Ever wonder why your dog randomly stares into space?
“Are they seeing ghosts?”
That’s interesting…and controversial.
Sad to say, there’s not enough evidence to answer that question with either yes or no…
So, let’s set that aside for a while.
Instead, let’s look into other reasons why your dog stares into space.
In this article, you’ll find out:
- If your dog staring into space is worrying.
- 11 reasons why your dog stares into space.
- Underlying causes of disorientation in your dog.
- Other compulsive behaviors your dog might have.
- And much, much more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog stare into space?
- 11 reasons why your dog stares into space
- Should you be worried when your dog looks into space?
Why does my dog stare into space?
Your dog stares into space as a symptom of a medical reason. These include compulsiveness, dementia, depression, eye problems, infection, seizure, and poisoning. Unknown GI disease and head trauma are the most alarming. While non-concerning reasons are boredom or hearing something you don’t.
11 reasons why your dog stares into space
#1: A habit out of boredom
Under-stimulation makes your dog develop strange habits.
One of these could be staring into space.
You had to regularly do your chores and run errands. Or you have a full-time job.
As a result, you didn’t pay that much attention to your dog. Plus, your dog’s left alone at home, with no other dog companion.
You notice that after a while, your dog’s starting to stare into space consistently.
The reason for their long gaze must lie in understimulation.
Which brings upon your dog’s boredom every time you leave them alone.
Watch out for these other behavioral effects of boredom in your dog:
- Destruction of your belongings.
- Coming home to a mess, after you’ve been gone for the day.
#2: An inescapable behavior
Compulsive behaviors are repetitive acts that we feel like doing, even unconsciously.
One example is constant hand washing because of fear of dirt.
Another one is ceaseless checking of things.
“Did I turn off the oven?” is a persistent thought of compulsiveness.
The person who thought this will repeatedly check their oven. Even after many times of being sure, they check and check.
This behavior’s not limited to humans. Dogs experience it, too.
For humans, we call it obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While for dogs, it’s termed canine compulsive disorder or CCD.
There are severe cases of these behaviors. And both of these disorders create disruption and struggle to one’s daily life functions.
You might be wondering why.
Well, say you’re working from home and have a flexible schedule. But you also have the urge to order everything in your house before you start working from home. This is gonna eat up a lot of your time.
Regardless, it’s impossible for you to stop it. It’s kind of like a ritual you perform every morning. And as a result, you start working late. And end up working until the small hours.
So, you see, compulsiveness is hard and sometimes even impossible to control. That’s why it may be a struggle for your fur baby to break their gaze.
Other common signs of CCD are:
- Eating dirt.
- Chasing unseen objects.
- Excessive drinking of water.
- Non-stop and rhythmic barking.
- Fly biting, which is the act of biting invisible items in the air.
- Acral lick dermatitis, which occurs through excessive licking of skin.
Notice that some of these signs seem like normal behaviors for your dog.
It’s normal for a dog to chase their tail if they’re playful.
Or to bite flies in the air if they get curious.
These are normal if they occur for a short time and it is within context.
If your dog can eat without worry and rest without trouble, you don’t have to panic.
What isn’t normal is if they do these behaviors out of the blue. And they struggle to break them.
“How can I help them stop?”
As much as we want to break these behaviors on our own, it’s best to consult a professional behaviorist.
They will assist you in understanding these behaviors. And advise you on how to break them the proper way.
It’s because disorders like this can be different from one dog to another.
You start to notice that your dog keeps staring into space…
Plus, lately, your dog is starting to act withdrawn.
It could be a sign that your fur baby’s depressed.
“Are dogs capable of experiencing depression?”
Bonnie Beaver, DVM, stated in PetMD that we couldn’t know for sure as we can’t ask our dogs what they’re feeling.
Yet, there are situations where depression could be the only explanation.
John Ciribassi, DVM, says that we can definitely see depression in dogs.
You might want to observe how your dog reacts to these situations:
- Someone moved out of the house.
- Loss of a family member, as well as a fellow canine in the family.
- Other sudden changes- and it doesn’t have to be something drastic. Even replacing furniture can trigger depression in your dog.
Here are other signs that your dog could be experiencing depression:
- Signs of aggression.
- Loss of appetite for food and water.
- Occurrence of household accidents.
- Lack of interest, causing withdrawal.
- Pacing from room to room, looking like they’re lost.
#4: A sound that you don’t hear
While your dog’s staring, are his ears standing erect?
Your pooch might be hearing something you can’t.
They do this to focus on the sound with hopes of recognizing it.
It’s a known fact; dogs hear better than humans.
To be more specific, dogs can hear sound frequencies almost 3 times more than humans can.
Meaning they have a better hearing of high-pitched sounds.
They can also hear much softer sounds.
For us humans, we can barely hear those!
Your dog’s able to hear sounds between -5 decibels (dB) up to -15 dB.
Note: Decibels are the measurement for a sound’s loudness.
Want a sample of this action?
Imagine that you and your dog are in the backyard.
They’re playing. and they suddenly stood alert. Fixed their gaze and stared into space.
Their ears are erect and their eyes are focusing.
After a few minutes, you notice that your partner’s car just pulled into the driveway.
Your dog heard your partner’s car before you did.
For you, you only heard it once it got on the driveway. For your dog, they may have heard it as your partner makes a turn on your block.
You might also want to know: 11 Weird Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Walls + How To Stop It
#5: An eyesight problem
Do you wear glasses?
If yes, have you ever had those times where you forget them? That’s why all day, you squint and try to focus your vision.
Although not the same, as dogs can’t wear glasses (but it’d be cute if they did, though)…
Your dog might be staring into space to test out their eyesight.
Fido might be having a hard time seeing what’s beyond a particular object.
Or what that particular object is.
The development of an eyesight problem depends on a dog’s age.
Injury near the eye can cause eyesight problems, too.
Another common cause is an underlying disease, such as diabetes or cataracts.
To help you assess, here are common symptoms of vision problems:
- Red, puffy, or swollen eyes.
- Cloudy appearance on your dog’s eyes.
- Constant scratching or pawing at their eyes.
- Signs of confusion when put around new places.
- Persistent knocking into objects around the house.
#6: Underlying infection
You might be feeling confused…
Your dog’s just staring into space, and now you learn it could be due to an infection.
“How can this happen?”
Staring into space can equate to disorientation.
Meaning they can be staring confused…
Fido’s lost track of what they’re aiming to do…
Dizziness can also arise.
So they stopped their track to stare for a while.
And they’re hoping to recollect their focus and balance.
Getting to the point, disorienting is a symptom of an infection.
Let’s take vestibular disease as an example. Its most common cause is infections.
More specifically, peripheral vestibular disease. Which we’ll refer to as ‘PVD’ in the article.
Among other causes, ear infections are the culprit for PVD.
Other symptoms of PVD include:
- Inability to stay standing.
- Rapid eye movement, or nystagmus.
- Loss of balance, e.g., stumbling, falling.
Dangers of PVD:
- Stroke, which may cause a head injury, too.
- A lesion, which may cause an infection in the brain as well.
With everything said, you don’t have to panic.
As long as the habit’s not occurring with any of the other symptoms.
Lastly, you can dismiss this if you see that your dog’s not feeling weak.
#7: Effect of poisoning
The U.S. records about 232,000 cases of pet poisoning per year. Most cases are because of substances around your household.
Over-the-counter medications and prescriptions are the most common dog poisons.
Some food that we consume is poisonous for dogs, too. The number one example is chocolate. More examples are alcohol, avocado, macadamia nuts, grapes, and raisins.
If, unfortunately, you have rodents around the house, be extra careful. Ant baits, mice, and rat poisons are extremely harmful to your dogs, too.
So say your dog accidentally got into your stash of medicines.
They might be tall enough to reach the bathroom counter.
Or they have access to your bedside table.
Curious as they are, they consume these medications.
After that, your pup stares into space as they start to feel sedated.
Several other effects of toxicity include nausea and vomiting. These differ depending on the amount and type of medication they took.
Long-term effects could be damage to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and liver.
Prevent this from happening by keeping your medications in a cabinet.
Or a sure shelf that only you could reach.
To help you further, here are 7 dangerous drugs for your dogs:
Learn more: Why do dogs arch their backs?
#8: Partial seizure
Staring into space is a less detectable and often overlooked symptom of seizure in dogs.
In this case, your dog might be experiencing an episode of partial seizure.
A partial seizure happens when only a small part of your dog’s brain is affected.
This can happen on one of your dog’s legs or just their face.
Constant partial seizures in a dog’s lifetime can progress into grand mal seizures.
Grand mal seizures involve both sides of your dog’s brain.
This time, it affects their whole body.
#9: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS)
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS) is equal to humans’ dementia.
CCDS is a behavioral syndrome that concerns dogs as they age.
This syndrome creates disturbances in your dog’s everyday activities.
So if your senior dog starts to stare into space, it is likely they’re developing dementia. And their cognitive functions are beginning to decline…
Here are 5 signs of dementia in dogs that are often associated with the acronym DISHA. It stands for:
- Interactions with other people or fellow canines. It’s either your dog’s not interested or overly clingy.
- Sleep-wake cycle changes.
- House soiling, basically staying in places they usually didn’t prefer.
- Activity level changes.
#10: Underlying gastrointestinal (GI) disease
You might be wondering…
“How can my dog’s simple gazing escalate into an underlying GI disease?”
I find it surprising, too…
One study refers to this behavior as “star gazing” in a dog.
The subject of the said study is a 4-year-old Yorkshire terrier.
He’s shown frequent “star gazing” or staring into space.
There are no records of other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea.
During 12 months, the star gazing symptom increases in frequency and duration.
Later on, that dog gets diagnosed with erosive gastritis with reflux esophagitis.
It’s medically presumed that the pain brought by this disease is behind the behavior.
The dog extends his neck and raises his head in an attempt to lessen the discomfort.
Furthermore, the star gazing behavior was eventually fixed through omeprazole administration.
You might also like: Why Does My Dog Lick My Hair? 13 Weird Reasons + 3 Tips
#11: Head trauma
This reason is devastating…
Your dog could be staring into space as a result of a traumatic event causing a brain injury.
Here are the possible causes of head trauma in dogs:
- Car accidents.
- Falling from high areas.
- Fighting with other dogs.
Another reason could be blunt force trauma.
Which is the most frequent form of physical abuse in dogs. This includes kicking, punching, or throwing.
These also affect your dog’s oxygen levels, blood flow, fever, and low blood pressure.
With all these, your dog is subject to stare as they begin to disorient or feel pain in their head.
Should you be worried when your dog looks into space?
For the most part, you should be worried when your dog looks into space. There could be many underlying medical reasons. Reasons include dementia, poisoning, seizure, eyesight problem, head trauma, and undiscovered GI tract disease.
If your dog’s just staring because they hear something you can’t…you don’t have to worry.
Meanwhile, boredom as the reason to stare is among the non-concerning list.
You should still try to improve the situation, though.
To further help you out, here are things you can do:
- Exercise your dog enough.
- Mentally stimulate them. Add some spice to your playtime by doing interactive games! For example, you can organize a short ‘treat hunt’ around the house for your pooch.
- Socialize! Regularly take them to dog parks or dog dates with their canine best friends.
For canine compulsive disorder (CCD), consult a behaviorist. They can better understand your dog’s specific situation.
As mentioned in the article, the staring might indicate depression, too.
It can happen when you and your dog have undergone a drastic change at home. And even a simple one can gravely affect them.
Your dog can eventually move on and learn to come to terms with the change. But, professional advice is still much needed.
If it’s poisoning, an emergency run to the hospital’s necessary.
Especially if you notice that your dog’s looking more sleepy as they stare.
Make sure that you bring along the bottle of medication that your dog took. And note how many they took and how much time has passed since.
As per a partial seizure episode, it’s best to remain calm.
This is a difficult time for you and your dog, and one of you must remain grounded.
Here are the next steps to take:
- Take note of the seizure’s start time and record how long the episode’s going.
- Put a cushion in your dog’s head so that they can’t hurt themselves.
- Seizures longer than 3 minutes can cause overheating in your dog. Better prepare a cold towel you can put around their groin or head.
- If it’s still going on, it’s best to take your dog to a veterinarian.
- Or after the seizure, log down how long it was and what happened. Then, call your dog’s vet to let them know so they can tell you what to do next.
Your dog needs regular help from their veterinarian for the remaining reasons. Which are eyesight problems, infections, dementia, and head trauma.
Overall, your dog’s vet will advise you on what to do and proceed with your dog’s treatment.