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dog walking sideways

dog walking sideways

dog walking sideways

Hello. Welcome to solsarin. This post is about “dog walking sideways“.

The dog

It (Canis familiaris or Canis lupus familiaris) is a domesticated descendant of the wolf which is characterized by an upturning tail. The dog derived from an ancient, extinct wolf, and the modern grey wolf is the dog’s nearest living relative. It the first species to be domesticated, by hunter–gatherers over 15,000 years ago, before the development of agriculture.

Due to their long association with humans, dogs have expanded to a large number of domestic individuals and gained the ability to thrive on a starch-rich diet that would be inadequate for other canids. Over the millennia, dogs became uniquely adapted to human behavior, and the human-canine bond has been a topic of frequent study.


The dog has been selectively bred over millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes. Dog breeds vary widely in shape, size, and color. They perform many roles for humans, such as hunting, herding, pulling loads, protection, assisting police and the military, companionship, therapy, and aiding disabled people. This influence on human society has given them the sobriquet of “man’s best friend.”

Help, Why is My Dog Walking Sideways?

A dog walking sideways may be a concern for dog owners, especially when the dog starts walking this way out of the blue. There may be several underlying causes for a dog walking sideways and the best way to find the underlying cause is by seeing the vet. A recording of the episode can be extra helpful so that the vet is provided with a visual of the actual behavior rather than just a mere description. Complicated cases may require a referral to a neurologist. Following are some potential causes for a dog walking sideways along with pertinent information about diagnosis and treatment.

A Problem with the Ear

A dog walking sideways may be suffering from some problem with the ears. A dog’s ears and his sense of balance are closely connected.

Balance, which helps the dog walk and run without falling, is controlled through special signals sent to the brain coming from the eyes, inner ear and other sensory systems of the body. The dog’s inner ear, in particular, contains specialsensorswhich are capable of detecting the rotational movement of the head.

Your dog’s balance system is often referred to as the vestibular system and any issue affecting this system is known as a vestibular disorder.

Middle ear or inner ear infections can affect the dog’s vestibular system, causing affected dogs to feel dizzy and nauseous, just as if they stepped off a merry-go-round. This may lead to a dog exhibiting a head tilt, circling and walking sideways from being dizzy, which leads to a dog who feels sick, nauseous and may refuse to eat.

This condition is known as vestibular disease, and while it can be caused by a middle ear infection, at times the cause remains unknown (idiopathic). Because this condition is often seen in older dogs, it is often referred to as geriatric vestibular disease or old dog vestibular disease.

dog walking sideways
dog walking sideways

Why is my dog walking sideways all of a sudden?

Some reasons dogs may alter their gait and start walking sideways: Hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip ball and socket joint. Vestibular Disease, a sudden, non-progressive disturbance of balance that commonly impacts older dogs (more info here) Injury or pain.

Why is my dog wobbling and falling over?

If your dog is staggering, stumbling, or falling over, it may be the result of a variety of medical issues, including injury, stroke, poisoning, or an infection. Here, our Memphis Emergency Vets explain why you should get to a veterinary hospital right away.

Why is my dog walking like he’s drunk?

The term for this uncoordinated gait is “ataxia,” and the type of ataxia that causes dogs to walk like they are drunk is called a “vestibular ataxia.” The vestibular system, or balance system, in dogs is composed of two parts: the peripheral portion, or the inner and middle ear, and the central portion.

What would cause a dog to be off balance?

Primary Cause

Disequilibrium means an impaired sense of balance. Some of the most common causes of disequilibrium are trauma, middle ear infections, cancer and poisoning. Disequilibrium is more common in older dogs.

Why does my dog seems confused and unsteady?

Vestibular disease refers to a sudden, non-progressive disturbance of balance. It is more common in older dogs. It is also referred to as old dog vestibular syndrome and canine idiopathic vestibular syndrome.

What causes sudden hind leg weakness in dogs?

Degenerative myelopathy initially affects the back legs and causes muscle weakness and loss, and lack of coordination. These cause a staggering affect that may appear to be arthritis. The dog may drag one or both rear paws when it walks. This dragging can cause the nails of one foot to be worn down.

What causes wobbly legs in dogs?

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a condition of the spine that causes a gradual paralysis of the back end. Symptoms include weak, wobbly back legs, incontinence and paralysis. DM usually starts at around 8-9 years old and gets gradually worse over several months. DM is not painful but reduces quality of life.

What causes a dogs back legs to suddenly give out?

Possible causes are: Degenerative Myelopathy, meningomyelitis, diskospondylitis, hemivertebra, neoplasms (tumors), cysts, fibrocartilaginous embolism (secondary to fractures), aortic tromboembolism, hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing Syndrome,… as you can see the causes are diverse and some of them quite serious.

Why is my dog having trouble standing and walking?

Numerous neurological conditions can result in your dog having trouble walking. These include degenerative disc disease, degenerative myelopathy, myasthenia gravis and myositis. Your veterinarian will be able to examine your dog in order to determine what is causing him to have trouble walking.

dog walking sideways
dog walking sideways

9 Reasons Why Dogs Walk Sideways

1.  A Force of Habit

In some cases, crab-walking is a learned habit. You’re more likely to see younger dogs exhibit this behavior after watching others do it.

For example, young pups might pick up from senior dogs or breeds that are more likely to walk that way from time to time.

Which breeds fall into that category?

Known sidewinders include Border Collies, Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, Boxers, Pointers, and Vizslas.

These dogs have somewhat shorter bodies than others. As a result, their front and bag legs interfere as they walk.

To avoid the coordination issues that come with that, these dogs will occasionally crab-walk short distances.

Young pups sometimes see that and develop a habit.

Fortunately, most grow out of it as they approach adulthood. If they don’t, you can turn to a behavioralist and trainer for assistance.

2.  Poor Coordination in the Face of Puberty

Young pups are prone to tripping. They’re little bundles of awkwardness that have a hard time staying coordinated as they walk.

Like the breeds we discussed earlier, the front and rear legs get intertwined and make walking difficult. Short bounds of sidewinding are pretty standard with growing puppies.

Even if your dog is a year or two old, they could encounter issues every once in a while.

In this case, the behavior is usually temporary.

Pups overcome the coordination issues as they reach adulthood.

3.  Dominant Leg Takeover

Did you know that dogs, like humans, can have a dominant leg?

That’s not always the case. Generally, leg dominance is more evident in puppies. Amidst their awkward stumbling, you might notice a slight preference for one leg.

Most pups outgrow that domination as their bodies continue to develop. However, others will maintain it into adulthood.

When dogs have one or two stronger legs, it can pose a few harmless problems when running.

The dominant legs push off with greater force, which naturally pushes the body into a sideways orientation. Thus, the C-shaped crab-walking commences!

This type of sidewinding is typical and usually subdues with age. If not, it’s pretty easy to address with training and physical exercise.

4   Balance Issues from an Ear Infection

Ear infections are surprisingly common among dogs. Breeds with long, floppy ears are more susceptible to them. However, any dog can suffer from a bacterial or fungal infection.

The most common cause is water getting trapped in the ear canal after a bath or splash in the lake. Water can’t evaporate naturally once it gets into the ear, leading to stagnation and the eventual development of fungus.

Other issues, such as mites and polyps, can lead to infection, too.

Why do ear issues result in sidewinding? It all comes down to balance! The inner ear is responsible for giving us our sense of balance. Dogs are no different.

Deep within the ear, there are canals with fluid and extremely sensitive hairlike sensors.

Infections prevent the fluid and sensor hairs from operating efficiently, leading to all kinds of balance issues.

Sidewinding is your dog’s attempt to walk normally.

Infections are pretty easy to treat, but you need to spot them before they become a massive issue. Antibiotics should take care of the problem swiftly.

Moving forward, make sure to use an ear rinse after your dog takes a bath or has some water-focused fun. That way, you can promote evaporation and prevent infections.

5.  Leg Pain

Unexpected leg pain can result in strange walking patterns.

Obvious leg issues are easy to spot. But in many cases, dogs will hide their pain from you. It’s a callback to their instincts when injuries often result in death for dogs.

Your dog doesn’t want to seem weak or useless, so they do their best to mask their pain.

Your dog could be suffering in silence from sprained muscles, torn ligaments, and other leg problems. When they walk sideways, they attempt to move around without applying too much pressure to the affected leg.

Seek veterinary care as soon as you can. Leg injuries can quickly snowball.

The added pressure on other legs might expose your pup to even more damages, so addressing the core problem is paramount.

dog walking sideways
dog walking sideways

6.  Hip Dysplasia

Older dogs suffer from all kinds of musculoskeletal problems. Issues like arthritis are far too common. Bigger breeds can also experience hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is a condition that results in malformed joints.

More specifically, it targets the ball joint in the hip. Instead of smooth and fluid motion, the ball and socket portions of the joint grind against one another.

With time, it leads to immense pain and the eventual loss of function.

Like standard leg pain, dogs with hip dysplasia use sidewinding to get around while mitigating discomfort as much as possible.

The good news with hip dysplasia is that there are many ways to tackle the problem.

Depending on the severity of the issue, vets might recommend physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, or joint care supplements.

Either way, this is another condition you don’t want to ignore.

7. An Uncomfortable Harness

Irritation from harnesses and collars is more common than people realize! While these accessories are a staple for dog ownership, cheaper models can cause some severe discomfort for Fido.

Cheap harnesses are the worst offenders. Harnesses have an inherently uncomfortable design.

Straps wrap around the underside of the belly and often make contact with your pup’s armpit. If the unit has inferior materials, the constant friction can lead to rash development.

The sensation is what forces dogs to walk sideways. Your pup is simply trying to find relief in an unwinnable scenario!

Do your best to avoid irritating harnesses, collars, and clothing. If you don your pup in anything that wraps around the body, inspect it closely.

Look for smooth-gliding materials that can move over the fur effortlessly.

8.  Intense Tail-Wagging

There’s nothing cuter than watching an excited dog’s tail go a mile a minute! If they happen to walk forward while wagging their tail, don’t be surprised if crab-walking occurs.

These cases of excitement are innocent enough and are no cause for concern.

Your dog’s excitement is causing them to wag their behinds a little too much, which throws off their balance. No worries here!

9.  A Sleeping Foot

Have you ever gotten up after sitting still for too long?

If you sat in a way that squashed the nerves in your feet, you might have to deal with a sleeping foot or that uncomfortable feeling of pins and needles.

Dogs experience that strange sensation, too. The nerves are coming back to life. The nerves start sending off extra signals thanks to the weird way your dog sat or laid down.

It’s like a traffic jam in the nervous system, resulting in all kinds of strange feelings.

You’re probably all too familiar with the feeling. It’s like you have to take a minute for your foot to come back to life! Dogs aren’t sure what’s going on, so they power through.

However, the pins and needles make them prevent them from adopting a normal gait.

The sensation wears off in a few minutes, so this cause is only temporary.

Thank you for staying with this post “dog walking sideways” until the end.



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