Mobility Problems in Dogs

Mobility Problems in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Mobility Problems?

Dogs can develop problems with mobility for a number of reasons and although this condition is seen most frequently in older dogs, younger dogs may also be afflicted. This can occur due to birth defects, physical trauma, or neurological damage. If your pet is exhibiting difficulties moving they should be seen by a veterinarian. Treatment methods that are available will depend on the underlying cause of the mobility problem, and may include dietary supplements, medications, therapeutic tools, and in some cases, surgery.

Mobility can be a problem for canines due to age, injury, or birth defect. In some cases, these conditions are quite painful, but in other cases the afflicted animal is free from pain. 

Symptoms of Mobility Problems in Dogs

Mobility problems in dogs can crop up in a number of ways. In many cases, a dog that is afflicted with mobility issues may also experience pain when attempting to move, so they may make vocalizations that are uncharacteristic for them or may be reluctant to rise or to exercise. There are some occasions where dogs may have difficulty moving without pain, such as dogs that experience paralysis due to either neurological disorders or spinal damage.

  • Pain
  • Recumbency
  • Lack of interest in activity or exercise
  • Lack of movement


  • Age-related Disorders - Most disorders that result in a loss of mobility are disorders that commonly develop as animals grow older; these conditions, such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, and cancer, are typically accompanied by significant amounts of pain 
  • Birth Defect - Some birth defects, particularly those of the spine such as spina bifida or spinal stenosis, may cause dogs to have mobility difficulties even when they are very young  
  • Injury - Some injuries may cause damage to the bones, joints, or muscles which can lead to difficulty moving; although many of the injuries that may contribute to issues with mobility will eventually heal, there are some that may cause permanent paralysis or weakness

Causes of Mobility Problems in Dogs

There are several disorders that may lead to difficulty or pain for canines, some of these conditions include: 

  • Arthritis - One of the more common causes of mobility difficulties, arthritis is typically known as a condition that occurs during the senior years, but it can sometimes occur in younger dogs as well 
  • Back Problems - Back problems, particularly those related to the spinal column itself, may impede natural movement as well; in some cases, injury or chronic physical stress may lead to the back trouble, while in other situations, diseases such as degenerative myelopathy, spondylosis, or a disc prolapse, may be the cause 
  • Dysplasia - Although all dogs are subject to the possibility of developing either hip or elbow dysplasia, it is most frequently seen in large or giant breed dogs 
  • Neurological Disorders- Neurological damage, such as the damage caused by a stroke, meningoencephalitis, or even certain types of poison, can also cause canines to have difficulty walking or standing
  • Tumors - Either malignant or benign tumors can interfere with the animal’s normal movement and may also cause pain when they attempt to move

Diagnosis of Mobility Problems in Dogs

Your pet’s doctor is likely to start with a thorough physical examination in order to evaluate the general health of the dog as well as to also assist them in pinpointing the location of the pain. Diagnostic blood tests, such as a complete blood count, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile, will also be ordered to determine if there are any infections or imbalances that may be contributing to the immobility. Radiographs, also known as x-ray imaging, will be utilized to help visualize the bones as well as getting a clearer picture of the joints.This may help to determine if conditions such as damage to the bones or arthritis. 

If arthritis is suspected, then the examining vet may also take a sample of the synovial fluid that lubricates the joint capsule for evaluation.  An examination of the patient's neurological functionality may also be done to rule out any neurological damage or disease. In cases where spinal dysfunction is suspected, a contrast dye will be injected into the space around the spinal cord in order to trace fluid’s movement within the spine during the x-ray procedure.

Treatment of Mobility Problems in Dogs

Treatment for mobility related disorders will depend on the underlying condition that is causing the difficulty moving. Some of these conditions, such as cancerous tumors, dysplasia, and even in some severe cases of arthritis, may require surgery. In other cases, surgery is not effective, and other methods will be used to help increase the patient’s ability to get around. These therapeutic methods can include not only anti-inflammatory medications, but also hydrotherapy, therapeutic massage, and acupuncture or acupressure. These methods can be particularly helpful in relieving pain from disorders like arthritis and hip dysplasia as well as helping canines that have been stricken with neurological conditions. 

Hydrotherapy has also been proven beneficial for the patient’s digestion and circulation as well as promoting good balance and regular swimming in a safe environment is an exercise that may help to reduce the chance of your dog developing these disorders in the first place. While some disorders, like uncomplicated back injuries, some tumors, and even some neurological diseases, are reversible, most are incurable. These disorders are typically treated to manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disability, and therapeutic tools such as harnesses, slings, and canine wheelchairs may need to be employed.

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Recovery of Mobility Problems in Dogs

There are many simple things you can do to make your home environment more comfortable for your mobility challenged pet. Some of these measures may include:

  • Ensure nails are regularly checked and trimmed 
  • Get a ramp or doggy stairs to get into the car or on the bed or couch
  • Keep food and water dishes in close reach
  • Maintain a moderate temperature indoors
  • Provide a thick, padded bed 
  • Put skid-proof socks on your dog
  • Reduce narrow spaces, particularly between furniture
  • Supplement the dog’s diet with glucosamine
  • Use area rugs for traction on slippery floors
  • Use non-stick stair treads on stairs

Mobility Problems Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


corgi mix



Three Years


2 found this helpful


2 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Pain When Trying To Move
my dog is having pain when moving, he lost a lot of weight cause he stopped eating. I noticed he has pain when trying to chew too. I'm not sure what is wrong with him. Maybe you can help to see what is the problem.

Jan. 6, 2021

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

2 Recommendations

Hello, SO sorry to hear that your dog is painful. He could have an infected tooth causing him to not want to eat and pain when he is chewing. It would be best for your vet to look at his teeth and see if one needs to be removed. I hope he starts to feel better soon. Good Luck.

Jan. 7, 2021

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13 Years


5 found this helpful


5 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Trouble Walking Without Pain
My dog has been having issues walking for the past 2 weeks. He's had similar issues before that seemed related to a supplement called BeWell for dogs sold by I've stopped giving him the supplement about a week ago, but there has been no improvement. He's not in pain, has an appetite, and no change in bathroom habits. The back legs are the legs most affected. When he tries to walk it looks like his back legs give out, like the muscles are too weak. This has caused him to be less mobile, even around the house. He does have some joint issues like most chihuahuas, but the severity of the problem was sudden. What could be the most common cause and will it resolve?

May 10, 2018

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

5 Recommendations

Henry could be having a joint or muscle issue, arthritis, a back or neck problem, or a systemic problem causing that weakness. Since I cannot examine him to determine what might be going on, it would be best to have him examined by a veterinarian. They will be able to look at him, determine what the cause of the problem might be, and recommend any testing or treatment that he may need. I hope that all goes well for him.

May 11, 2018

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