Mobility issues in dogs

Although a mobility condition is seen more often in older dogs, younger dogs may also be affected; as dog’s develop mobility issues for a number of reasons. This could be due to physical trauma, birth defects or neurological damage. If your dog is showing any signs of difficulty moving, then it is important that they are seen by a veterinarian. The underlying cause of the mobility problem will very much determine the appropriate treatment method. Mobility can be an issue for dogs due to injury, age or birth defect, so treatments may include medications, dietary supplements, therapeutic tools, holistic solutions and in some cases, surgery. 

Dog Can’t Walk or Stand Up – Mobility Issues in Dogs

We look at the most common forms of mobility issues in dogs

What causes dogs to have mobility issues?

The cause of a dog’s mobility issue can be related to several factors. There are a number of disorders that may lead to difficulty or pain for dogs, some of these conditions include: 

Arthritis – is one of the most common causes of mobility issues. Although it is a condition that occurs more commonly in older dogs, it can sometimes occur in younger dogs too

Back Problems – natural movement can be impeded by back problems related to the spinal column itself; in some cases, chronic physical stress or injury may lead to the back trouble, while in other situations, diseases such as spondylosis, degenerative myelopathy or a disc prolapse may be the cause  of the issue.

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. 

Dysplasia – Large or giant breed dogs have an increased chance of developing either hip or elbow dysplasia; however, it is possible for a dog of any size (or breed) to have a dysplasia issue.

Neurological Disorders – Malignant or benign tumours can cause a dog pain when it attempts to move, as they can interfere with a dog’s normal movement; causing difficulty in standing, walking or running. Neurological Disorders can also be a result of the damage caused by a stroke (meningoencephalitis) or even certain types of poison.

Recognising symptoms of mobility issues

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 vocalisations 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. In the majority of cases dogs will struggle to stand up, jump up and down on the sofa, run up the stairs or jump in the back of the car. In sever cases your dog may no longer be able to walk. 

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.

Diagnosis of Mobility Problems in Dogs

Your dogs vet is likely to start with a thorough physical examination of the dog in order to evaluate their general health and to assist them in pinpointing the location of the reduced mobility. 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 dogs immobility.

Radiographs/X-rays are sometimes carried out to help visualise 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 dogs neurological functionality may also be done to rule out any neurological damage. In rare cases ultrasound scans are carried out to provide a full synopsis of the condition.

Common methods used to treat mobility issues in dogs

The fundamental cause of the mobility problems in dogs will very much determine the appropriate treatment required. Some conditions may require surgery, such as cancerous tumours, dysplasia and even in some more severe cases of arthritis. There are many methods and products available on the market to dog owners with a view to helping increase the dog’s ability to remain mobile. In the majority of cases any competing dogs suffering from a severe lack in mobility will be retired from exercise. As an example, a dog competing in dog agility is far more likely to develop joint mobility issues later on in life. 

Many therapeutic methods can include not only anti-inflammatory medications, but also therapeutic massage and hydrotherapy, as well as acupressure or acupuncture and other alternative therapies such as magnetic technology. These methods can be particularly helpful in relieving pain from disorders like hip dysplasia and arthritis, in addition to helping dogs with neurological conditions. Although none of these are clinically proven arthritis itself is a non clinical condition – therefor no clinical study can be carried out to establish ‘arthritic pain relief.’ There remains a substantial market for holistic products and technologies and this is where StreamZ sit within the market.  

While some disorders, like certain tumours, uncomplicated back injuries and even some neurological diseases, are reversible, most are incurable. These disorders are typically treated to slow the progression of the disability and manage symptoms. Therapeutic tools such as slings, harnesses and canine wheelchairs might be needed.

Hydrotherapy on its own is widely viewed to be beneficial for the dog’s circulation and digestion, plus regular swimming in a safe environment can help your dog to remain fit and healthy, which in turn can reduce the chances of your dog developing these disorders in the first place.

Can dog mobility issues be cured?

Once the primary cause of a dog’s mobility issue has been ascertained, which is important to do in conjunction with a veterinary professional, then an appropriate treatment can be applied; whether it’s a specific medication, treatment or combination of medical care. Whether the issue can be cured will very much depend on the underlying problem though.

It is however worth noting, that if your dog is struggling with mobility for whatever reason, then there are some simple things you can do to make your home environment more comfortable. Such measures could include:

  • Try to maintain a moderate indoor temperature.
  • Consider putting skid-proof socks on your dog.
  • Provide a comfortable, padded and thick dog bed. 
  • Always keep any water or food dishes in close reach.
  • Making sure that your dog’s nails are regularly trimmed and checked.
  • Where possible, consider installing non-stick stair treads on all your stairs.
  • Look at all slippery surfaces in your home and consider using area rugs for traction.
  • Try to reduce narrow spaces around your home where possible, particularly between furniture.
  • Look into whether supplements can be added to your dog’s diet to help, such as glucosamine.
  • Providing assistance where necessary to get into a car or onto a bed/couch, such as a doggy star or a ramp.

As animal welfare charity Blue Cross explains, arthritis is very common in older dogs, as joint function deteriorates with age. But it can also affect younger dogs after an injury or those with joint and bone development problems.

The following PAWS system is a useful system to apply when ascertaining whether your dog is experienced a mobility issue:

  • Posture – Have you recognised any changes in the way your dog’s body shape is, their gait and overall posture? 
  • Attitude – Has your dogs behaviour changed either with you or around other dogs?
  • Willingness – Is your dog still happy to go for walks, play games and able to run up and down stairs?
  • Slowing down – Is your dog visibly showing signs of slowing down? Still running up the stairs and jumping in the boot, but with more difficulty than before?

If you have answered yes to any of the above questions then your dog may be experienced a reduction in mobility.