Veterinarian Q: Dog falling down

A friend recently (2 weels agp) adopted an English Setter, about age 5, with a clean bill of health, per the vet records.

However, 3 times in the past week the dog has become suddenly ataxic and fallen down, with rear legs splayed.

Twice, it was on a somewhat smooth surface: A wooden deck, a tile floor. Circumstances of the 3rd time are not clear to me.

I witnessed the first two times. It seems the dog suddenly got clumsy, then the rear legs wouldn’t support the weight.

The symptoms resolved in about 2 minutes each time. They occurred after some minor increased physical activity each time. No incontinence, no tonic-clonic activity has been observed. Sensorium seemed preserved.

The dog’s new vet didn’t say much; just that the dog appeared healthy and that the owner should wait and see.

Any diagnoses that suggest themselves? I know some canines develop a distal paraplegia due to spinal cord degeneration, but I’m not aware of how that presents initially.


My old dog started falling over because she had a tumor that caused her to produce way too much insulin. That caused her blood sugar to get too low. Luckily our vet is very good so she found the cause quickly even though this is not a common problem.

Seems like the vet should do basic blood tests, they don’t cost much - $50 tops. My current dog was weak one day and blood tests showed her liver enzymes high. They did an ultrasound and found she had sludge in her gallbladder which we are now treating her for.

My first thought is hip dysplasia. It’s not uncommon in English Setters,
One of our Standard Poodles has a dysplastic hip which acts-up very intermittently. (excersize induced).

Mild narcolepsy?
I don’t know how common it is in Setters, but it can produce similar symptoms.

Thanks for the input thus far. My friend tells me the latest spell lasted longer, and seemed to be more like complete exhaustion than focal unsteady back legs. And that the vet did a thorough exam, and is waiting to see what happens next.

This is off the wall, and probably way off base for this particular problem, but years ago, when I was still down south, my dog displayed strange symptoms. He didn’t splay his hind legs, but they didn’t work, his front legs were fine and he didn’t appear to be in pain, just dragging his hind end. A little later he was fine and acted like nothing happened, then all of a sudden, his legs would drag behind him again.

I took him to the vet, who listened to my description, then looked at my dog and ran his finger down the pups spine. When he got about 3/4 of the way down the spine, he stopped, looked closely and then pulled out a tick. The tick just happened to be in the perfect place to cause a temporary paralysis. Less than an hour later, my dog was fine.

After thirty some years, I am still amazed that a tick could cause so much drama.

Not trying to hijack, and if I did, my apologies.

Then there is all this stuff, along with Tick Paralysis, which is most likely what my dog had. But there are lots of breed specific ailments listed.

That’s interesting, QtM. I may not be a vet, but I would bet the vets I work with would want to rule out spinal issues and cardiac issues. Rads first, then possibly referrals to specialists for ultrasound and/or MRI. Bloodwork can always be helpful and is the least expensive start, CBC, chem 25 and a T4. If the vet is seen very soon after an episode, they may also throw in a cardiac troponin.

It stinks when you get a new pet and things go south so soon. I just had an experience with a new furball that would have cost over 2 grand if I wasn’t “industry”. Best of luck to your friends, I hope it’s not really a big thing. The least bad thing I can think of is some kind of epilepsy and those were seizures of some kind, though it doesn’t really sound like it. But who knows what the real medical history is? Do they have vet records going back several years or just from where they got the dog? A history of seizures could be sort of good, maybe controllable. No history, well, probably looking at an MRI again.

Maybe vestibular syndrome?

Vet checking in (but I’m a new grad, so no promises on how complete my thinking may not be):

SeaDragon hit it nose on.

Highest on my differential list for acute fainting would be cardiac disorders, especially given your description of the dog maintaining urinary continence and mentation after each incident, so seizures are less likely.

An insulinoma or other tumor is fighting for second on my list next to either Tick paralysis or Coon Hound Paralysis.

A localized spinal lesion is also a possibility, but it’s a little odd that the dog would have waxing and waning symptoms. Generally, the hind-limb paralysis that you are thinking of initially presents as abdominal/spinal painfulness, followed by loss of proprioception and then outright paralysis over the course of hours to days depending on how quickly things fall apart. It’s not the kind of disease where the vet doesn’t find anything on physical exam the next day.

Hip dysplasia is very unlikely to present this way.

But, it is possible that he just simply slipped. Given how many dogs don’t like walking on smooth floors, it’s clear they don’t have the traction the would like.

Any vet you take him to should be able to do an EKG and radiographs for the major heart issues and big tumors.

If that turns up nothing, see if your friend can video tape the next incident to show to the vet.

The rare tumor I mentioned above was insulinoma.

My four or five year old Pomeranian has been tripping on air so to speak, eating grass…and vomiting. He has also started to trip up the stairs. The was standing and his back leg gave out on him… In the grass, on the deck he turned his head to smell something and his back leg ( not sure if it was the same leg) gave out on him. Mader is still eating drinking and as active as usual. My sister in laws horse has been falling too…could it be related?

There’s no way to diagnose an animal over the Internet, especially with the symptoms you’ve listed. Vomiting and falling are symptoms seen in many diseases. If your dog and the horse haven’t been seen by a vet, please make those appointments as soon as the clinic opens. Best of luck.
ETA: I had a dog that developed vestibular syndrome and what QtM describes doesn’t match the symptoms of PVS.

If it was cardio-related, would the fainting be the only symptom? I ask because I’ve had two dogs - one a HW+ rescue Rottweiler and one Doberman with cardiomyopathy, and they had other symptoms: low energy, coughing and panting, and the Doberman also bloated up because she retained fluid.

Two years after I started this thread, the dog’s doing fine. Mystery remains unsolved.

Thanks, gang!

Agh! My bad. Usually I check dates to make sure I’m not responding to a resurrected thread. :smack:

Glad the dog is doing well, though!

Toy dogs can have knee problems - if he starts “skipping” in the rear, that is probably what it is.

Yet again I am lured into a zombie thread unaware.

Anyway, I was going to chime in that my dog hates smooth surfaces, and occasionally slips/splays on our hardwood floors. I could have been something just that simple.

Glad he’s OK.