Introduction

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways: If you’ve noticed that your dog is walking sideways, you may be wondering why they’re exhibiting this unusual behavior. Walking sideways, also known as crabbing or sidewinding, is not a typical gait for dogs and can be a cause for concern. Understanding the potential reasons behind this behavior is crucial for ensuring your dog’s well-being.

Several factors could contribute to a dog walking sideways. It could be related to a physical issue, such as musculoskeletal problems, injury, or pain in the limbs or spine. Neurological conditions, including nerve damage or disorders, may also affect a dog’s coordination and cause them to walk sideways. Additionally, inner ear infections or vestibular system issues can result in balance disturbances, leading to a sidewinding gait.

It’s important to closely observe your dog’s overall behavior, body posture, and any accompanying symptoms to help determine the underlying cause. If your dog’s sideways walking persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other concerning signs, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian for a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis. A professional evaluation can help identify any underlying health issues and guide you towards the appropriate treatment or management plan to support your dog’s mobility and well-being.

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways

Is it normal for a dog to walk sideways?

It is Just the Way They Move

Many learn as pups (probably from an older dog) and never grow out of it. Some breeds may even be more prone to sideways walking, especially if they have a shorter body length than other dogs.

No, it is not normal for a dog to walk sideways. A sideways walking pattern, also known as crabbing or sidewinding, is typically a deviation from the typical gait and may indicate an underlying issue. While certain dog breeds may have a slightly wider or more rolling gait, consistently walking sideways is not considered normal or healthy.

Walking sideways can be a symptom of various medical conditions or physical abnormalities. Musculoskeletal issues, neurological disorders, inner ear infections, vestibular system problems, or other health issues may contribute to a dog walking sideways. It is important to pay attention to your dog’s gait and observe for any changes in their movement patterns.

If you notice that your dog is consistently walking sideways, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian for a thorough examination. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, potentially conduct diagnostic tests, and determine the underlying cause of the sideways gait. Early detection and appropriate treatment can help address the underlying issue and improve your dog’s mobility and quality of life.

What does it mean when a dog walks sideways?

Some reasons dogs may alter their gait and start walking sideways: Hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip ball and socket joint. Vestibular Disease, a sudden, non-progressive disturbance of balance that commonly impacts older dogs (more info here) Injury or pain.

When a dog walks sideways, it can indicate an underlying issue that needs attention and evaluation. While it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis, there are several potential reasons behind a dog walking sideways:

Musculoskeletal problems: Dogs with hip dysplasia, arthritis, or other musculoskeletal conditions may exhibit a sideways gait as they compensate for pain or discomfort in their limbs or joints.

Neurological disorders: Conditions that affect the nervous system, such as degenerative myelopathy, intervertebral disc disease, or brain tumors, can impact a dog’s coordination and cause them to walk sideways.

Inner ear infections: Infections or inflammation in the inner ear can affect a dog’s balance and spatial awareness, resulting in a sideways or wobbly gait.

Vestibular system issues: Disorders or abnormalities in the vestibular system, which helps with balance, can lead to a tilted head, loss of balance, and a sideways walking pattern.

Pain or injury: Dogs may walk sideways if they are experiencing pain or have sustained an injury to their limbs, spine, or joints.

It is crucial to seek veterinary attention if your dog is walking sideways to determine the underlying cause. A veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination, potentially order diagnostic tests, and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Early detection and intervention can help address the underlying issue, alleviate any discomfort, and improve your dog’s mobility and overall well-being.

How do I stop my dog from walking sideways?

Their Collar Or Harness Is Irritating Them

If you notice that your dog is only walking sideways when they have their collar or harness on, you should inspect it and make sure it isn’t causing irritation. If it is, replace it with new gear that is easier on their skin.

To address your dog’s sideways walking, it is important to identify and address the underlying cause. Here are some steps you can take to help alleviate the issue:

Veterinary evaluation: Consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s sideways walking. They will conduct a thorough examination, potentially order diagnostic tests, and provide an accurate diagnosis. Following their guidance is crucial.

Treatment plan: Once the cause is identified, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment plan tailored to your dog’s specific condition. This may include medications, physical therapy, surgery (if necessary), or other interventions to address the underlying issue.

Pain management: If your dog’s sideways walking is due to pain, your veterinarian may prescribe pain management strategies to alleviate discomfort. Medications, joint supplements, or alternative therapies may be recommended.

Assistive devices: In some cases, your veterinarian may suggest the use of assistive devices such as braces, slings, or mobility aids to support your dog’s gait and provide stability.

Rehabilitation and exercise: Depending on the underlying cause, your dog may benefit from rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy to strengthen muscles, improve coordination, and restore mobility.

Environmental modifications: Make adjustments to your home environment to ensure it is safe and accessible for your dog. Remove obstacles, provide nonslip surfaces, and create a comfortable space for resting and mobility.

Ongoing monitoring: Regularly monitor your dog’s progress and follow-up with your veterinarian as needed. Adjustments to the treatment plan may be required based on their response and any changes in their condition.

Why is my dog walking sideways and acting weird?

A few reasons your dog may be walking sideways are injury, hip dysplasia, and vestibular disease.

If your dog is walking sideways and acting weird, it could indicate an underlying issue that requires attention. The combination of these behaviors suggests a potential problem affecting their mobility, coordination, or overall well-being. Here are a few possible reasons:

Neurological disorder: Conditions like vestibular disease, degenerative myelopathy, or brain abnormalities can cause both sideways walking and unusual behaviors. These conditions may affect the dog’s balance, coordination, and cognitive function.

Injury or pain: If your dog has sustained an injury to their limbs, joints, or spine, it can lead to both a sideways gait and unusual behavior. Pain or discomfort can cause them to exhibit strange behaviors as they try to cope or protect the affected area.

Toxicity or poisoning: Ingesting toxic substances can have neurological effects, leading to abnormal behavior and coordination issues. Some plants, medications, or household chemicals can be toxic to dogs.

Systemic illness: Certain systemic conditions, such as metabolic disorders or organ dysfunction, can manifest as neurological symptoms and result in both sideways walking and unusual behavior.

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways

What could be the possible medical reasons for my dog walking sideways?

There are several potential medical reasons why a dog may walk sideways. It’s important to note that a proper diagnosis can only be provided by a veterinarian after a thorough examination. Here are some possible medical causes:

Musculoskeletal issues: Conditions such as hip dysplasia, arthritis, spinal problems, or injuries to the limbs can affect a dog’s gait and cause them to walk sideways. These conditions may result in pain, lameness, or difficulty in moving properly.

Neurological disorders: Disorders affecting the nervous system, such as degenerative myelopathy, intervertebral disc disease, or spinal cord tumors, can impact a dog’s coordination and cause them to walk sideways. These conditions often involve a loss of balance, weakness, or abnormal limb movements.

Inner ear infections: Infections or inflammation in the inner ear can disrupt a dog’s balance and lead to a sidewinding gait. Dogs may tilt their head or exhibit other symptoms like head shaking, ear discharge, or incoordination.

Vestibular system issues: The vestibular system plays a crucial role in maintaining balance. Disorders or abnormalities in this system, such as vestibular disease or trauma, can result in a tilted head, disorientation, and a sideways walking pattern.

Stroke or cerebrovascular accidents: In rare cases, a stroke or disruption of blood flow to the brain can cause sudden neurological deficits, including changes in gait and coordination.

Can musculoskeletal issues or injuries cause a dog to walk sideways? 

Yes, musculoskeletal issues or injuries can cause a dog to walk sideways. When there is a problem with the muscles, bones, or joints, it can affect their normal gait and coordination. Here are some musculoskeletal issues that may contribute to a sideways walking pattern in dogs:

Hip dysplasia: This condition occurs when the hip joint is improperly formed, leading to instability and abnormal movement. Dogs with hip dysplasia may walk with a swaying or sideways motion to compensate for the discomfort or instability in their hips.

Leg injuries: Injuries to the legs, such as sprains, strains, fractures, or ligament tears, can cause pain and affect a dog’s walking pattern. They may walk with a limp or favor one side, resulting in a sideways gait.

Spinal problems: Conditions like intervertebral disc disease or spinal cord compression can affect a dog’s ability to move properly. Dogs may exhibit weakness or loss of coordination, causing them to walk sideways or have an unsteady gait.

Arthritis: Arthritis is a common condition in older dogs, causing inflammation and stiffness in the joints. It can lead to discomfort and difficulty in moving, potentially resulting in a change in gait, including a sideways walk.

Are there neurological conditions that can affect a dog’s coordination and result in sideways walking? 

Yes, there are several neurological conditions that can affect a dog’s coordination and result in sideways walking. These conditions can impact the nervous system, leading to abnormal movement patterns. Here are a few examples:

Degenerative myelopathy: This progressive neurological disease affects the spinal cord, leading to a loss of coordination and muscle control. Dogs with degenerative myelopathy may develop a sidewinding gait as the condition progresses.

Intervertebral disc disease: When the discs between the vertebrae in the spine become damaged or herniated, they can compress the spinal cord. This compression can cause weakness, loss of coordination, and a sideways or wobbly walking pattern.

Brain tumors: Tumors in the brain can disrupt normal neurological function, affecting a dog’s coordination and balance. Depending on the tumor’s location, dogs may exhibit a sidewinding gait or other abnormal movements.

Vestibular disease: Vestibular disease affects the inner ear or the vestibular system, which helps with balance and spatial orientation. Dogs with vestibular disease may experience a tilted head, disorientation, and a sideways or circular walking pattern.

Canine cerebellar hypoplasia: This congenital condition results in an underdeveloped cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for motor control. Dogs with cerebellar hypoplasia often have an unsteady, wobbly gait that can appear sideways.

Could inner ear infections or vestibular system problems be contributing to my dog’s sideways gait? 

Yes, inner ear infections or vestibular system problems can contribute to a dog’s sideways gait. The inner ear plays a vital role in maintaining balance and spatial orientation. When the inner ear is affected by infections, inflammation, or other vestibular system problems, it can result in balance disturbances and abnormal movement patterns. Here’s how these conditions can contribute to a sideways gait:

Inner ear infections: Infections in the inner ear, such as otitis interna, can cause inflammation and disrupt the normal functioning of the vestibular system. This can lead to dizziness, disorientation, and a loss of balance, causing a dog to walk sideways or have a wobbly gait.

Vestibular disease: Vestibular disease, also known as “canine idiopathic vestibular syndrome” or “old dog vestibular syndrome,” affects the inner ear or the vestibular system. It can result in symptoms like a tilted head, rapid eye movements, unsteady balance, and a sideways or circling walking pattern.

Vestibular system abnormalities: Certain congenital or acquired abnormalities in the vestibular system can cause issues with balance and coordination. Dogs with vestibular system problems may display a sidewinding gait due to their difficulty in maintaining proper equilibrium.

Why Does My Dog Walk Sideways

Conclusion

A dog walking sideways can indicate various underlying issues that require attention and veterinary evaluation. Sideways walking is not a typical gait for dogs and can be a sign of medical conditions affecting their musculoskeletal system, neurological function, or vestibular system.

Musculoskeletal issues, such as hip dysplasia or leg injuries, can contribute to a sideways gait, as can neurological conditions like degenerative myelopathy or intervertebral disc disease. Inner ear infections or problems with the vestibular system can also result in a dog walking sideways.

If you notice your dog walking sideways, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for a comprehensive examination and proper diagnosis. They will perform a thorough evaluation, potentially including physical examination, imaging tests, and other diagnostic procedures, to determine the underlying cause. 

Treatment options will vary depending on the specific condition identified. Prompt veterinary care is crucial in order to address any pain or discomfort, manage the condition effectively, and support your dog’s mobility and overall well-being.