When your dog acts like he sees something, sometimes it’s nothing and sometimes it’s a symptom. Dogs may experience the same neurological conditions that affect humans and have their own way of communicating with us that something is wrong.
If your dog is looking around frantically for no apparent reason, it may be due to old age or to a particularly stressful situation. But if you can rule out these options, then your dog may benefit from a medical examination.
What should you do if your dog is looking around frantically?
Depending on the situation, your dog may be experiencing a stressful or uncomfortable situation that you can help them with, or they could have a neurological disease that should be treated by a professional.
Dogs are creatures of habit just like us and sometimes even a small change in what they consider a safe environment can freak them out. If your dog is acting paranoid all of the sudden, consider the following:
- Have you bought something (item, piece of furniture, etc) that seems to unsettle your dog?
- Have you just adopted a new pet?
- Is there a new person in the house?
- Did someone leaves the house?
- Have you moved elsewhere recently?
- Has anything changed drastically in your dog’s daily routine?
Big changes affect your dog just like they affect you, but dogs are much more sensible and often do not understand why some things changed. This could put them under a lot of stress.
Usually, the solution to this problem is to remove what causes your dog to stress in the first place. Of course, this is not always possible. The alternative is to try and make your dog comfortable with the new situation, or wait until they get accustomed to it.
If your dog seems to be suffering excessively from the new situation, you can also consult your veterinarian to see if there are treatments available to help your dog get through this adjustment period.
Unusual behaviors may also indicate that your dog is suffering from a neurological condition. As dogs are unable to communicate with words what they see or experience, diagnosis for these conditions is not always easy.
When your dog is staring at nothing, sometimes a little distraction is all that is needed. Come up with a strategy to snap them out of their trance, for example by providing treats or toys.
Consult your veterinarian and come up with a balanced diet and exercise program to keep your dog busier and healthier, because sometimes this is all it takes to stop the unusual behavior in dogs.
When all else fails, your dog will be probably given different medications, and it’s important to find a way to make your dog feel comfortable taking the pills since it will be most likely a long-term treatment.
Even in this case, coming up with games is perfect to turn “medication time” into something fun and enjoyable.
Why do dogs stare at nothing?
When a dog keeps looking around the room or stares at the wall, we might not see anything but they’re surely seeing, smelling, or feeling something.
Sometimes it may feel like your dog is seeing things and there are plenty of people convinced that dogs can see ghosts or feel spiritual energy.
While this remains an intriguing theory, it is not scientifically proven, but what we know for sure is that some neurological conditions affect dogs and humans in very similar ways.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is also known as dog dementia, which is very similar to humans’ Alzheimer’s.
As dogs get older, their conditions will slowly decline just as it happens for us. Their eyesight might get worse or they may be hard of hearing. Sometimes they will fail to recognize even the people closest to them and may need to smell you to realize who you are.
Some dogs also forget where they are, might get stuck in seemingly silly places like in a corner or behind furniture, might forget how to navigate their home or find their owner literally only seconds after seeing them.
Dogs in these conditions may be staring at things for too long, walk around in circles, or look around frantically because they have no idea where they are or where to go. It’s not uncommon to see them pacing back and forth the same path several times.
Not all dogs will experience these issues while growing old, as it strongly depends on their genetics, breed, and health status. Although there is no treatment, you can help your dog keep their mind sharp by stimulating it with games and exercise.
When we hear of seizures we imagine dramatic situations involving convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and other excessive symptoms. However, dogs may also have so-called “silent seizures”, where your dog stares at the ceiling, at the window, or off into space.
A series of seizures is usually provoked by epilepsy. However, dogs can also experience idiopathic seizures, which are a one-time event with an unknown cause.
Symptoms for this kind of seizure include:
- Staring silently into space
- Rolling eyes backward
- Chasing their tails
- Barking obsessively
- Loss of muscle tone
- Frantic behavior
Idiopathic seizures aren’t always a symptom of an underlying issue, your dog will start recovering slowly and that’s the end of it. If instead, your dog keeps showing this behavior or it becomes a recurring thing, they will need an examination.
After a seizure, your dog might feel dizzy, restless, and nauseous. Some dogs struggle to find their balance, stumble, or are unable to stay upright, and in some cases, they may also experience temporary blindness.
Sometimes when it seems that a dog is looking around frantically, it’s actually just their eyes making involuntary movements. This condition is called nystagmus and is common in old dogs, but it can also be provoked by head trauma, specific health conditions, or lead poisoning.
Dogs affected by nystagmus will move their eyes mainly in two ways: slowly to one side, then jerking it to the opposite side or quickly from one side to the other, giving the impression that they’re looking around in a panic.
Nystagmus is usually caused by a problem in the sensory system which provokes a lack of balance in the head and body. In fact, dogs may also start moving their head or walking in circles.
In order to treat this condition, it’s fundamental to identify the cause.
This funnily-named condition is actually a very serious and rare disease that pushes your dog to bark and snap at the air as if they’re chasing something.
Your dog will look straight ahead as if they’re actually seeing something even if there’s nothing there. They will start chasing this phantom fly, barking and jumping after it obsessively.
We don’t know much about this syndrome yet, except that it’s probably a neurological condition and a consequence of seizures or epilepsy. It could also be a hereditary condition.
Alternatively, this behavior could be caused by vitreous floaters, which are black spots in your dog’s eyes that trick them into thinking they’re seeing flies when they’re not.
Other possible causes behind the fly-snapping syndrome include:
- Physical abuse in the past
- Lack of exercise
- Seclusion in small spaces
If you suspect that your dog may be affected by this syndrome, bring them to the veterinarian.
Seizures, epilepsy, and fly-snapping syndrome are some of the causes behind hallucinations in dogs.
It is not clear whether dogs hallucinate or not, but it is the only logical conclusion when confronted with some odd behaviors of our pets.
We don’t know if dogs hallucinate the same way that we do, but they surely express hallucinations in different ways.
For example, a dog that suddenly changes their behavior drastically (a quiet dog that starts barking excessively or a couch surfer that is suddenly scared to come inside) may be hallucinating.
Dogs don’t need to assume excessive behaviors to be hallucinating. Some dogs simply stare at the wall or into space for much longer than necessary and more often than average.
Dogs can hear sounds four times further away than humans do and register nearly double the frequencies we can, which is how they know when we’re coming home even before we step out of our car and are ready to welcome us behind the door.
Knowing this, it is not unreasonable to think that if your dog is acting weird or is on alert, they may actually be hearing something that you simply cannot hear.
In this case, your dog will probably look in the direction of the said sound, or go to the window to peek outside. However, even if you don’t see anything, it doesn’t mean your dog is not hearing something that is too far away from your house to be seen.
If your dog feels neglected or if you don’t have enough time to dedicate to your dog, they may get into an attention-seeking pattern in order to gain your sympathy.
Dogs are highly intelligent and may notice that if they act a certain way, they will get a reaction from you. For example, if whenever they stare at the wall in silence you go talk to them, pat them and give them treats, they are likely to repeat this behavior.
Make sure you find time for your dog every day to play with them and make them exercise in order to discourage this behavior and also keep them healthy.
Can dogs hallucinate?
Although we’re not sure how hallucinations in dogs work, we can safely say dogs can hallucinate and may experience hallucinations as the result of other neurological issues or diseases.
If your dog stares at the wall, look around the room frantically or is seemingly chasing something that doesn’t exist, they might be hallucinating.
It is not easy to make a diagnosis of hallucinations if there aren’t underlying medical conditions that can be properly diagnosed and would explain this unusual symptom.
Nonetheless, your dog can get better either by improving its lifestyle or, if necessary, with the use of medications.