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What is Pain When Walking?

When dogs experience pain when walking, it can be attributed to many different medical conditions that would need to be checked by your veterinarian. Like humans, dogs may experience occasional routine pain when walking which can be the result of simply having slept on their legs for too long. However, if you begin to notice other symptoms such as limping while walking and general discomfort in mobility, it is recommended that a veterinarian appointment be scheduled to rule out these possibilities:

  • Arthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Lyme disease

It is essential to monitor a dog that is showcasing signs of pain when walking as it can indicate a more serious medical condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.

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Why Pain When Walking Occurs in Dogs

There are many different causes for pain when walking in dogs. Your dog may be experiencing passing pain which can be an occasional discomfort or it can be the result of a more serious medical condition. Pain when walking in dogs should not be disregarded and should be monitored closely, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as lameness, stiffness, and lack of ability to walk. There are a few reasons why a dog may experience pain when walking:


When it comes to pain when walking in dogs, arthritis can be considered one of the most common causes of pain. It is estimated that 1 in 5 dogs suffers from the symptoms of arthritis, which can cause severe discomfort and pain if left untreated. Arthritis is defined as a degenerative disease caused by average wear and tear in joints. Due to the chronic condition that is arthritis, it is essential to keep your veterinarian informed of any possible changes your dog has been experiencing in terms of his daily routine. 

If your dog has started slowing down in his mobility, it is imperative that you seek veterinary guidance to help assist with your dog's health. Some of the following signs are important to monitor in your dog such as lameness or stiffness, slow gait, lethargy, muscle atrophy, swelling, or licking of joints. While there are five types of arthritis in dogs, there are two common arthritis conditions known as degenerative joint disease and inflammatory joint disease. Degenerative joint disease results from erosion of the cartilage in the bones caused by friction. Inflammatory joint disease can occur from infection and bone spurs. The less common conditions are known as metabolic (joint-bleeding), crystalloid (joints being formed with crystals), and neoplastic.

Hip Dysplasia

If you notice your dog exhibiting pain when walking, it can be indicative of a medical condition such as hip dysplasia. If you notice your dog has been limping and struggling to navigate up and down the stairs, hip dysplasia may be another medical condition to look into. Hip dysplasia may manifest with symptoms similar to arthritis, which can cause confusion as to the true diagnosis for your dog. Hip dysplasia is caused by an abnormal formation in the hip socket which may result in discomfort and pain. You may notice your dog experiencing the following symptoms: pain after physical exertion, change of gait, stiffness in the mornings, and difficulty navigating stairs. The severity of hip dysplasia varies from minor irritation to severe pain which can incapacitate your dog. 

Hip dysplasia can affect any dog at any age, including puppies. While hip dysplasia can occur in any dog, there are breeds that are susceptible to the medical condition. The breeds that may suffer from hip dysplasia include the German Shepherds, Great Danes, Mastiffs, Retrievers, Rottweilers, and Saint Bernards. If you observe your dog with pain when walking, it is highly recommended to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.  

Lyme Disease

Another medical condition that can cause pain when walking in dogs is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is transmitted through a tick bite, usually the deer tick. Lyme disease can be difficult to initially diagnose, due to the lack of rash that usually plagues humans. Once the tick bites your dog, the infection enters the bloodstream, and can cause your dog to experience joint inflammation, fever, lameness, issues related to kidneys, as well as cardiovascular and neurological problems.

A delay in diagnosing Lyme disease may occur since symptoms can take as long as 2 to 5 months to manifest. Symptoms can be similar to arthritis or hip dysplasia, which is another reason why seeking a veterinarian's advice is highly recommended. Some of the symptoms that can manifest as a result of Lyme disease are walking with pain, generalized pain, lameness, limping, lack of appetite, and potentially swollen lymph nodes. 

Walking when in pain may only indicate one symptom of a potentially devastating medical condition. These conditions are not exhaustive and should only be used to confirm whether your dog has been experiencing certain symptoms. It is important to follow up with your veterinarian to pinpoint and treat the appropriate medical condition.

What to do if your Dog is Pain When Walking

If your dog is experiencing pain when walking, it is essential to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Once at the veterinarian, your dog will be checked thoroughly to rule out certain medical conditions and diagnose him with the appropriate condition. 

If your dog's pain when walking is caused by arthritis, expect x-rays to be part of the process to determine what is causing his mobility to decrease. Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medications to relieve pain symptoms and reduce joint inflammation. 

If your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia, thorough examinations will determine whether surgery is an option or not. Surgery will not always be a suitable option for your dog as it depends on many factors such as age, severity of condition, and prognosis. Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medications and supplements to ease the pain and reduce the discomfort in your dog's daily routine. 

If your dog is suffering from Lyme disease, a physical exam will be a priority in order to look for swollen lymph nodes, swollen joints, lameness, and fever. An x-ray will help detect any abnormalities that are causing your dog pain. Blood analysis and urinalysis can also help eliminate other medical conditions. If it is suspected that your dog has Lyme disease, an antibody test and PCR analysis can confirm the presence of the condition. An antibody test can detect antibodies within the bacteria while the PCR analysis tests for bacterial DNA in the synovial (joint fluid) fluid. However, a PCR analysis test is preferred over the antibody test as the antibody test would not be able to result in a positive result if your dog was recently infected. Your dog may be prescribed antibiotics and treatment can last between 2 to 4 weeks. If the antibiotic is unsuccessful, your veterinarian may prescribe an alternative antibiotic. It is recommended to allow your dog to relax in a calm environment while he recovers from Lyme disease.

Whether it is arthritis, hip dysplasia, or Lyme disease, it is important to continue to monitor your dog for any additional symptoms after being seen at the veterinarian. Monitor his diet, water intake, and any changes in behavior which may indicate whether he is in pain. If there are any changes which are not typical of your dog, it is essential to reach out to the veterinarian for a follow up. Your veterinarian may suggest a towel in order to best support your pet’s mobility.

Prevention of Pain When Walking

If your dog is experiencing pain when walking, there are ways to help soothe and relieve some of the symptoms after he has seen the veterinarian. Prevention of pain when walking depends on the cause of the pain and where it originates from. Using preventative measures such as an exercise plan and the appropriate diet can improve your dog's quality of life. An appropriate diet can help maintain your dog's weight, which would decrease the risk of developing arthritis. While arthritis may still develop later in life, it would be less severe than if your dog developed it earlier in life. The risk for arthritis may increase if your dog is overweight since there is more wear and tear on his joints. 

Maintaining an active lifestyle can help decrease the risk of pain when walking in dogs by maintaining muscle strength. If your dog is experiencing pain with his joints, leash walking is an effective form of exercise to maintain his active exercise. It is important to avoid some activities that may exacerbate some of the symptoms associated with pain when walking in dogs such as jumping or running up and down the stairs.

It is recommended that your dog visit the veterinarian for routine checkups to monitor his medical condition and provide suggestions for further treatment. It is also recommended to maintain your dog dry since damp conditions can exacerbate pain symptoms. In addition to routine checkups, your veterinarian may also prescribe pain medication to help relieve pain as well as vitamin supplements to help improve joint mobility.

Cost of Pain When Walking

Treating a dog that is experiencing pain when walking can become costly. The cost of treatment will vary drastically depending on the cause of the pain when walking. If his pain while walking is caused by arthritis, the cost will average around $300 to treat the condition. If his pain while walking is caused by hip dysplasia or Lyme disease, you can expect to pay an average of $2,500, which can vary depending on the severity of the conditions. The cost of treatments for these conditions will vary depending on how far along the condition has progressed and the options available to treat your dog.