This paper reports an energy-based method for the dynamic pull-in instability analysis of a spherical dielectric elastomer (DE) balloon subjected to a quasi-statically applied inflation pressure and a Heaviside step voltage across the balloon wall. The proposed technique relies on establishing the energy balance at the point of maximum stretch in an oscillation cycle, followed by the imposition of an instability condition for extracting the threshold parameters. The material models of the Ogden family are employed for describing the hyperelasticity of the balloon. The accuracy of the critical dynamic pull-in parameters is established by examining the saddle-node bifurcation in the transient response of the balloon obtained by integrating numerically the equation of motion, derived using the Euler-Lagrange equation. The parametric study brings out the effect of inflation pressure on the onset of the pull-in instability in the DE balloon. A quantitative comparison between the static and dynamic pull-in parameters at four different levels of the inflation pressure is presented. The results indicate that the dynamic pull-in instability gets triggered at electric fields that are lower than those corresponding to the static instability. The results of the present investigation can find potential use in the design and development of the balloon actuators subjected to transient loading. The method developed is versatile and can be used in the dynamic instability analysis of other conservative systems of interest. © 2018 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.