What to do when pet cant stand

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Why is my cat or dog staggering?

If your cat or dog can’t stand up or keeps falling over, they may be suffering from any number of severe health issues, some of which we’ll explore in this post. This means your pet will need immediate emergency care and you should take them to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible. 


Ataxia is a condition associated with sensory dysfunction in the nervous system, and can lead to loss of coordination in the head, limbs, or back end. Cats and dogs can experience three different types of ataxia: cerebellar, vestibular, and sensory. A wide range of diseases can cause this condition. 

Cerebellar ataxia is caused by damage to the cerrebellum, while sensory ataxia is a result of the spinal cord being compressed due to a bulging intervertebral disc or tumor. An issue with the inner ear or brain stem causes vestibular ataxia. 

Along with the stumbling, staggering, and falling over we see with other health conditions, common symptoms of ataxia in cats and dogs include abnormal walking (taking large steps), weakness, swaying, and tremors in the head and body. You might also notice changes in heavior, lethargy, head tiling, lack of appetite, and difficulty hearing. 

Cats with sudden onset ataxia often fall or roll to one side and experience significant nausea due to feeling unsteady. In contrast, cats with chronic ataxia will typically adjust over time and are less likely to suffer from nausea. 

Ear Infection 

Both dogs and cats can lose their balance due to middle or inner ear infections. If your pet has an ear infection, you may also notice flicking eyes, head shaking, walking in circles, and scratching near the ear, in addition to swelling, redness, odor, and discharge in or around the infected ear. 


Head trauma, damage to the inner ear, and other injuries can cause pets to lose their balance. You may find it difficult to tell if your pet is injured since both cats and dogs are capable of masking pain well. Slowed reflexes, licking or biting a wounded area, heavy panting, reluctance to lie down or put pressure on a specific area, or change in appetite can all point to pain. 

Brain Inflammation 

Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) can cause an animal to fall over or stagger. This condition can be caused by tick-borne diseases, fungal infections, and parasites. Head tilt to either side, seizures, fever, decreased consciousness, depression, and facial paralysis are other common symptoms of encephalitis.

Brain Tumor

Older pets may be especially vulnerable to brain tumors, which can lead to staggering, stumbling or general loss of balance. Other symptoms of a brain tumor will vary depending on the tumor’s location and include changes in appetite or behavior, signs of pain, seizures, swaying, a wide stance, head tilting or tremors, pacing, flicking of the eye and lack of coordination. 


While strokes in dogs are fairly uncommon, they can occur. In cats, strokes are most commonly diagnosed in kitties that are around nine years old. They seem to occur less frequently in pets than in people and can be the result of high blood pressure, hemorrhage, blood clots, rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, migrating worms, head trauma or other serious distorders.

If your dog is staggering like he is drunk, he may have had a stroke. Stroke symptoms in both dogs and cats can also include circling, unsteadiness while walking, unequal pupil sizes, abnormal eye movements, loss of vision or balance, falling down, head pressing (potentially as a result of a headache), altered mental state, muscle spasms or head tilt.

Common Remedies for Loss of Balance in Pets

If your cat or dog can’t walk or stand, and is staggering or falling over, take them to the vet as soon as possible. One of our veterinarians will be able to diagnose the issue and recommend a treatment option depending on the problem. 

Treatment options vary widely depending on diagnosis, and can range from medications to surgery, combinations of different types of therapies, physical rehabilitation and more.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Any dog or cat that is staggering, stumbling or falling over requires immediate veterinary attention, since they may be suffering from pain and other symptoms, and their life may be in danger. Time may be a critical factor in their survival and prognosis. 

If you are experiencing an emergency with your pet during regular hours, contact us for more information. Other local hospitals provide emergency care after hours. If your pet sees our Los Angeles vets, we can diagnose the issue and provide compassionate care and treatment. We may also recommend follow-up care or make referrals to experienced specialists. 

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