Dog Looking Around Frantically (10 Must Know Reasons!)

I thought my cat was the weird done in the family until I adopted my dog. He soon took over the throne with his daily ‘head scratching’ antics.

If you are a dog owner yourself, there’s no doubt your dog does exhibit weird behavior at times.

Are there times when you catch your dog looking around frantically out of the blue?

This behavior can be due to a couple of reasons like aging, having hallucinations, fear, anxiety and fly snapping syndrome. Some of these symptoms are serious and require medical attention immediately.

In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the possible reasons that can lead to such a behavior in dogs. And more importantly, what dog owners can do to help their dogs.

Let’s get started.

Why Does My Dog Seem Frantic?

You should not be too alarmed if you happen to see your dog looking around frantically or when your dog stares blankly at nothing.

Dogs do have senses that are a lot more sensitive than humans.

Your dog might have heard or smelt something in the air that surprised it hence the reaction.

What we should be more concerned about here is if the dog acts this way due to underlying health problems.

This is something that needs to be addressed before it gets worse.

Here are a number of possible reasons that can cause your dog to behave frantically.

1. Your Dog Is Getting Old

As much as we hate to deny it, we are all going to get old one day, our dogs too. And with age, comes several health conditions that might arise.

Our mental and physical health deteriorates as we get older.

We get slower, more forgetful and absent-minded. Nothing to be ashamed of, it is just part of the life cycle.

Some dogs can suffer from canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDS) which is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans.

Dogs with this condition tend to wander around the house aimlessly looking disorientated and frantic.

This is due to an impairment in their memory, recognition and thought processes.

When old dogs stare blankly at the wall, they might be trying to remember something that keeps escaping them.

Dog breeds with a shorter life span like bulldogs and pugs can have an earlier onset of CCDS.

What used to be a reflex action is now a thing of the past.

The dog forgets where it is at times and starts to panic.

There is no cure for this disease in older dogs.

But with proper management and regular health checks, you can give your dog a good quality of life in its golden years.

2. Nystagmus

We are able to move our eyeballs voluntarily to scan the area in front of us. What is abnormal is when the dog’s eyes can flicker and twitch on their own even when the head is still.

This condition is called nystagmus and it too can happen in dogs and humans. The primary cause is due to vestibular disease.

The vestibular system in the dog’s body controls its sense of balance. A problem with the vestibular system could mean that there’s an issue with the dog’s ears or brain.

There are two types of nystagmus that the dog can suffer from.

Pendular nystagmus – When the eyeballs move in small oscillations like a swinging pendulum

Jerk nystagmus – When the eyeballs move slowly in one direction and then suddenly jerk back in the other direction

Imagine how frantic and confused your dog must be to have its vision having a mind of its own.

Nystagmus can happen more commonly in old dogs but there are other factors that can also cause this condition:

This is a serious medical issue that needs immediate veterinarian attention as it involves the dog’s central nervous system.

3. Head Trauma

As mentioned earlier, head trauma is a possible cause of nystagmus in dogs outside of old age.

This can happen if the dog was involved in an accident that resulted in a strong blow to the head.

Dogs that have experienced physical abuse to the head can also suffer from nystagmus.

Such a strong blow to the head can cause damage to the brain, internal bleeding or even damage to the dog’s ear drums.

If your dog has had any trauma to the head, it would be best to bring it to the vet to do a scan or x-ray.

Any head injury that is left untreated can cause many behavioral issues with your dog down the road.

4. Fly Snapping Syndrome

fly snapping syndrome

As amusing as the name sounds, fly biting or fly snapping syndrome is actually a real medical issue in dogs.

Dogs that suffer from this condition will tend to frequently jump into the air while biting at nothing.

It does seem that the dog is trying to catch a fly in the air but in reality, there isn’t anything there.

The exact cause for fly biting syndrome in dogs is still up for debate. But it is said that it could be caused by:

Complex Partial Seizures

These seizures can alter your dog’s thought processes, making them hallucinate and think that there are actually flies flying around them.

This is a rather rare condition in dogs and as amusing as it might seem, it can cause distress and anxiety in dogs, making them behave frantically.

Other behavioral issues like anger, rage and even confusion can accompany these seizures.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder can happen in dogs too as ‘tics’ and ‘fly snapping’ behavior. It could be derived from boredom and anxiety.

If this behavior only occurs under certain situations it can be a learned behavior and not due to underlying medical issues.

Rescue dogs who have suffered from abuse can develop PTSD which leads to these behaviors too.

Gastrointestinal Conditions

Dogs that have digestive issues like throat discomfort or canine bloat can also exhibit this strange behavior.

Do note that canine bloat is a very serious condition whereby air is trapped in your dog’s stomach and causes the stomach to twist onto itself.

You will notice that your dog’s tummy will like bloated and your dog might even frequently stretch its neck and look up to relieve the stomach pressure.

You need to get your dog to the vet immediately for surgery as canine bloat can make your dog sick.

5. Eyesight Problems

Dogs with problems with their vision can start biting at thin air. This can be due to old age or eye injuries.

A change in your dog’s vision due to a cyst or floaters can be confusing for your dog. It will make it seem to your dog that there are flying objects around its head.

You would have experienced floaters in vision if you happen to rub your eyes too hard or when dirt gets trapped in your eye.

This might explain why your dog is so frantically hyped up trying to catch these imaginary flies with his mouth.

6. Toxic Poisoning

I have a good friend that works as a vet assistant and she has seen the weirdest things that dogs can eat out of curiosity.

Tennis balls and squeaker toys are rather common. Then there are really weird objects like sponges, lego pieces, plastic, etc.

What can make a dog’s curiosity dangerous is when it eats something toxic like toothpaste, garlic, onions or chocolate.

You need to keep toothpaste and pain relief medication like lidocaine away from dogs are they are really poisonous to dogs.

If your dog happens to eat anything that can alter its state of reality like psychotherapeutic drugs, it might heighten its anxiety levels and make it behave frantically.

It isn’t natural for animals to feel high or stoned.

Such drugs can influence your dog’s central nervous system making it feel paranoid. It can also cause vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness.

Most of the time, the effects will wear off after some time. But it would be best to give your vet a call and let them know what your dog has taken and the next best course of action.

7. Stress And Anxiety

As an owner of both cats and dogs, I can safely say that dogs do get stressed and anxious, just like cats.

This can be brought about by a change in an environment like moving house or an addition of a new pet or family member.

Or if you have just adopted a rescue dog, it could be due to your dog missing its foster parents.

My dog was a bundle of nerves when I first brought my cat home. He behaved like the world was crashing down on him and that I didn’t love him anymore.

Dogs can be such drama queens at times.

Thankfully, all was well after a month.

Prolonged stress in pets isn’t healthy for them. A dog that is too stressed will exhibit symptoms like:

  • Growling
  • Whining
  • Destructive behavior
  • Showing frantic behavior

It would be best for the dog owner to try and calm the dog down using various relaxation methods.

If you notice that your dog has been feeling stressed or behaving more aggressively recently for no rhyme or reason, it could be a thyroid disorder that is causing such unprovoked behavioral issues.

A visit to a pet therapist can also help diagnose your dog’s symptoms and resolve them.

8. Separation Anxiety

This is a rather common form of anxiety for many dogs. They tend to get anxious when separated from their owners.

Most dogs can be by themselves during the day while the owner is out at work or running errands. However, certain dog breeds require more attention and can’t be left alone for too long.

Some dogs can exhibit separation anxiety towards a single family member that it is closer to.

These dogs can start to behave frantically when they realize that the owner is not around.

Some dogs will even chase after their owners’ cars when they leave.

This is a very dangerous reaction from a dog and can result in a serious accident.

It isn’t uncommon to come back to a messed-up home as such dogs can exhibit destructive behavior to show their displeasure.

9. Attention Seeking Behavior

Dogs in general need more attention from their owners than cats. Dogs need to be walked daily, some breeds more than once, like Satffies.

A dog that does not get enough attention will feel unloved and depressed.

It might be acting up in this manner to get attention from its owner.

If you have been neglecting your dog recently due to work or other personal commitments, it is time to start showing it more attention.

10. Your Dog Just Had A Bad Dream

Similar to humans, it is very possible for dogs to dream as well.

During the rapid eye movement phase of your dog’s sleep, it will start to dream and can show signs of vocalization and movement.

Do be surprised to find your dog screaming frantically upon waking up due to having a bad dream.

Some dogs can even sleep with their eyes open and it seems like the dog’s eyes have rolled back during this phase of sleep. It definitely looks a lot scarier than it actually is.

My Dog Is Acting Like He Is Seeing Things

Have you ever noticed your dog barking in an empty hallway? Or sitting down and staring at your closet that’s closed?

There might be more than meets the eye.

Outside of having hallucinations, some dog owners believe that dogs are able to see and sense paranormal activity.

Dogs have far greater acute senses that might give them the ability to sense ‘ghosts and spirits.

People who believe in paranormal activity say that some of these things resonate at a frequency that is invisible to our human senses. But it is as clear as day to dogs.

There have been many videos that have captured dogs behaving frantically at night. They seem to be looking and chasing after something that can’t be captured on film.

As spooky as it may sound, it is just all speculation as of now as there hasn’t been any scientific proof of a dog’s ability to sense or see paranormal activity.

Dog Acting Like Something Is Crawling On Him

If your dog is behaving like something is crawling on it, make sure to give your dog’s coat a good check.

Dogs are very susceptible to fleas and ticks as they spend more time outdoors going for walks and playing with other dogs.

These parasites like to live in wooded and grassy areas waiting for a suitable host to come by. And if your dog comes near, they will jump onto your dog and start feeding on it.

Fleas and ticks can spread other diseases to your dog so it is important to get rid of them as soon as possible.

There is Nexgard for dogs that helps to eradicate such parasites. Bathing your dog with anti-flea/tick shampoo can also help keep them away.


As you can see, there are many possible reasons that can cause your dog to behave frantically.

What you can do to help narrow down the cause is to carefully observe your dog when it happens.

Look out for external factors that can trigger such behavior.

Give your dog a physical examination as well to see if it’s a medical issue.

Last but not least, it is always best to seek medical advice from your vet about such behaviors. They will be in a better position to diagnose your dog and set it back on the road to recovery.

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