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Dr. Jo
Dr. Jo, Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 95
Experience:  Small animal private practice general surgery and medicine.
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Why does my dog seem like he has had loss of balance and shaking?

Customer Question

Hello,

My dog just suddenly started shaking and loss of control, and balance (almost like the ground is falling out from underneath him) while trying to walk across the room. He is a Chihuahua Shiatsu mix and is usually very active, almost hyper. Just as quickly as this episode came it was gone in about 5 mins. We have noticed he developed this "leg hop" when he runs, about 3 months ago...any ideas as to what it might be?

Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 6 years ago.

Hi,

Could I please have some more information so that I can better help you?

1) Did your dog lose consciousness?

2) Did he urinate/defecate as during a seizure?

3) Does he have a head tilt of any sort?

4) The leg hop is probably related to luxating patella. The knee cap comes out of place and is displaced, causing a little pain. It is very common in small dogs. Has your vet ever mentioned this to you?

Thanks!

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hello,
No he did not loose consciousness, nor did he defecate or urinate. He never seemed bothered at all. Its almost as though he stepped on something. He does not have any sort of head tilt. When this occurred it was more of a high step type thing but none of his legs were in sync, he was almost falling over. I held him and he shook badly as I talked to him with his head off to one side. His breathing slowly calmed and he came out of it and seemed like nothing had happened at all.

Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 6 years ago.

Hi,

Thanks for answering my questions. Let's talk about the easiest issue first:

The knee cap issue usually becomes worse over time. At your next vet visit, ask you vet to perform a simple orthopedic exam on both knees that will test the laxity (looseness) of the knee cap ligaments. Then, he/she can keep an eye on the issue at each yearly check up. Holding the leg up is a doggie's way of showing discomfort...but it only lasts until the cap snaps back in place. With the most recent issue, it sounds like it was not a seizure or a vestibular problem (balance problem due to an inner ear infection). It sounds like an orthopedic (bone/joint) issue again. Without an exam I cannot localize the problem to the hip or lower back legs. Sub-luxating hips (like when a person knocks their shoulder out of joint), the luxating knees on both sides, something affecting his nerves must have startled him.

The other possibility is a partial seizure vs. a full blown seizure. I would monitor him closely and if it happens again tonight take him to an emergency vet. At the very least, a good exam by your regular vet at your next convenience would be a good idea so he can rule out any joint issues or other problems.

Hope this helps!

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

The hop is occasional. Doesn't seem to bother him. The "seizure" was scary. It looks neurological. He was shaking and heavy breathing trying to catch his balance. All legs out of sync and he couldn't walk at all. Tilting to one side and high stepping like he was walking on uneven ground, in very slow motion. Are you sure it is joints or spine? There was no whining, yelping or any indication of pain at all. Then all of a sudden he was fine.

Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 6 years ago.

Hi,

I'm sorry, I was under the impression it was only the hind legs that were off balance and shaking. The high stepping, can't walk, slow motion, tilting to one side....indicate a possible lesion to the cerebellum area of the brain stem or vestibular system (mentioned in previous answer) or an actual true seizure. If it was a true "seizure", the animal will not respond to it's name, may lay on its side "paddling" its legs, and will usually lose control of it's bowels/bladder. The eyes may look glazed over. I would definitely take your dog in for an exam and if it occurs again tonight take it into the emergency vet. A seizure lasting more than 5 minutes can be dangerous. The vet will do bloodwork to rule out the cause of the seizure/neuro issue as intracranial vs. extracranial (low calcium, low blood sugar, kidney disease, epilepsy, etc.). If the episode happens again, may diagnose your dog with epilepsy. Other causes for seizures include brain tumors and brain trauma. Medications can be given to prevent seizures and your vet may send home a medication to stop seizures if they happen again. If your dog has another episode, have a camera handy and try to capture some of it on film. This will help your vet in differentiating various types of neurological issues vs. seizures.

Thanks again and hope this helps!