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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 24454
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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My dog is losing her balance 2 steps in the morning

Customer Question

My dog is losing her balance for about 2 steps in the morning and then at night right after she goes to the bathroom and climbs a set of stairs. It's as if she has a hip problem. It goes on for 2-3 steps then everything is fine. She has been shaking her head a lot. Is it an ear infection?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. An inner/middle ear infection (otitis interna/otitis media) can certainly cause a balance problem (ataxia/"drunken sailor") but it wouldn't remiss within a couple of steps. Similarly, the symptoms of a neurologic problem involving Olive's brain or spinal cord wouldn't disappear in such a short time. I would be more concerned about a musculoskeletal problem that she's "warming out of" such as hip dysplasia as you mentioned. Olive's vet can palpate (feel) Olive's hips to see if pain is present and, if so, may recommend having X-rays of her hips taken. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

So a hip problem would just come and go? For instance, I would expect a two step problem this morning after she shakes her head. She'll then be ok the rest of the day and then she may have the same problem just before or after she has to go to the bathroom late at night. She'll have a weird motion where she'll try to scratch herself but can't do it and then she's ok. Why does it occur at the same time? Why is she shaking her head? I can't get her to vet until next week.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
She can warm out of an arthritic pain quickly. Her attempting to scratch herself but not accomplishing it suggests difficulty in doing so; once again, I'd be concerned about her hips being painful. Why it happens at the same time is unclear. None of the possible problems we've discussed would occur at such repeatable times. I'll first check her ears when shaking of the head occurs. In most cases we'll find "reactive" ears - ears that are pruritic (itchy) due to an allergic dermatitis. Secondary yeast and bacterial infection is commonly found in association with an allergic dermatitis. She sounds to be much too well for an otitis interna/media to be present.
Please continue our conversation if you wish. I have to leave my computer for the night but I promise to reply in the morning if need be.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She had a urinary infection in late March where similar things happen but much more severe. The vet checked her hips then and everything was great with her hips. Could arthritis start in such short period? She is not even five.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
I don't see a relationship between loss of balance for 2 steps and a urinary tract infection. The type of arthritis we see in hips is degenerative and progressive. It can take an indeterminate amount of time to become painful. I can't rule out, however, that she might have a simple soft tissue injury - sprain or strain that's making it seem "as if she has a hip problem".
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I did not explain myself well...When she had the urinary tract infection she really didn't walk at all outside. It was much worse than two steps.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
What did her vet have to say about her walking at that time other than her hips were OK?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yup. 3 months ago her hips were super
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
I understand. What differential diagnoses did her vet consider when "it was much worse than two steps"?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
That was when she had the urinary tract infection. Also cleaned her anal glands
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
Thank you, ***** ***** a urinary tract infection nor anal gland impaction would cause a loss of balance. Let's see what her vet has to say next week.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
Hi Dave,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Olive. How is everything going?

Dr. Michael Salkin