If your dog is suddenly having trouble walking or standing, do not ignore it. As a responsible dog owner, you need to take care of any lameness problem in your dog. It could be something minor, such as blisters on one of your dog’s paws or a pulled muscle. On the other hand, it could be something serious enough to warrant examination and treatment by your vet.
Some Common Conditions That Can Impair Your Dog’s Mobility
It is disconcerting when you notice your dog having difficulty walking or standing. If you are unsure what to do or if your dog is struggling, do not hesitate to contact your vet.
Some of the more common causes of lameness and difficulty walking in dogs include:
Osteoarthritis is a common health problem in dogs, especially in large, heavy-boned dogs or in senior dogs (though arthritis can develop in even younger dogs). Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, causing pain and discomfort. It most commonly affects dogs in the hip, elbow, shoulder, wrist, stifle (knee joint in the hind legs), hock, and spine. Arthritis in any of these joints can make walking difficult for your dog.
You will notice the dog limping or moving with an abnormal gait. Your dog may be unwilling or even unable to rise from a prone position. These symptoms can be sudden and the result of the dog stiffening after overexertion, in much the same way as you may feel the day after engaging in heavy exercise.
Diagnosing arthritis requires an examination by your vet and probably x-rays of painful joints. You may also need to have the dog’s joint fluid analyzed or other tests done to rule out other disease conditions.
Treatment for arthritis will consist of prescription canine medications designed to relieve the symptoms. Your vet can provide advice on how you can help your dog at home and can recommend other treatments as appropriate for your dog’s condition.
Injury to a Paw, Leg, or Back
If your dog is walking but unwilling to put its weight on one of its legs, you should suspect an injury. Carefully inspect the dog’s paws for splinters, cuts, blisters, damaged toenails, or any sign of injury. Sometimes a dog’s paws have become burned from excessively hot or rough pavement surfaces or injured by frost or ice. In those cases, the dog may simply sit and refuse to move (called “planting”), or the dog may move with a very abnormal gait as it tries to avoid the pain in its paws.
If you have ruled out an injury to the dog’s paws, the injury may be higher up on the leg. If your dog will tolerate it, gently feel around its leg and try to detect unusual swelling or heat to locate the source of the problem. When you touch a painful area, your dog may react by pulling away from you, excessively licking the area, snapping at you, or yelping.
Depending on the injury, your dog may need examination and treatment by your vet. If you suspect a back injury, an examination by your vet is appropriate.
Sometimes exposure to toxic substances will cause a paralyzing effect that impairs the dog’s ability to walk. Diagnosis and treatment require a vet examination.
Examples of these conditions occur if your dog has reacted to the toxin in tick bites. The toxin is discharged into a dog’s bloodstream through the tick’s saliva. This toxin can cause a dog to become unable to control movements or become paralyzed. With proper treatment, the dog can recover in 48 to 72 hours.
Exposure to raccoon saliva can also paralyze a dog. “Coonhound paralysis” may cause temporary or permanent paralysis to all four of the dog’s legs. It attacks the dog’s spinal cord and nervous system. An infected dog may not show symptoms for a week or two after exposure. With proper treatment, a dog can begin to show improvement after three weeks with full recovery taking from two to six months.
Wobblers syndrome is a condition that causes a dog of any age to have an unsteady gait. It is the result of spinal cord compression caused by the narrowing of the vertebral canal, or by a ruptured disc in the neck. Large breed dogs are more prone to developing the disease, and care should be taken to avoid rapid growth in those breeds to minimize the risk of it developing.
With wobblers syndrome, the dog’s vertebrae become malformed during their development or are unable to come together properly. It causes not only gait problems but moderate to severe discomfort.
Symptoms of wobblers syndrome are progressive as the dog ages, although in rare cases, the onset of symptoms is sudden. Your vet can diagnose the condition and prescribe appropriate treatment, though there is no cure for it.
Spinal Cord Injury
An injury to your dog’s spinal cord is extremely serious. A sign of spinal cord injury is that your dog is unable to get up or walk. It is a life-threatening emergency, and you need to get your dog to a vet as soon as possible.
Talk To The Caring Professionals At Paw Pals
The professionals at Paw Pals care deeply about the well-being of their clients’ canine companions. If you have a dog with mobility issues, the Paw Pals experts are happy to discuss the issues your dog is experiencing and provide professional support in caring for your dog. Contact them for more information.