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My Dog Walks in Circles and Is Disoriented: What to Do

Walking in circles is not common for dogs. It can indicate a health problem that requires medical attention. Walking in circles and disorientation can be the result of pain, ear infection, or head injuries.

Dogs communicate with their owners via their behaviors and body language. It is troubling for dog owners to understand what their pooch is trying to say when it displays unusual behaviors.

If your dog is walking in circles and is disoriented, there can be an underlying medical condition that requires your attention. There can be neurological, psychological, or even physical issues with your dog.

It is important to note that dogs usually circle before they sit down. This is a common behavior among dogs and is nothing to worry about. Your dog can be suffering from an issue if the spinning is consistent and compulsive.

This article talks about the causes of circling in dogs and what causes them to become disoriented.

Dog Walks in Circles and is Disoriented

Dogs occasionally walk in circles to remove something from their behinds or chase their tails. Frequent circling and disorientation indicate a sickness or health problem. Pain, injuries, or cognitive dysfunction are probable causes of disorientation and excessive circling.

Every dog owner has seen their dog walking in circles at some point in their lives. Dogs circle themselves when they are chasing their tails or when they want to reach something on their rear end. 

Occasional circling is not something to worry about.

If the occurs frequently circling, coupled with disorientation, it can be a sign of an underlying issue. There are several causes of disorientation in dogs. The most common are head injuries. 

Dog Walks in Circles and is Disoriented

Check your dog for any signs of injuries and provide proper treatment if that is the case.

Some other symptoms which indicate a medical issue instead of natural behavior include:

  • Falling or tripping over
  • Blindness
  • Panting
  • Confusion
  • Head tilting
  • Vomiting

Your pooch is suffering from a medical condition if it displays any of these signs along with circling.

6 Reasons Why Your Dog Walks in Circles and is Disoriented

There are several reasons why dogs walk in circles and become disoriented. Head injuries, ear infections, pain, and vestibular syndrome are the most common causes of disorientation in dogs. It is crucial to identify the cause behind the problem so proper care and treatment can be provided.

Disorientation is not common among dogs and indicates a serious issue. Dogs usually walk in circles before they lay down or poop. Circling on the ground, sofa, or bed helps make dogs more comfortable lying down.

Obsessive and frequent circling and disorientation can occur for various reasons.

1. Ear Infections

Dog Ear Infections

Ear infections are one of the most common causes of uncontrollable circling in dogs. These infections can cause severe discomfort to your dog, making it shake its head and lose its balance.

There are many other symptoms of ear infections:

  • Swelling and Redness.
  • Discharge from the ears.
  • Scratching their ears frequently.
  • Shaking their head.

These infections can affect your dog’s inner, outer, or middle ear. Allergies, bacteria, mites, or hypothyroidism[1] can cause ear infections which are painful and frustrating for dogs.

Consult a veterinarian as soon as possible if your dog has contracted an ear infection. These infections can spread to other parts of the ear and can cause severe complications if left untreated.

2. Pain and Injuries

Dog Pain and Injuries
Image Source

Pain from injuries can make your dog run in circles and exhibit unusual behaviors. Eardrum damage and head trauma can leave your dog disoriented, causing circling.

Dogs are good at hiding their pain, making it difficult to know if they have an injury. Identify the signs of a physical issue if your dog is circling and acting strangely:

  • Heavy breathing.
  • Tucking its tail.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Whimpering when touched or lifted.

If your dog shows any signs of an injury, take it straight to a veterinarian to provide proper treatment.

3. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Dementia on dog

Cognitive dysfunctions hinder dogs’ ability to maintain normal bodily functions. Your dog can be feeling disoriented due to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome[2] also known as Dog Dementia.

The effects of this condition include the following:

  • Decreased alertness.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Confusion.
  • Disorientation.

This condition is yet to be understood fully. A lot more research is required to understand the causes and implications of this condition, but a healthy diet with all the required nutrients can help avoid it.

4. Vestibular Syndrome

Dog Vestibular Syndrome

The vestibular system comprises the middle and inner ear. This system is responsible for maintaining the normal balance of the body. Any dysfunction in the vestibular system can cause your dog to roam in circles and lose its balance.

Vestibular Syndrome[3] can be caused by several issues:

  • Brain injuries.
  • Nutritional deficiencies.
  • Ear injuries.
  • Neoplasia.[4]
  • Inner ear inflammation.

Observe your dog’s behavior and notice signs of vomiting, drooling, head tilting, or tripping down. Proper veterinary care is required in the case of vestibular disorders to prevent further complications.

5. Stroke

Dog Heatstroke

It is possible that your dog is walking in circles due to a stroke. Underlying diseases and medical conditions can lead to strokes in dogs, but the exact causes behind them are not clear. Rapid eye movements, limping, and seizures are also signs of a stroke.

Strokes can be life-threatening if left uncared for. Take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible to provide the required care and treatment.

6. Brain Inflammation

Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis[5] is a type of brain disease which causes inflammation in the brain. This disease causes several issues in dogs with circling being one of the most common. It is an autoimmune disease, commonly known as meningitis.

Other symptoms of brain inflammation in dogs include the following:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Seizures
  • Confusion

This disease is rare among dogs and requires prompt medical care. A veterinarian can check your dog for signs of Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis and provide the necessary treatment.

Is It Normal for Dogs to Walk in Circles?

It is normal for dogs to occasionally walk in circles. Dogs exhibit these behaviors when they are getting ready to lie down to make their sleeping place more comfortable. Excessive circling or disorientation is not normal and should be addressed.

Dogs exhibit strange behaviors sometimes. Walking in circles is one such behavior. 

Dogs usually circle around to make their sleeping place more comfortable. This is also the reason why dogs scratch the ground before laying down. Chasing their tails or trying to remove something from their backs are other reasons for walking in circles. 

If your dog is circling rapidly and obsessively, there is an underlying problem that needs to be rectified. Disorientation is not normal for dogs and indicates an injury to the head or the vestibular system.

Is It Normal for Dogs to Walk in Circles
Image Source

How to Stop Dogs from Walking in Circles

Examine your dog for any signs of physical injuries or ear infections that indicate a medical issue to stop it from walking in circles. Contact a veterinarian to provide adequate treatment to avoid further complications.

Watching your dog walk around in circles can be frustrating. 

There are several steps you can take to stop your dog from displaying this behavior. 

  • Observe your dog’s behavior to determine whether the circling is caused by a medical issue.
  • Check for any signs of injuries on your dog’s head.
  • Ensure nothing is stuck on their rear end.
  • Check your dog’s ear for infections and mites.
  • Identify whether your dog is in pain.
  • Test your dog’s ability to focus.

If you are unable to identify the stressor for your dog’s behavior, book an appointment with a veterinarian to get your pooch checked up for any medical issues.


Walking in circles occasionally is not something to worry about. It is a cause for concern when the circling is frequent, coupled with disorientation.

Observe and identify the probable cause for your canine’s unusual behavior. Occasional circling or disorientation is not a cause for concern. If the condition persists for a couple of days, taking your dog to a vet is the right course of action.


Why is My Dog Walking in Circles and Standing in Corners?

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome can be a probable cause if your dog walks in circles and stands in corners. This condition is more likely to affect older dogs and can cause disorientation and forgetfulness.

What Causes Dogs to Become Disoriented?

Dogs become disoriented when their vestibular system does not function effectively. If your dog has experienced head trauma or ruptured its eardrums, it can cause disorientation and loss of balance in dogs. Consult a veterinarian to provide proper care and treatment to your pooch. 

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.

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