My Dog has Started Walking in Circles – should I be concerned?


Although it is normal for puppies to chase their tails and even for fully-grown animals to dash around in wild twists and turns.  But, dogs don’t typically walk in circles, except when they are preparing to urinate, defecate, or they find an interesting smell or another animal.

Some dogs may circle just before they lie down, this seems to be an instinctive behaviour.  Dogs in the wild may circle to check, by sight and smell for any predators in the area.  They may also trample down the vegetation to create a more comfortable resting place, alternatively they may just be selecting he most comfortable position in which to lie.


So if you see your dog walking in circles without any such reason for it, be immediately suspicious and try to figure out why?

Among the possible causes are an inner ear, a blow to the head, or neurological problems resulting from an infection, such as neosporosis, canine distemper, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


What to Look For

Dogs with neurological reasons for circling typically find it difficult to turn in the direction opposite to the one they are circling in. Start your investigation by attempting to get your dog to turn away from the direction in which she is circling. Next, look and assess your dog’s eyes, ears, spine, and limbs do they look normal.  The closer you are to your dog the more you will know what normal is for your dog and you will be able to see when things change.


What to Do?

Ask yourself these few questions:

  • Did your assessment reveal evidence of an ear infection? If yes, the circling might be due, in part, to the imbalance that sometimes results from an acute middle ear infection. See your vet and after your dog has finished their medication the circling behaviour should be resolved.
  • Did your assessment uncover any eye asymmetry? Different pupil sizes often indicate neurological problems that are best handled by a veterinary neurologist. See your vet quickly.
  • Was every aspect of your physical assessment completely normal? If it was, there is a strong possibility that the circling behaviour is just that; a behavioural issue only. If it persists for more than a few days, it might be worthwhile to consult an animal behaviourist.  I would suggest you check with your vet to just make your assessment was correct and you dog is healthy, then you can ask the vet to suggest things you might try, or the contact details of a good animal behaviourist in your area.


When to Get the Vet ASAP

A recent head trauma may be the cause of a dog’s circling behaviour. Because these effects may be the beginning of something significantly worse, it is always wise to seek the immediate attention of a vet.  Any time your dog exhibits even the slightest behavioural abnormality following head trauma see a vet immediately



Neosporosis is a potentially deadly disease spread by parasites that are found in some raw meats, and in the faeces of infected animals. The parasite is killed by high temperatures and by freezing; however, it is never a good idea to give a dog raw meat of any kind, even if it has been frozen first. The disease can also be transmitted by the dog eating or drinking anything that has been contaminated by infected faeces.

Symptoms of neosporosis include the dog beginning to walk in circles and the head drooping to one side. The dog may collapse after walking as neosporosis affects the muscles and spinal cord. Neosporosis can cause brain damage, paralysis and death. The disease is difficult to treat, as the parasite forms highly resistant cysts, but some antibiotics may be effective, if given promptly.


Canine Distemper

Another disease that can cause walking in circles and collapse is canine distemper. It is caused by a virus, and usually starts with a respiratory and lung infection. The later stage often causes neurological damage that results in paralysis, muscle twitches and a tendency to walk around in circles.

Animals with distemper may have a nasal discharge and seem uncoordinated in their movements. Other signs include aggression, lethargy, wandering, and excessive thirst. The disease is transmitted via fluids produced by coughing and sneezing, and pets are most likely to get distemper from contact with other dogs. Puppies are especially susceptible to this disease, and many vets recommend vaccinations starting at an early age. There is no treatment for the disease, but with good general care, the pet may gradually recover.


Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

SLE is a type of autoimmune condition that has a whole body effect and can cause arthritis and muscle weakness as well as many other symptoms such as fever and kidney disease. It can be a difficult disease to diagnose, as it may seem like many other conditions. Your vet can make a diagnosis by using a blood test.

Early signs of SLE include paralysis and a limp in addition to suddenly starting to walk in circles. The condition is often made worse by sunlight exposure. The breeds thought to be most susceptible to SLE due to a genetic predisposition include the German shepherd, Shetland sheepdog, collie, poodle, beagle, Afghan hound and Irish setter. The disease is usually treated with drugs that suppress the immune system, but this can leave the dog more susceptible to infections.



One Comment Add yours

  1. tippysmom2 says:

    Good information. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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