Walking in circles is a pretty known behavior among dogs, but have you ever wondered why they do this? Almost all pups and animals chase their tails every once in a while. Some even do this as a routine, like before sleeping or finding a good spot to defecate.
These are normal behaviors for most dogs. However, if your pup never behaved like this, it might be a sign of something bad. You can observe them for a while and check their bodies for possible infections and diseases. Still, you should immediately consult a vet to know what is happening to them.
Many people have different theories on this. Some say that it is a hereditary behavior of dogs, way before they were domesticated. To give light to this way of acting, let’s understand what the possible causes are why a dog is walking in circles.
Identifying The Possible Causes
In some cases, walking in circles can be a symptom of something wrong with your dog. That is why it is vital to get them a complete checkup to see if you should worry about their health. The possible complications are the following:
1. Stress and Anxiety
One common reason why dogs start walking in circles is due to anxiety and stress. Some breeds are natural hunters in instinct and would need constant mental and physical stimulation. They can get bored if they spend most of their time indoors and do not get enough exercise.
Some dogs can also develop anxiety which can include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. If your pet is a rescue animal, you may notice that your dog is circling before settling in. You can mention that to your veterinarian and ask for help to manage stress and anxiety.
They may recommend joining them in behavior modification, training exercises, and medication to help manage their anxious behavior.
2. Infections and Parasites
Another common cause of dogs walking in circles is the possibility of an ear infection. You can confirm this if they are scratching their ears and an unpleasant odor and discharge is coming from them.
Parasites can also trigger these behaviors because they can be itchy and uncomfortable. Ask a vet to know if they have an anal gland issue, parasite, or infection causing them discomfort.
3. Head Injury
Signs include dilated pupils, visible pains when patting the head, and decreased appetite. It is crucial to get this treated immediately to avoid worse scenarios!
4. Canine Vestibular Disease
The symptoms include losing balance, constant falling, and abnormal flickering of the eyes. It also has dogs walking around in circles more often. However, only a trained vet can diagnose the condition of your dog. They will run some exams and blood tests to rule out other possible causes such as cancer.
This happens to senior dogs and can coexist with other diseases that make up the vestibular syndrome. The other conditions that can trigger this issue include the following:
- Ear damage
- Upper respiratory tract infection
- Abnormal tissue growth
- Nutritional deficiency
You may see them losing balance more often. They may also do excessive drooling, vomiting, and walking with their heads down. It is easy to misinterpret vestibular syndrome for a stroke, so it would be best to take them to a vet as much as possible.
5. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Also known as canine dementia, Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is a syndrome that happens alongside the aging of a dog’s brain. It changes the canine’s awareness, ability to learn, and response to stimuli.
The initial symptoms are often mild, but they can get worse over time. This is called cognitive decline.
6. Neurological Disease
Some diseases may affect a dog’s neurological system, causing them to walk in circles more often. Some of these include:
Distemper is a condition caused by the paramyxovirus. This is disease is contagious and can cause the following:
- Nasal discharge
- Head tilt
- Excessive thirst
Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are more at risk of this infection. It also targets the dog’s nervous system. This condition is fatal. Even if a dog survives this disease, it can leave with permanent nervous system damage.
Neosporosis is a condition caused by the protozoan parasite Neospora caninum. It also affects cattle and horses, but dogs are the definitive hosts. The disease can be deadly if not addressed immediately. It can also spread due to raw meat consumption and other animals’ feces.
Severe infections may cause partial paralysis of the hind legs. It can also cause rigid contracture of muscles and other neurological problems. There is no vaccine yet for the infection, but vets can prescribe proper antibiotic treatments.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an autoimmune infection that targets large breeds. The most susceptible to the disease are the following:
- German shepherd
- Border collie
- Shetland sheepdog
- Afghan hound
- Irish setter
SLE affects a dog by making its immune system attack the body tissues. The symptoms of the disease are:
- Decreased appetite
- Muscle pain
- Skin problems
What To Do When A Dog Shows This Behavior?
If you think that your dog may have an underlying problem that causes them to circle, these are the things that you should do.
- First, try to distract them and encourage them to move in the opposite direction that they were initially spinning into. When a dog has a neurological issue, it would not be able to change direction instantly.
- The second thing that you should do is to check their eyes. Brain issues do not allow them to focus quickly on something. If you see that they are unable to focus their eyes and would randomly dilate, they are a possibility of a brain injury.
- If there is a complication from the tests you performed, consult a trusted veterinarian and ask for what you can do to manage their condition and give prescribed medications. However, if the cause is merely a behavioral issue, your vet can also help you get in touch with a behavioral specialist through an evaluation warranted by them.
After understanding why your dog is walking in circles, it is now time to work with your vet. They will help you with the appropriate treatment plan to manage their condition.
- Stress, Anxiety, and OCD
It is necessary to address their behavior to stop it, especially stress, anxiety, and OCD. These may need constant support to help your dog overcome the need to walk in circles.
If your vet gives you medications, give them some time to take effect as the changes are not always instant. Also, be sure to keep in contact with your vet and report your pet’s progress to adjust the dosage they need.
For dogs with dementia, you might need to change the environment to keep them safe. This ensures that they would not injure themselves when walking in circles. It would be best to consider putting up mats on sharp corners and walls. They would also need constant supervision and should not leave alone for most of the day.
If they have an injury, be sure to get it treated right away to end the unwanted behavior. Your vet might prescribe antibiotics and pain relievers if they are feeling uncomfortable.
If they have an infection in their hind areas, they may bite their tails often. Their anal glands can be infected at times, and you should treat this with the proper medications.
Keep your dogs from scooting on the floor or carpet, as this can worsen the injury and even make it bleed. Follow-up checkups are necessary to see if the initial treatment is working. It also shows if there is a positive progression in their cases.
As a dog parent, it is necessary to know your pet well. You should notice if they are exhibiting unusual behaviors like walking in circles. You might not know that it can sabotage their quality of life, so be sure to keep up with their vet visits as this lessens the risk of diseases left unaddressed.
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