Welcome to our Peculiar Pet Facts series, where we investigate the oddities of our pets and explore the science behind them.
Bedtime spins, poop spins, excited spins — dogs sure do spin a lot. But why do dogs spin, and can spinning actually mean something good or bad? We’ve twisted and twirled the research to find out the reasons behind this peculiar spinning fact.
Spinning Down for the Night
There’s nothing like a comfy, cozy bed to fall asleep in after a long day. So maybe this is what dogs are trying to achieve when they turn circles on their bed before a nap. But this behavior might actually be more of an instinct than a deliberate decision.
Domestic dogs’ ancestors didn’t have the luxury of a soft, padded bed to sleep in. They probably turned in circles to pat down grass into a comfy spot and to move away anything prickly, pointy or bitey from their sleeping area. Other suggestions for the bedtime circling behavior in wild canines include checking for predators and making sure the pack’s all there. So it’s possible that your dog spins before bedtime because they have a feeling deep inside telling them they need to without really knowing why. Or they really are just trying to fluff up the pillows.
If your dog circles before bed but then constantly gets up and down and doesn’t settle, they may be in pain that is making it hard for them to get comfortable. If you notice this behavior, contact your veterinarian.
This has to be one of the funniest behaviors our canine friends do — the sudden need to zoom in circles around the yard or house as fast as they can, with a few play bows thrown in for good measure. The zoomies are known as FRAP in the veterinary community, which stands for frenetic random activity period.
A release of pent-up energy is the main reason for a FRAP. If your dog has been home alone all day, or they’ve woken up from a long nap, they may get a case of the zoomies. An excited “welcome home” can be in the form of a tornado of spins in front of you, too. However, the zoomies can also be caused by nervous energy or anxiety. So it’s a good idea to notice what triggers your dog’s zoomies in case it’s something that’s causing them anxiety.
Could It Be Old-Dog Syndrome?
Sometimes walking in circles can be a sign that something is wrong with your dog’s vestibular system — the system that controls your dog’s balance. No one really knows what causes vestibular disease, but it generally affects older dogs, which is why it’s also known as old-dog syndrome.
Other signs of vestibular disease include a sudden head tilt, loss of balance, trouble walking, rolling and abnormal eye movement. Because of these symptoms, vestibular disease is often associated with nausea, vomiting and a loss of appetite. Vestibular disease is fairly common, and most dogs recover over a few days to weeks; although some can have a permanent head tilt.
The signs of vestibular disease can also be signs of a potentially serious medical condition like stroke, inner ear infection, toxins, hypothyroidism or brain tumor. So if your dog has signs of vestibular disease, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to confirm the cause.
Ancient instincts or pent-up energy, whatever the reason for your dog’s spins, they’re pretty entertaining to watch. Just make sure there isn’t a health concern behind them.
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