Dog head tilt normally looks like your dog wants to express herself or she wants to get your attention, however when your dog tilts her head too often, loses her balance and has strange eye movements, you need to bring your dog to your veterinarian immediately for a checkup to see if your dog has underlying health problems that could affect her central nervous system.
This news brief gives you signs to watch for when your dog tilts her head so you know when to take action before your dog’s health is at risk from Ataxia which results in loss of coordination of your dog’s limbs, trunk and head.
Dog Head Tilt: 7 Signs of Ataxia
- Tilting head – Your dog may start to have abnormal behavior and tilt her head to one side. She might have a loss of balance or have vertigo and feel dizzy. Unusual head movements could indicate nerve damage and discomfort in your dog’s head and neck area.
- Hearing loss – Your dog may not react to your vocal commands as quickly as usual and you might realize you have to raise your voice higher to get her attention.
- Weak limbs – Your dog may start to favor one leg more than another or have noticeable weakness in one or more limbs. Even without signs of dog head tilt, your dog might have difficulty on stairs, walking or jumping because her limbs are not strong enough to hold her weight. In the worst cases, your dog won’t be able to hold her legs up at all.
- Stumbling – Although puppies fall over easily, your healthy adult dog should stand up straight on all four legs and have excellent balance. Bring your dog to your vet if your dog continuously falls over, sways or stumbles.
- Drowsiness – If your dog is excessively tired or seems unfocused, she may have health issues related to her head, nerves and brain area with no instances of dog head tilt. An active dog may get tired, however it’s not normal for your dog to have a low energy level and act like she’s in a stupor.
- Appetite loss – Your dog may suffer from motion sickness if she has vertigo or balance problems which can result in nausea and a lack of appetite.
- Behavior change – Take your dog to your local veterinarian if your dog’s energy level changes or she shows abnormal behavior.
Cricket Ditty – Challenges and Solutions for Dogs with Ataxia
Margaret Ditty discovered her dog Cricket had Ataxia when her 7 year old Chihuahua started losing her balance, falling over and exhibiting moments of exaggerated dog head tilt. Cricket has Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis (GME) as a result of a vaccination at age 7. You can learn more about GME from Margaret’s stories on her site, Pet Parents Fighting GME.
These 2 videos show Cricket struggling to stand up on a wood floor and Cricket walking down the hall with her custom designed wheelchair.
3 Types of Ataxia
- Sensory – Your dog’s spinal cord becomes compressed gradually. Symptoms to watch for are when your dog misplaces her feet and her limbs become weak. This condition can start with cerebral lesions in your dog’s brain near her neck.
- Vestibulocochlear – Damage to this nerve in your dog’s inner ear can cause hearing problems, dog head tilt and change your dog’s head and neck position. Your dog may tend to lean over, tip over and even roll over.
- Cerebellar – Your dog may have uncoordinated movement, head tremors and swaying of her body.
Causes of Ataxia
- Spinal cord – Your dog’s ataxia may be caused by things like degeneration of nerves, loss of blood from a blood clot, malformation, cancer, as spinal cyst, infections or a trauma to her spinal cord.
- Metabolic – Your dog may be anemic or have low blood sugar and low potassium levels.
- Neurologic – Your dog may contract an inflammatory anti-immune disease to her central nervous system.
- Vestibular – Your dog may get a fungal infection in her middle ear which can affect her peripheral nervous system and lead to dog head tilt.
Diagnosis of Ataxia Symptoms
- Health history – Whenever your dog shows abnormal behavior, it’s critical to keep a journal so you can give your veterinarian a clear, step by step description of your dog’s illness with actual dates when symptoms were noticed.
- Tests – Your veterinarian may order tests including blood counts, urinalysis, MRI and X-rays to determine if your dog has cancer. Your dog may need an ultrasound to check her pancreas, liver and kidney function.
- Expenses –
- If you have dog health insurance, some of your expenses may be covered, however you can expect initial bills to add up to over $3,000 if your dog has Ataxia.
Treatment for Your Dog with Ataxia and Dog Head Tilt
- Drugs – Consult with your veterinarian about drugs to treat your dog with Ataxia if your dog experiences pain from inflammation. Ask your vet about alternative medicines and all potential side effects.
- Exercise – Your dog’s motor skills may be limited and you might need to make changes in your home to help your dog from sliding on slippery floors.
- Products – Look into products that might help your dog grip the floor better or dog wheelchairs that allow your dog more mobility.
This news brief gives you information about symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of Ataxia so you can take better care of your dog. Much thanks to Margaret Ditty and Cricket for the work they are doing to help dog parents. Awareness of signs of diseases can make a huge difference because you’ll know when to bring your dog to your local vet or emergency animal hospital if needed.
Share this article with your friends and family so they can watch for signs of abnormal or excessive dog head tilt in their dog. You can always depend on the best dog health strategies from Dog Health News.