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10 Reasons Why My Senior Dog Walked in Circles (Solved)

As a fellow dog owner, I know how heartwarming it can be to watch our furry friends age gracefully by our sides.

But as our beloved dogs enter their golden years, we may notice some changes in their behavior, like walking in circles.

Recently, my senior dog started doing this, and I wanted to understand why. So, I’ve done some research and compiled a listicle to share what I’ve learned with you.

Here are the top reasons why our senior dogs might walk in circles, and what these behaviors could mean.

old dog walking in circles

1. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans, and it is a common cause of behavioral changes in older dogs. As dogs age, their brain function may decline, leading to cognitive impairments that can manifest as confusion, disorientation, or changes in sleep patterns. Circling behavior could be a sign that your dog is experiencing cognitive decline.

What you can do: If you suspect CDS may be the cause, consult with your veterinarian. They may recommend medications, dietary changes, or supplements to help improve your dog’s cognitive function. Providing mental stimulation and maintaining a consistent daily routine can also help your senior dog cope with cognitive decline.

2. Vestibular Disease

The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining balance and spatial orientation. Vestibular disease can occur in senior dogs and may cause them to walk in circles due to dizziness or loss of balance. Other symptoms may include head tilting, nystagmus (involuntary eye movement), and difficulty standing or walking.

What you can do: If you notice these symptoms, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. They will perform a physical examination and may recommend blood tests or imaging studies to determine the cause of the vestibular disease. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and may include medications, supportive care, or physical therapy.

3. Canine Idiopathic Head Tremors

Although more common in younger dogs, Canine Idiopathic Head Tremors can also occur in senior dogs. This condition causes involuntary muscle contractions in the head and neck, making it difficult for your dog to maintain balance and control their movement. As a result, they may walk in circles or display other abnormal behaviors.

What you can do: If you suspect head tremors, record a video of the behavior and show it to your veterinarian. They will help determine whether it is idiopathic (unknown cause) or related to another underlying health issue. Treatment will depend on the cause and may include medications or management strategies to help your dog live comfortably with the condition.

4. Ear Infections

Ear infections can cause discomfort and affect your dog’s sense of balance, leading them to walk in circles. Senior dogs may be more prone to ear infections due to decreased immune function and increased risk of developing chronic health conditions.

What you can do: Check your dog’s ears for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, discharge, or foul odor. If you suspect an ear infection, contact your veterinarian for an evaluation and treatment. They may prescribe antibiotic or antifungal medications, as well as provide guidance on how to clean your dog’s ears properly to prevent future infections.

5. Arthritis and Joint Pain

As dogs age, their joints may become less flexible and more prone to inflammation, leading to arthritis and joint pain. This discomfort can cause your dog to change their gait and walking patterns, potentially resulting in circling behavior.

What you can do: Observe your dog for signs of joint pain, such as limping, stiffness, reluctance to move, or difficulty getting up from a lying position. If you believe your dog is suffering from arthritis, consult with your veterinarian. They may recommend medications to manage pain and inflammation, as well as suggest dietary changes or supplements to support joint health. Additionally, providing your senior dog with a comfortable and supportive bed can help alleviate joint discomfort.

6. Vision Impairment

Vision impairment is a common issue in aging dogs and can lead to disorientation and difficulty navigating their environment. If your senior dog is walking in circles, they may be struggling to see their surroundings clearly.

What you can do: Monitor your dog for signs of vision loss, such as bumping into objects, being hesitant in dim lighting, or displaying increased anxiety. If you suspect vision impairment, seek veterinary advice. Your veterinarian can assess your dog’s vision and recommend strategies to help them adapt to their changing abilities. You can also help your dog by keeping their environment consistent and clutter-free.

7. Anxiety or Stress

Senior dogs may experience increased anxiety or stress due to changes in their environment, routine, or physical health. This anxiety can manifest as repetitive behaviors, such as pacing or walking in circles.

What you can do: Look for other signs of anxiety, like excessive panting, trembling, or restlessness. To help reduce stress, maintain a consistent routine and provide your dog with a safe, quiet space where they can retreat. Engaging your dog in calming activities, such as gentle grooming or massage, can also help alleviate anxiety. If your dog’s anxiety is severe or persistent, consult with your veterinarian for additional guidance and potential treatment options.

8. Compulsive Behavior

Some senior dogs may develop compulsive behaviors as they age, including walking in circles. These repetitive actions can be triggered by stress, anxiety, or an underlying medical condition.

What you can do: If your dog’s circling behavior appears compulsive, consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues. They may also recommend behavior modification techniques, environmental enrichment, or medications to help manage compulsive behaviors.

9. Neurological Disorders

Circling behavior in senior dogs can also be a symptom of neurological disorders, such as brain tumors, inflammation, or trauma. These conditions can affect your dog’s coordination, balance, and overall behavior.

What you can do: If your dog displays sudden or unexplained circling behavior, seek veterinary attention promptly. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination and may recommend diagnostic tests to determine the cause. Treatment will depend on the specific neurological condition and may include medications, surgery, or supportive care.

10. Canine Stroke

Although less common, a canine stroke can cause sudden changes in your dog’s behavior, including walking in circles. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, resulting in neurological symptoms.

What you can do: If you suspect your dog may have experienced a stroke, seek immediate veterinary care. Time is crucial in the diagnosis and treatment of strokes. Your veterinarian will assess your dog and may recommend blood tests, imaging, or other diagnostic tools to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment will depend on the severity of the stroke and may include medications, supportive care, or rehabilitation.

When to Seek Veterinary Help for Your Senior Dog’s Circling Behavior

While it’s normal for our senior dogs to experience some changes in their behavior as they age, it’s essential to know when to seek veterinary help if your dog starts walking in circles.

Paying attention to the frequency, severity, and accompanying symptoms can help you determine when professional guidance is necessary.

Here are some signs that it’s time to consult your veterinarian about your dog’s circling behavior:

  1. Sudden onset or increase in frequency: If your dog starts walking in circles suddenly or more frequently than usual, it may indicate an underlying health issue that requires prompt attention.
  2. Changes in behavior or personality: If your dog displays changes in their overall behavior, mood, or personality alongside the circling, it may signal a medical or cognitive issue that needs evaluation.
  3. Additional symptoms: Pay close attention to any other symptoms that accompany your dog’s circling behavior, such as disorientation, loss of balance, head tilting, involuntary eye movements, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, or signs of pain. These symptoms could be indicative of a more severe health problem.
  4. Persistent or worsening behavior: If your dog’s circling behavior persists or worsens over time, it’s crucial to seek veterinary advice. Persistent or worsening symptoms could signify an underlying condition that requires intervention.
  5. Inability to perform daily activities: If your dog’s circling behavior affects their ability to perform daily activities like eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian immediately.
  6. Negative impact on quality of life: If your dog’s circling behavior is causing them distress or significantly impacting their quality of life, it’s crucial to seek professional guidance to manage the issue and improve your dog’s well-being.

In summary, it’s essential to monitor your senior dog closely and consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about their circling behavior. Early intervention can help identify and address potential health issues, ensuring your furry friend remains comfortable and healthy during their golden years.

Closing thoughts

In conclusion, there are various reasons why our senior dogs may walk in circles. It’s essential to monitor your dog closely and consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about their behavior. Remember, early intervention can make all the difference in helping our senior dogs live happy, healthy lives.


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.