Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die? Do They Even? - Dog Care Tips and Information (2023)

Dogs are such loyal companions. They love us unconditionally, and we love them back. It’s a beautiful thing.

The thing is, they have some behavior that often leaves us scratching our heads, like circling.

While some people say that dogs walk in circles before they die, others have found that this is not true.

So let’s find out if there is any truth behind the question: Why do dogs walk in circles before they die?

In this post, I want to talk about why dogs walk in circles and if there is any truth behind the claim that they do so before they die.

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Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die? Do They Even? - Dog Care Tips and Information (1)

See what’s in this post

  1. Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die?
  2. Reasons Why Your Dog Walks in Circles
    • 1. Normal behavior
    • 2. Discomfort or distress
    • 3. Need to Poop
    • 4. Hungry
    • 5. Ear infections
    • 6. Injury and pain
    • 7. Cushing’s disease
    • 8. Neosporosis
    • 9. Brain inflammation
    • 10. Brain tumor
    • 11. Canine distemper
    • 12. Canine dementia
    • 13. Stroke
    • 14. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    • 15. Ataxia
    • 16. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
    • 17. Cognitive disorder
    • 18. Hydrocephalus
  3. What to Do if Your Dog is Walking in Circles?
  4. When Should You Be Concerned About Your Dog’s Circling?
  5. Why is My Dog Spinning in Circles and Panting
  6. Why is My Dog Walking in Circles and Standing in Corners?
  7. Why Does My Senior Dog Walk in Circles for Hours
  8. What Are the Signs of Your Dog Dying?
  9. What Do Dogs Do When They Know They’re Dying?
  10. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
    • Why do dogs walk in circles before they sit?
    • Why do dogs walk in circles before they poop?
  11. In Conclusion: Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die?

Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die?

Dogs don’t always walk in circles when they’re about to die, nor do they usually scream and die as some people think.

Sometimes they just lay down and close their eyes.

Sometimes they’ll wander off like nothing’s wrong at all.

You can never know for sure whether your dog is about to pass away at any moment, so don’t get too attached to the idea of this being a thing for certain.

It probably has something to do with how we treat our pets as living beings as opposed to objects for our own amusement.

We love them so much that when we see our dog acting strangely, especially in old age, we try to find some meaning in what they’re doing.

Doggy says, read this too: Dog won’t move with cone on?

Reasons Why Your Dog Walks in Circles

Dogs do walk in circles, and there are several reasons for that.

Although some dogs might be seen doing it before they die, there is really no scientific proof behind it.

However, here are some known facts about why they do so.

1. Normal behavior

Dogs in the wild may circle to check for nearby predators using their senses of sight and smell and this behavior is still present in domesticated dogs.

It is most likely that they are doing it to make the area more comfortable for resting.

At the same time, they might be sniffing out if the area has been marked by other dogs.

2. Discomfort or distress

Is something in the environment causing a lot of stress to your dog? Or could it be something stuck on its body that is causing it lots of discomforts?

Sometimes, a simple check like this will resolve the issue and stop your dog from behaving this way.

(Video) 10 Critical Signs that Indicates Your Dog is Dying

Pay attention to things like loud noises (construction, thunder) or strange objects or people that might cause it to panic and go around in circles.

Doggy says, consider reading this too: Why is My Puppy Walking Funny? [Solve the Mystery]

3. Need to Poop

Dogs are incredibly intelligent creatures, and they can be very particular about where it leaves its business behind.

They will often try to hold their poop in until they find a place that’s comfortable.

When your dog walks in circles, it could very well be because he’s trying to find the perfect spot for his business!

If you notice that your pup is walking in circles, give him some time and space.

If he still doesn’t take care of business after a few minutes, take him outside immediately so he can relieve himself.

4. Hungry

When your pup comes in from a long walk and starts circling around, it could mean one of two things: they’re either looking for something to eat or they’re trying to find their favorite toy.

Dogs can’t tell us when they’re hungry, so they have to find other ways of communicating their needs.

One way that dogs do this is by circling around something—usually, the thing that will satisfy their hunger.

If your dog is circling around its bowl, it’s probably time for a snack!

5. Ear infections

Problems with the ear often cause our dogs to behave abnormally, and sometimes it might be quite hard to determine whether your dog’s outer, middle, or inner is perhaps infected or injured.

You might notice your dog barking and shaking its head, and when it gets more serious, it can start to lose its balance often.

It might also start to rub its head against objects, as this behavior is often associated with ear infections.

6. Injury and pain

Other than very obvious injuries, it is also possible that your dog could be suffering from mild or serious pain.

You might notice your dog limping, licking its paw excessively, or whining excessively.

More likely, it could have suffered a head injury that has gone unnoticed and is now showing signs of it through its unusual behavior.

7. Cushing’s disease

Cushing’s disease is a condition in which a dog’s adrenal glands produce too much cortisol, a steroid hormone.

It can be caused by an adrenal tumor or inflammation of the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, which secretes hormones that control blood sugar levels, growth and development, and other functions.

Dogs that have Cushing’s disease may walk in circles because they have trouble standing still due to their weakened muscles and impaired balance from high blood pressure.

8. Neosporosis

A potentially fatal disease known as neosporosis is spread by parasites that can be found in some raw meats and in the feces of afflicted animals.

This disease can also be passed from dog to dog by the consumption of contaminated food or liquids and can cause paralysis and weaken a dog’s muscles.

Their head tends to droop to one side and walking in circles is a common behavior in dogs suffering from neosporosis.

9. Brain inflammation

You may also be familiar with the terms inflammatory brain illness or meningitis to describe brain inflammation.

Circling behavior is one of the primary signs of necrotizing meningoencephalitis (NME), a type of brain inflammation, along with seizures and behavioral changes.

This condition can be quite difficult to diagnose and will require an MRI and analyzing a brain sample.

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10. Brain tumor

One of the common symptoms of a dog having a brain tumor is loss of balance, so it is not abnormal to see one walking in circles.

Other symptoms include wobbling, tilting of the head, seizures, and reduced mental acuity.

11. Canine distemper

Canine distemper is a different illness that can result in collapse and circling in place.

It is brought on by a virus and typically begins with a lung and respiratory illness.

The later stages frequently result in neurological impairment, paralysis, muscle spasms, and a propensity to wander in circles.

Distemper can cause nasal discharge in animals and make them move clumsily.

Aggression, sluggishness, roaming, and extreme thirst are further symptoms.

This disease is most commonly contracted by dogs coming into touch with other dogs because the disease is spread by the fluids produced when coughing and sneezing.

Since puppies are particularly prone to this illness, many veterinarians advise vaccines beginning at a young age.

Although there is no cure for the illness, a dog may eventually recover with appropriate general care.

Doggy says, consider reading this too: Dog Puts Head on Other Dog’s Neck

12. Canine dementia

More accurately known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), it’s not unusual to see dogs with vestibular system problems wandering about in circles.

It affects senior dogs frequently, making them lose their direction and spin in circles.

Confusion, diminished awareness, aimlessness, and perhaps an inability to identify its owner after the circling activity are common warning signals.

The exact cause of this illness and which dogs are most severely affected are still unknown.

However, a good diet and way of life that includes regular brain stimulation for dogs may help them avoid displaying these symptoms as they age.

13. Stroke

A dog walking in a circle may be suffering from a stroke, which causes a loss of balance that may result in your dog frequently falling over.

Blood clots, kidney disease, high blood pressure, head trauma, and migrating worms can all be contributing factors to a stroke, although this is really rare in dogs.

14. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is a condition that causes your dog to compulsively perform certain actions over and over again.

It’s similar to human OCD in that it involves repetitive actions, and it is caused by anxiety or stress—like separation anxiety—as well as boredom and frustration.

The compulsive behavior can be anything from tail-chasing to spinning or pacing back and forth on a mat.

Some dogs will even engage in repetitive licking or chewing patterns.

15. Ataxia

There are many different ataxia conditions, and each one has a different set of symptoms.

The inner ear or the brainstem may be affected by vestibular ataxia, which is the most likely type that will cause your dog to walk in circles.

Again, underlying problems can be tumors, damage to the skull or ear, inner or middle ear infection, etc.

16. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

SLE is a type of autoimmune illness that affects the entire body and can result in arthritis, muscular weakness, and a wide range of other symptoms including fever and renal disease.

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Diagnoses might be challenging because the disease can mimic many different ailments, and a blood test is often used by a veterinarian to determine if it exists.

Early symptoms of SLE include paralysis, a limp, and a sudden inability to walk straight.

The disease is frequently made worse by exposure to sunlight.

There are some breeds of dogs that are predisposed to this condition, including the collie, beagle, and German Shepherd.

17. Cognitive disorder

An aging dog’s brain could lose the capacity to correctly process the outside world.

Perhaps the dog is unaware of its whereabouts or perhaps they discover themselves in a different reality.

Some of the symptoms include being confused and pacing up and down, sometimes in circles.

Do you know why dogs stare at the floor?

18. Hydrocephalus

Brain swelling known as hydrocephalus is typically brought on by an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inside the brain.

Certain breeds, such as toy breeds, are predisposed to it, and it can be acquired or congenital (existing at birth).

In addition to your dog’s circle-walking and other signs of forebrain dysfunction, hydrocephalus can result in wide-set eyes, a domed skull, and difficulty eating and drinking.

Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die? Do They Even? - Dog Care Tips and Information (3)

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What to Do if Your Dog is Walking in Circles?

Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die? Do They Even? - Dog Care Tips and Information (4)

If you see your dog walking in circles but does not show any particular change in behavior, it is usually harmless.

But if this behavior is prolonged, you definitely need to bring your dog to the vet for a check-up.

In many cases, circling behavior has something to do with a dog’s brain, and without the right treatment soon, can develop into something fatal.

At the onset, what you can do is identify potential causes such as environmental changes, if it has water stuck after swimming, or simply the need to poop.

Beyond that, note down any strange behaviors such as shaking of its head violently, vomiting, loss of appetite, and limping.

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All these are warning signs that your dog needs professional help.

In the meantime, you can do your part to avoid these issues from happening by feeding your dog a healthy diet, exercising it regularly, and making sure to see a vet yearly.

When Should You Be Concerned About Your Dog’s Circling?

If your dog is circling excessively, even after you’ve given him some time to calm down, it could mean he has a medical issue like a brain tumor or brain disease.

When this happens once in a while, there’s no need for alarm; just make sure he gets plenty of exercise and has lots of toys and chewable, so he doesn’t get bored and start going into circles again!

In addition to circling in one area of the house, if your dog is showing signs such as walking very slowly (sluggishness) or appearing unsteady on their feet, these could also be signs that there is something wrong with them.

Why is My Dog Spinning in Circles and Panting

Severe discomfort, ear infections, brain inflammations, tumors, or spinning in circles and panting may be the root cause of your dog’s erratic behavior.

On the other hand, if your dog is suffering from dementia, this behavior is extremely unlikely as it most probably will not have lots of strength to exert itself this way.

Why is My Dog Walking in Circles and Standing in Corners?

Similar to most of the medically related causes mentioned above, a dog might become disoriented and thus finds itself in the corner of a room.

This is yet another strong warning sign for you to take action.

Why Does My Senior Dog Walk in Circles for Hours

I got to say that this should not even be allowed to happen unless there wasn’t anyone around to help your dog.

If you were present, you need to step in if it goes on for more than a few minutes.

Do a physical check on your dog to see if anything is bothering it, and watch for unusual behavior.

Take it out to relieve itself, and if nothing works, you need to see the emergency vet right away.

What Are the Signs of Your Dog Dying?

Our dogs will leave us eventually, and before they do, there are some signs that give us time to prepare.

  • Breathing heavily, especially if it looks like he or she is gasping for air, or making wheezing noises when breathing
  • No longer eating or drinking
  • Sleeping more than usual and does not interact with family members anymore
  • Does not respond when called by name or when petted by a family member or friend
  • Lost weight and looks thinner than normal for the breed and age of the animal
  • Trouble walking, or they’re not moving at all
  • Muscles twitching
  • Emitting a dying dog smell (not necessarily a bad smell)

What Do Dogs Do When They Know They’re Dying?

There is no evidence that shows that dogs know their impending death, but after having gone through this a few times, I do think that they seem to know.

During their last days, they usually either one of these behaviors:

  • Withdraw themselves from everyone, no longer interacting
  • Seek out more attention from their owners (more so than usual)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do dogs walk in circles before they sit?

In most likelihood, a dog that walks in circles before sitting is just trying to make the spot as comfortable as possible, much like trampling grass in the wild to prepare to sit.

Why do dogs walk in circles before they poop?

A dog walking in circles before they poop is just trying to get comfortable before unloading its waste. They want to make sure that the spot is safe and stable before it begins.

In Conclusion: Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die?

As dog parents, we always need to be alert and be on top of things before it takes. a worse turn.

If you feel that something is amiss, always choose to consult your vet rather than take chances.

Consider checking out other dog behavior articles on our blog such as:

  • Dog obsessed with water hose
  • Why do dogs lick their lips when you pet them?
  • Why does puppy poop 2 hours after eating?
  • Dog goes crazy in crate?

Be sure to join our newsletter too so that you can keep yourself updated on dog care tips and much more!

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Why do dogs circle before they die? ›

Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die. Dogs often try to find a comfortable spot to pass on alone. Even though it may seem hurtful for dog parents, this is completely normal behavior. If you've talked to your vet and the end of your dog's senior life is near, you may find your dog circling a lot.

What does a dog do right before it dies? ›

The last few days before your dog passes you may notice: extreme weight loss, a distant look in their eyes, a lack of interest in anything, restlessness or unusual stillness, a change in the way that your dog smells, and a changed temperament.

Do dogs walk around in circles before they die? ›

The thing is, they have some behavior that often leaves us scratching our heads, like circling. While some people say that dogs walk in circles before they die, others have found that this is not true.

What do dogs do minutes before they die? ›

Signs a dog is actively dying include labored breathing, an inability to control their bowels or bladder, a refusal to eat, and a lack of reaction to stimuli. Slow movements, a change in appetite, increased sleep, and a decrease in social behavior could be signs that your dog is just aging normally (and not dying).

Where do dogs go when they know they're dying? ›

Typically, a dying dog will lie in one place without moving around very much. This place may be a quiet corner of your home or somewhere secluded, and it may not be a spot where they usually lie. Your dog might not even have enough energy to lift their head.

What do dogs do when they sense death? ›

Here are a few body language signs that may indicate that your dog senses death in a family member: Whining. Howling. Ears Drop.

How do you comfort a dying dog? ›

Surround her with her favorite things, like a warm blanket or special squeaky toy. Since pressure sores can develop in pets with limited mobility, it's also essential to provide a warm sleeping spot with plenty of cushioning.

Do dogs pass away in their sleep? ›

Yes, some pets peacefully fall asleep and pass naturally on their own, but as in humans, such a peaceful death is rare.

Do other dogs know when a dog is dying? ›

They may be lethargic, have a loss of appetite, or your pet may even have a terminal diagnosis from a veterinarian. Dogs are similarly, if not more, in tune with their environments and surroundings, and more likely than not, they fully understand when a canine companion is on its way out.

Do dogs seek comfort when dying? ›

Some dogs seek out the comfort and company of their humans to the point of clinginess, while others become more solitary and seek quiet corners to be alone. Some dogs seem to know when they are about to die and wander off to a secluded location in the house or yard for their final moments.

Does my dying dog know I love him? ›

"Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies.

How do you say goodbye to your dog? ›

Give them all the things they enjoy most – their favourite toys, their favourite food. You know what will make your pet feel most at ease in the time that remains. If you become tearful, ask a family member, friend or other trusted person to take care of your pet so you can leave the room and have a cry.

Do dogs know you love them? ›

Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them.

What do vets do after they put a dog to sleep? ›

Following euthanasia, your veterinarian or veterinary nurse or technician will help to gently clean your pet if necessary, and remove any intravenous cannula that was placed. Then, depending on whether you are burying your pet at home, having your pet cremated or are still undecided, a few different things may happen.

How soon after death do you poop? ›

These changes unfold quickly, over a few days. Your muscles relax. Your muscles loosen immediately after death, releasing any strain on your bowel and bladder. As a result, most people poop and pee at death.

How long does it take to euthanize a dog with Tylenol PM? ›

Yes, Tylenol can kill a dog or cat – but it's very slow in killing. The point is, very few poisons kill humane and acutely – it typically takes 24-48 hours before your pet dies, and it's not a good way to go. When in doubt, please contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for advice, and talk to your veterinarian.

What to do if dog dies at home at night? ›

Call Your Veterinarian

A vet's office will take your dog's body and either dispose of it for you or store it for you before you have a cremation or burial. They might also know of resources like a pet crematory or a mobile vet service.

What happens when a dog's body starts to shut down? ›

Dog Dying Process and the Moment of Death

Their body will go completely limp. If still open, their eyes will have a blank stare. Their heart completely stops beating. As all tension leaves their muscles, they may release urine or defecate as the muscles that control these bodily functions completely relax.

What happens when a dog dies at home? ›

The first person you should call is your vet. If they don't have the facilities to handle your dog's body as you wish they will be able to direct you to someone who does. If there is a Pet cemetery in your area, they are also usually able to make collections. At times you may have to transport the body yourself.

What does it mean when a dog turns in a circle? ›

Turning in circles before lying down is an act of self-preservation in that the dog may innately know that he needs to position himself in a certain way to ward off an attack in the wild.

Do dogs go in the corner to die? ›

You are probably worried that he will do just that. But don't be: Dogs do not actually run away in order to die alone. This is an old wives' tale which confuses symptoms such as blindness and lack of orientation with the desire to die alone. Let's look at how this myth has been perpetuated, and why it is incorrect.

Do dogs know when death is coming? ›

While dogs might not be endowed with the ability to sense death quite to the degree - or for the reasons - that people think they can, it is true that dogs have heightened senses that can help them sense not only oncoming natural deaths, but natural disasters, gas leaks, and more, which could cause death.

Can dogs see death coming? ›

They provide comfort not just in death but also in other difficult times, whether it's depression, job loss or a move across country. Dogs know when people are dying or grieving, through body language cues, smells only they can detect and other ways not yet known, experts say.

What are the final stages of dementia in dogs? ›

Pacing, anxiousness, movement that doesn't seem purposeful, disorientation. Staring for long periods of time, getting lost in corners, standing on the wrong side of a door waiting for it to open, unable to figure out the next step, acting dazed, seeming to be lost in familiar places.

Why is my dog walking in circles and falling over? ›

Vestibular ataxia is the result of an issue with the inner ear or brainstem. Other signs of Ataxia along with staggering, stumbling and falling over could include head tilt, walking in circles, vomiting, nausea, and flicking of the eyes from side to side.

Why do dogs lick you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

Do dogs die peacefully at home? ›

Yes, some pets peacefully fall asleep and pass naturally on their own, but as in humans, such a peaceful death is rare. Many owners fear their pet passing alone, while others do not. Occasionally, we are asked to help families through the natural dying process with their pet.

Do dogs look for their owners before they die? ›

In most cases, the pets turn inward. They withdraw from the people they love and no longer show any interest in what is going on around the house. At other times, dying pets seem to seek out more attention from their caretakers or do things they have never done before.

Do dogs feel pain when they die? ›

Pain and discomfort are common symptoms at the end of a dog's life,1 but how can you tell if your dog is feeling them? Discomfort: When feeling discomfort, some dogs may sleep more than usual or seek out new resting places for comfort, which they may then be reluctant to leave.

Do dogs understand that death is permanent? ›

Since they may not actually understand death as something permanent, sometimes a dog will wait patiently, believing that the deceased caregiver, will return. Still others believe that the dog may just be reacting to the grief exhibited by humans in the house as they deal with the death of a household member.

Does a dog know you love them? ›

Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them.

How far away can a dog sense its owner? ›

Watch a dog sniffing and you can see this for yourself. If more air passes through their nose they have more chance to pick up smells. How far dogs can smell depends on many things, such as the wind and the type of scent. Under perfect conditions, they have been reported to smell objects or people as far as 20km away.


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