My Dog Is Having Trouble Standing and Walking – 7 Possible Causes

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Dogs tend to be very active and energetic creatures, which is why it can be so startling and concerning if you notice that your canine companion has begun struggling when they attempt to stand up or walk.

Rather than panic, you can read our informative guide, which will explain six of the most common causes of these relatively common issues. Better yet, we will explain what you should do to help your pooch overcome its recent troubles.

Table of Contents

6 Reasons Why Dogs Have Trouble Standing and Walking

Before we get into the most common causes for standing and walking issues, you must make the differentiation between difficulty moving and a complete inability to do so.

Your dog needs veterinary attention immediately if it cannot stand or walk. This is because it could signify a serious and even life-threatening issue. When a dog cannot stand or walk unassisted, it becomes a quality-of-life issue and needs to be addressed immediately.

On the other hand, if your dog is just having trouble standing and walking, meaning they seem more strained than usual, the following causes could be responsible:

1. Canine Arthritis and Other Joint Pain Issues

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Like humans, dogs are susceptible to various joint-related issues, including arthritis. These issues tend to become more prominent with an old dog but can also occur due to an injury.

Certain breeds are also more susceptible to joint pain and arthritis than others. The same is true for overweight and obese dogs. Unfortunately, certain species also tend to develop these debilitating conditions at a young age than breeds less prone to joint issues.

Canine arthritis causes severe inflammation within the joints, which can cause severe pain when the dog attempts to move the impacted joints. As you would expect, this can significantly reduce a dog’s movements, as each step can become very painful.

Joint pain and arthritis that impacts a dog’s ability to stand and walk tend to be located in the hips and elbows. Elbow and hip dysplasia are similar to arthritis, reducing a dog’s ability to move correctly.

For more information about canine arthritis, consider reading the American Kennel Club’s informative guide – Osteoarthritis in Dogs – Signs and Treatments.

What should you do if your dog struggles to stand and walk due to joint issues?

If you suspect joint issues are responsible for your dog’s struggles, the first step is to take them to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Your vet could recommend various treatment options, including prescription pain medications, a weight loss program, and modified exercise routines. Certain supplements, like glucosamine and chondroitin, can help with joint deterioration and pain. 

2. Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Another painful and debilitating condition that can make it difficult for dogs to walk and stand is intervertebral disc disease.

At its most severe, this condition causes weak back legs and can even lead to sudden paralysis. In many cases, it causes the dog’s hind legs to collapse. IVDD occurs when the soft cushioning between the bones within the spine becomes damaged or compressed. 

When this occurs, the nerves within the spine and the spinal cord can be pinched, which can cause pain and even complete paralysis. IVDD can also be referred to as a slipped or herniated disc. In most cases, IVDD occurs due to a back or neck injury; however, certain breeds are also prone to the condition.

Breeds with long backs, like a dachshund, corgi, or basset hound, are usually the most susceptible to IVDD. With that said, all types of dogs can experience IVDD. Overweight dogs are also at a much higher risk of the condition, as the added weight strains the spinal column. 

For more information about IVDD and potential treatments for affected dogs, consider reading Broad Street Veterinary Hospital’s guide – What is IVDD in Dogs? – Answers About Surgery, Costs, and Recovery.

What should you do if your dog struggles to stand and walk due to IVDD?

You need to take your dog to a veterinary clinic immediately. This very dangerous condition needs to be treated as soon as possible. It is a time-sensitive issue and can quickly lead to other dangerous health issues.

Depending on the diagnosis, your veterinarian may recommend surgery; however, rehabilitation training can also help in certain situations. 

3. A Physical Injury to a Paw or Leg

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A physical injury is one of the most apparent reasons dogs struggle to stand and walk. If your dog seems strained when they stand or walk, they may have hurt a paw, leg, or even their back.

Injuries can range in severity and how long they inhibit a dog’s movement. Superficial blisters, cuts, and splinters are relatively easy to resolve, and most dogs struggle through the pain. On the other hand, severe injuries, like broken bones, can be incredibly debilitating.

If the dog is completely refusing to move or is yelping in pain when they do so, there is a good chance that the injury is serious. It is probably a reasonably mild injury if they walk with a slightly abnormal gait or are somewhat limping.

What should you do if an injury is causing your dog to struggle when they walk and stand?

The first step is identifying the injury and its severity. Carefully and gently inspect the dog’s legs and paws for apparent signs of damage. The dog may pull away when you touch a particular leg or paw.

If it is a severe injury, visit a veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan. In the meantime, reduce the amount of movement your dog needs to do.

4. A Neurological Disorder

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Various neurological disorders and even head trauma can impact a dog’s ability to stand and walk. In many cases, disruptions to a dog’s ability to stand, walk, and sit down are the earliest signs that the dog is developing a neurological disorder.

These issues are far more common in senior dogs. Unfortunately, brain function tends to decline as a dog ages. Dogs are susceptible to a form of dementia known as canine cognitive dysfunction. This particular condition can impact a senior dog’s movements and much more.

What should you do if you suspect your dog suffers from a neurological disorder?

The first step will be identifying the particular disorder that your dog is suffering from, which means a veterinarian will have to diagnose the issue. 

Once a diagnosis has been made, the veterinarian may recommend visiting a canine neurology specialist, as they might be able to help improve your dog’s quality of life through a variety of treatment options.

5. Obesity

Canine obesity is surprisingly common and can significantly impact a dog’s mobility. The added body weight can make it difficult for the dog to stand up. It can also make walking significantly more tiring, which could explain why your dog seems to be laboring with their steps.

Obesity can also lead to diabetes and various other severe health conditions.

What should you do if your dog’s weight is causing them to have difficulty standing and walking?

The first thing you need to do is get your dog on a healthier diet and exercise plan. Unfortunately, many cheaper dog foods are filled with unhealthy fillers that can cause excessive weight gain.

You can speak with your veterinarian about an age- and breed-appropriate diet. There are also dog foods that are specifically designed to help dogs lose weight. 

Your vet may also recommend an exercise plan that involves taking a higher frequency of short, manageable walks each day until your dog has lost enough weight that they can tolerate longer walks.

For more information on canine obesity, consider reading the American Kennel Club’s guide to weight management – Obesity in Dogs – A Major Health Issue Hiding in Plain Sight.

6. Ataxia

Ataxia is a medical term that describes a group of conditions that can impact a dog’s gait. In addition to struggling while they walk and stand, you may notice that your dog struggles to walk in a straight line. It may even seem like they drift from side to side when they walk. 

Ataxia and your dog’s struggles with walking and standing can be caused by several conditions, including the following:

  • The side effects of a prescription medication
  • A vestibular disease which means a disease that affects the ears and the dog’s balance
  • A tumor that is located within the dog’s brain
  • Numerous illnesses that cause lethargy and a lack of coordination 

What should you do if ataxia is responsible for your dog’s strained movements?

Since many issues can cause ataxia, you must ensure that your dog’s condition is accurately diagnosed. This means booking a vet appointment.

Luckily, there are many treatments, but they will depend on the root cause of the ataxia.

7. Various Types of Cancer

Sadly, certain types of cancer can also cause a dog to have difficulty standing and walking because cancer can be localized in the bones of a hind limb or the pelvis. Certain organ tumors can also press against the nerves connected to a dog’s legs.

Osteosarcoma is often seen in the tibia and fibula bones, which would make it very difficult for a dog to walk and stand. If your dog is suffering from this form of cancer, you may notice that they limp and are reluctant to put their full weight on their limbs.

What should you do if cancer is responsible for your dog’s difficulties walking and standing?

First of all, you need to book a vet appointment right away. Cancer is always a time-sensitive issue, as an early diagnosis can significantly increase your dog’s chances of survival.

Depending on the type of cancer and how far it has progressed, there might be treatment plans that can help your dog.