Why Is My Dog Walking Slowly With Their Head Down?

In this research you will know the answer to the query “Why Is My Dog Walking Slowly With Their Head Down?“.

I’m glad to see you! “I recently noticed that my dog walked with his head down toward the ground.

When we went for walks before he would always have his head and tail up and he seemed happy.

Theres something off about him. Should I be concerned? ”

The presence of any habits outside a dogs normal behavior can be concerning. Please consult your veterinarian to be sure but here are eight reasons why your pooch may walk with his head toward the ground. 

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IDD)

Your dog might have an intervertebral disc disease (IDD) if he has just started walking with his head down recently. 

Dogs have “squishy” parts in between their spinal cords to protect and cushion the vertebrae during movement. 

Your dogs nerves can be affected when one of these discs dislodges or moves. It is certain that this would cause pain and discomfort for the animal-it could certainly change his gait. 

It is possible to develop nerve damage and paralysis if IDD is severe and left untreated. 

There are certain dogs that are more predisposed to this condition than others. 

Dachshunds for instance have elongated backs which makes them prone to IDD. Injuries like IDD are likely caused by actions such as jumping onto the couch or playing too hard outside. 

Pinched Nerve in the Neck or Spine

Your dog may be suffering from a pinched nerve similar to IDD. 

Pinched nerves usually occur in the neck area of the spinal cord or the cervical spine. 

During this area of the neck or back the vertebrae tell the brain to lower or raise the dogs head. A herniated disc that affects the nerves in the cervical spine can cause a “pinched nerve.” 

An injury like this is usually caused by trauma or by a genetic predisposition. 

A pinched nerve may cause a stiff neck changes in walking patterns or even changes in proprioception.  

Sprained Muscle

Muscle sprains are also traumatic injuries that could cause your dog to walk with his head down. These injuries affect the ligaments that attach the bones together. 

There are 321 bones in a dogs body just like in humans. Dogs can suffer sprained muscles not only in their legs but also in their backs and necks. 

A sprained muscle usually causes your dog to limp but it wouldnot be uncommon for your dog to show other signs of discomfort if it were a section of his spine. Your dog might be suffering from a sprained muscle if he begins walking with his head down and displays signs of discomfort or pain in his legs. 

Damage to the Trachea from A Collar Injury

It is certainly important to check for a collapsed trachea or collar injury if your dog recently began walking with his head down during a routine neighborhood walk. 

Various devices are available for walking our dogs including training collars flat collars martingale collars and harnesses. It can cause damage to the trachea if your dog pulls while being walked on a collar. 

Yorkshire Terriers and Pomeranians are more likely to suffer from a collapsed trachea. During its walk the dog pulls placing pressure on the trachea. The trachea of a smaller dog can collapse owing to its fine anatomy. Dogs who suffer from this can have difficulty breathing. It can also cause coughing or hacking which can cause dogs to walk with their heads down. In the event of tracheal collapse it can be diagnosed using an X-ray and treated by wearing a harness changing ones activity level or even by surgery if needed. 

Degenerative Joint Disease

As your dog ages he may also be suffering from Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis. When dogs age their cartilage also deteriorates. Inflammation can result from deterioration of this cartilage in the joints of your dogs back neck and legs. When your dog walks with his head down he might be suffering from DJD in his neck or spine. Its possible that your dog might have some good days and some difficult days as a result of DJD. His activity level might be reduced or he might develop lameness. 

The cause of Degenerative Joint Disease is not always clear but there are ways to treat it to improve your pets quality of life. Exercise can improve joint mobility and muscle strength. Surgery can be used to replace or reconstruct joints in more severe cases. DJD that affects the cervical spine can also be treated with anti-inflammatory medications. However consult with your veterinarian before administering any medication.  

Congestive Heart Failure or a Cardiac Disease

Cardiac Disease can also be one of the reasons your dog might be walking with his head down if muscle and joint problems do not seem to be part of the equation. The heart of a dog beats more than 150000 times per day. 

Properly pumping blood through the heart requires a great deal of blood. A dog with poor circulation through his body or heart can exhibit symptoms such as lethargy difficulty breathing coughing and fainting. During your daily walks your dog would find it hard to walk normally if he is lethargic. 

Consider having your pet diagnosed before he suffers congestive heart failure if you suspect he has Cardiac Disease. You can have your veterinarian run bloodwork X-rays and electrocardiograms (ECG) to determine the cause of the problem. Medications dietary changes and modified exercise can help treat Cardiac Disease if it is caught early enough. 

Please keep in mind that Cardiac Disease may be more common in certain dog breeds than in others. Poodles Great Danes and Boston Terriers are breeds that are predisposed to heart failure. 

Heat Stroke or Heat Intolerance

It is also possible for a dog to walk with its head down if they suffer from heat intolerance or heat stroke. Your dog may be experiencing heatstroke if they start walking with their head down when they walked with their head up yesterday. During hot weather dogs have trouble regulating their body temperature. When the ground outside is warm and your dog is small its body can actually absorb the heat from the pavement quickly. 

The symptoms of Heat Stroke include excessive panting vomiting pale gums and thick saliva/drooling. If a dog suffers from heatstroke he can become lethargic very quickly and walk with his head down. 

Get your dog to a vet immediately if you suspect he may have a heat stroke. A heat stroke is a potentially life-threatening condition that can be treated if caught in time. It is important to treat him right away if heatstroke is the reason he is walking with his head down due to undiagnosed complications.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

When your dog is walking with his head down and it does not appear to be caused by muscles or any other specific part of his body it might be helpful to consider Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). In dogs over the age of 12 years CDS typically occurs. Dogs with this disease develop a “sticky” build-up of plaque in their frontal lobes as they age. It causes extreme changes in vision and hearing as well as disorientation and lack of spatial awareness. 

Its unlikely that Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome will occur overnight. You might notice that your dog is disoriented around the house or forgetting where he is. Perhaps he has a problem holding his bladder or may defecate inside. CDS can also cause changes in activity and anxiety in dogs as well as disturbances in their sleep cycle. In addition to these changes your dog might show other signs of discomfort such as pacing irritability or walking with his head down. 

There are helpful therapies that can improve your dogs quality of life even though much of the treatment for CDS is managing symptoms as your dog grows older. A veterinarian might be able to provide an accurate diagnosis for your dog if he walks with his head down inside throughout the day. 


You should be concerned if your dogs daily routine changes. Dogs enjoy routines and enjoy being accustomed to them. Its important to take your dogs health into consideration if he is walking with his head down. When you observe your dogs daily activity patterns you can determine whether his condition is muscle- or spinal-related cardiac-related or even heart-related. 

Remember to consult your dogs veterinarian if his behavior persists and medical treatment is required in the event of a health change. 

If you want to read more about dog health tips read here: Dog Health Tips and Tricks.

Why Is My Dog Walking Slowly With Their Head Down? (Watch Video)

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