for sending in your question.

If your dog is having problems with balance, I would strongly encourage you to see your veterinarian. The inner ear anatomy of dogs is actually very similar to ours. It is certainly possible for disorders of the inner ear (specifically, the vestibular system – which is responsible for balance) to cause the signs you described. Vestibular disease is a common disorder we see in older dogs, and it is relatively manageable in these patients (sometimes it even resolves entirely). The most common signs are a sudden onset of head tilt, falling, loss of balance and abnormal eye movements (called nystagmus). However, there are a variety of other, possibly more life-threatening conditions that can also cause these changes. These include serious central nervous system diseases such as infection, trauma, vascular accidents, autoimmune disease and toxins. For this reason, I would not suggest trying to treat this problem at home and would not delay seeking a veterinary exam and consult.

I hope this is helpful for you – wishing you all the best.

Dr. Kim Hester

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