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What is Unable to Walk?

An inability to walk refers to your dog’s lack of ability to stand and walk on his own. This is a distinct condition which differs from difficulty in walking, or lack of desire to walk. A dog who has engaged in strenuous physical exercise might be tired or sore, and may have even pulled a muscle, but that dog should still be able to walk if he wants to. A dog with the inability to walk cannot stand or move on his own. 

  • Arthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Fibrocartilaginous Embolic Myelopathy

This is always a very serious condition, and requires immediate veterinary assessment and treatment. A dog who is not mobile cannot take care of his own bodily functions, and will require some kind of medical care if he is to survive. 

Why Unable to Walk Occurs in Dogs

A dog’s inability to walk is typically due to either a problem with the dog’s joints or issues with his spinal cord.

Arthritis

Arthritis is probably the most common reason for a dog’s inability to walk. It often develops with age, but can even occur in very young dogs. Arthritis develops in 1 out of every 5 dogs from wear and tear on their joints. More specific causes can include cruciate ligament tear, poor nutrition, joint infection, extra stress from heavy exercise or injury, age, and obesity, among others. If your dog takes great care with his joint movements, such as moving more slowly, moving very slowly or having difficulty getting up after resting, licking his joints, or exhibiting reluctance to jump or move about, arthritis may be developing. 

Hip Dysplasia

In hip dysplasia, there is similar wear and tear, but only to the hip joint. It is a hereditary condition, and can develop in your dog as early as 16 weeks old. Though stereotypically thought to affect only large breeds, such as German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, and Great Danes—breeds that carry a lot of weight, thus putting a lot of pressure on the hip joints—hip dysplasia can even affect small breeds. Symptoms are similar to those of arthritis, but are localized in the hips, and include lower levels of activity, difficulty using the rear legs for anything, and evidence of pain in the hip joints.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

In intervertebral disc disease, the discs between the spinal vertebrae rupture, and no longer adequately cushion the discs, leaving them to rub on each other. This hurts, and the dog can lose feeling and function of his legs, possibly even becoming paralyzed. The discs can either gradually degenerate, or rupture suddenly, but in both cases, the rupture is the result of everyday wear and tear and disc deterioration. This condition is more likely to occur in dogs that have dwarfism in their genes, including the Dachshund, Pekingese, Beagle, and Lhasa Apso. 

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy occurs when the spinal cord’s white matter degenerates over time; like intervertebral disc disease, degenerative myelopathy also develops as hind leg weakness that can lead to paralysis. The cause is unknown. German Shepherds are more likely than other dogs to develop this condition. Its symptoms look like those of arthritis and hip dysplasia, but in this condition, the dog wobbles, stumbles, and falls. 

Fibrocartilaginous Embolic Myelopathy

 

Fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy (FCE) is a stroke to the spinal cord, caused by fibrous cartilage entering, and then blocking, a blood vessel in a vertebrae, cutting off blood to the spinal cord. All dogs are equally susceptible. Symptoms appear suddenly, though the dog may have seemed to complain of pain several days earlier. One or more limbs totally lose their functioning, with one side of the body usually being more affected than the other.

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What to do if your Dog is Unable to Walk

If your dog is truly unable to walk, you must take him in for a veterinary examination immediately. A dog’s inability to walk is indicative of a very serious underlying condition. Joint disorders are easier to treat than spinal cord issues, though all are challenging. Arthritis requires a lifestyle change, in which your dog’s diet and exercise routines will change, and he may be prescribed non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or steroids. Various physical therapies, such as hydrotherapy, acupuncture, laser treatment, massage therapy, and physiotherapy may be used as lower-impact options to give your dog better mobility and less pain. In addition to these options, surgery may be recommended for hip dysplasia. 

For a dog with a mild case of intervertebral disc disease, supervised rest and pain medication may be prescribed. If the damage is moderate to severe, your dog may be prescribed NSAIDS or steroids, or may require surgery. While there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy, as the degeneration will continue for the remainder of your dog’s life, his quality of life may be improved by physical therapy, dietary supplements, and pain management. He will no longer be able to go up and down steps or take long walks; consider replacing steps with a ramp. There is no specific treatment for FCE. If your dog is lucky, he can spontaneously heal if the blood vessel blockage clears. Passive range of motion exercises can help to keep him limber, and, as with arthritis and hip dysplasia, acupuncture, laser treatment, and other physical therapies may be helpful. If your dog is entirely unable to walk, you will need to reposition him in his bed every 4 to 6 hours, help him urinate, and clean up after his bowel movements.

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Prevention of Unable to Walk

Hip dysplasia can be prevented through breeding it out of the line, and making sure your dog has a healthy diet and exercise routine. Arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, degenerative myelopathy, and fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy can not be prevented, only managed. Regular wellness checks are advised for all dogs of all ages, allowing for the discovery and management of illnesses and diseases that otherwise may not be diagnosed until in the advanced stages.

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Cost of Unable to Walk

The average cost to treat arthritis is $300, while the average cost of treating hip dysplasia is $2500. Degenerative myelopathy treatment costs an average of $1800; the average cost of treatment for fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy is $4000. Intervertebral disc disease is much more expensive to treat: it costs an average of $15,500 for basic treatment, plus monthly costs of about $300.

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Unable to Walk Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Pit Bull

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Eleven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Difficulty Walking, Falling, Pain In Front Shoulders, Lump In Side Right Below Ribs

Angel is having problems walking, she falls when trying to get into a low bed, pain when we pick her up, not eating like she's supposed to

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my response, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. There are many very effective pain medications that can be given for older dogs, as they can have joint and muscle pain. Most OTC human medications are toxic to dogs, and your veterinarian can prescribe a safe medication for her. Since I cannot see your pet, it would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be causing this, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 13, 2020

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Whippet

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Suddenly Unable To Stand Or Walk Properly And Has Had Recent Events Of Being Unable To Control His Bodily Fuctions Such As Pooing

What could cause these symptoms to happen

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. Dogs can have spinal diseases or trauma, especially as they age, that need treatment to prevent paralysis. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 21, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Walking Tenderly

my dog walks slowly like she have some injured dog, but doesn't have any injuries in her legs and also she lost a lot of weight

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 25, 2020

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Yorkie

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Cant Walk After Going Poop

He had a large bowel movement but now cant get his back end under him to walk.

Sept. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your dog is having problems. If he is not able to use his back legs, is dragging them or doesn't seem to feel them, then he needs to be seen at an ER right away. He may have suffered an injury to his back or a disc injury, and he may need medication so that he can recover. I hope that he is okay and everything goes well for him.

Sept. 4, 2020

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Vizsla mix

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hind Leg Dragging

My dog is a rescue. We rescure her as a very beat up 1 year old in 2007. She was used in pitbull dog fights she was not a fighting dog she was a bait dog used to help the fighting dogs gain confidence. Since we have had her she has always had gimpy hips but over the last 2 years it has gotten significantly worse. I know she is old but she sleeps all the time and we have to carry her both up and down stairs. She now urinates laying down she is still eating and drinking regularly wags her tail and loves her snuggles but her hind legs tangle when she walks and she flops and falls all over the place

Aug. 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your dog is having troubles. As dogs age, they are very prone to arthritis and loss of muscle tone. If she had existing injuries, that probably is compounding things. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they can examine her, see what might be affecting her back end, and let you know what sort of medications or treatments might help her to be more comfortable. I hope she is okay.

Aug. 18, 2020

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Layla

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Maltipoo

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Pain
Weakness In Hind Legs, Sits To One
Can Not Walk At All
Sits On One Side
Sleeps Most Of Day In One Position

My 14 year old maltese/poodle (10 lbs) was diagnosed with Cushings. I noticed her hair thinning this past year(2019). Today, I was told her sugar was high and they confirmed it through a urinary analysis that she now has diabetes and will require insulin shots. This is surprising. The poor thing on Dec 2nd suddenly cried out in pain 3 days after jumping off my bed. Emergency vets think she tore a ligament in her knee. I'm sure this is possible, but it would not cause her to be in such immense pain after a month, and unable to now walk. If I were to get an MRI, and it came back showing some sort of disk issue, then is she strong enough to sustain the surgery? She still eats well, but all she can do is lie around on the Gabapentin (1ML) they gave her. She was doing well for about a week, walking, and received 3 sessions of the red light therapy on her knee and spine but it seems like it only made things worse a few days later. On occasion she received Metacam, but vets were concerned giving that to her for inflammation due to the Cushings. Her only symptom with Cushings was the hair thinning. She was not peeing excessively since I cut back on the dry food. I just wish I can find out what is causing all this pain and fix it. That is what is frustrating. I don't want to have to put her down, but the quality of her life living on Gabapentin which I now have to give every 8 hour instead of every 12 hours. Her spine is so bony and she eats great. Her muscle mass is deteriorating away from her spine and I am wondering if this may not be supporting the spine. I wish someone can help. I have been nearly to every vet and they all say get an MRI. ($3,000)

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Rocky

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Rottweiler

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6 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Back Legs Problem

My male rottweiler all of a sudden can not stand on four legs or walk.His appetite is fine.His moods look normal.i massaged him and i found no points.of pain.From time to time he moves around by crawling probably.He shakes his tails and he can move his back legs but he can not use them to stand on four legs or walk.

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Cassie

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Golden Retriever

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13 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Cassie was 13, she was running around only 3 weeks ago without any issues. 10 days ago, she developed a lump on her front left paw. It was extremely painful and we had no idea how it occurred so suddenly. She started having difficulty walking and started to lie down after every 5/10 steps. We had no idea if it was just arthritis finally catching up with her or not. The gabapentin made her dizzy and accelerated the weakness in her back legs. The pain still was not under control. She became depressed and withdrawn she stopped playing with her toys and eventually was unable to walk to the park without being in agony. Cassie died 2 days ago. We still don't understand how her mobility decreased so rapidly. Like a switch. I feel like I missed something. Although she was 13 and a half, she behaved like a puppy all her life. Full of energy, bags of personality and really wanted to stay here. In the end, we believed it to ve kinder and for her to die with dignity before she literally fell apart. Her joints had lost major muscle mass and she could no longer enjoy the things she yearned for. She never lost her appetite, but losing her mobility over the space of a week and increased panting told us she was ready to go and it has broke our hearts. She survived 3 cancerous tumours and was probably the most amazing dog ever to walk this earth. Whether she had vasuc arthritis, this myelopy thingymajig or a mystery illness, we will never know. My advice is enjoy your dog for as long as you can, take shed loads of pics and videos because now that's all I have. Also, be vigilant with limos and look into cbd oil, as I found out too late.

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Lotus

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Boxer

dog-age-icon

12 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic
Not Eating
Not Walking

we just moved into a house with hardwood floors about a week ago. Tonight my dog seemed to fall over and not be able to get back up. Looked like she was trying to get her legs under her but could get a grip. When I touched her she was responsive and stopped. When I went to help her up she went completely limp. I put her on my bed and she came back. But wouldn’t move. She walked what seemed to be fine on the bed a hour or so late to cuddle. Hour later I got up she again walked on the bed. When I put her on the floor her feet just seemed to slide out sideways and she wouldn’t walk. Carried her outside. She walked about 4 steps what seemed to be fine then wouldn’t move.

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huber

dog-breed-icon

Boxer

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Walk Like He Is Drunk
Stands To Long To Pee

my dog started to limp his one leg at first,then after weak or two he was walking like he was drunk and now he cant walk on his all 4 legs.he cant even pee or poop by him self.if we put some pressure on his stomach then he does the thing!!he is a boxer and he is 6 years old.at the moment the vet is pulling the pee by a syringe.the vet cant seem to find out whats wrong with him and i am verry worried for him!!i did his x-ray and the vet thinks the problem is in his brain.

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