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Is Your Dog Having Problems Walking - A Guide


There are many reasons why a dog may have difficulty in walking.  Some of them, such as soft tissue injury to paws or legs, are easily observed, as are the limiting effects of obesity, birth defects, and injury.  Many, less visible causes can create ambulation problems.  Listed below are the most common problems a vet will consider in examining a dog with walking issues. If your dog has difficulty walking or is reluctant to walk, they should be seen promptly by a vet.  

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Arthritis is the most common ambulation problems for dogs come from arthritis, the inflammation in joints that most often comes with age.  It occurs primarily in older dogs, but can occur in dogs at any age. 

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, 

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia

Far less common are the issues below which are things your vet will consider. 

Spinal issues are another major area of ambulation issues in a variety of ways.

  • Loss of spinal cord tissue (called degenerative myelopathy)
  • A “stroke” to the spinal cord (called fibrocartilaginous embolus or FCE)
  • Structural/developmental abnormality of the spine or spinal cord
  • Tumors in the spine or spinal cord
  • Infection in the vertebrae or intervertebral disks
  • Inflammation of the spinal cord
  • Trauma to the spinal cord
  • Instability in the spine causing pressure on the spinal cord
  • Narrowing of the spinal canal which protects the spinal cord

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

  • Epilepsy
  • Degenerative Myelopathy
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome
  • Canine Vestibular Syndrome
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy
  • Parkinson's Disease

Inner Ear problems can create difficulty in walking

  • Middle or inner ear infection
  • Geriatric vestibular disease in which the precise cause may never be identified
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Tumors in the ear or skull
  • Trauma to the head/ear

Brain and System causes of ambulation problems.

Vestibular causes

  • Infection (e.g. canine distemper virus)
  • Inflammation (the cause of which may or may not be uncovered)
  • Thiamine deficiency (uncommon with current nutritional products)
  • Metronidazole (an antibiotic) toxicity

Cerebellar causes

  • Degenerative changes in the cerebellum
  • Structural abnormalities (e.g. underdevelopment or malformation of the cerebellum or the surrounding skull)
  • Infection or inflammation in the brain
  • Metronidazole (an antibiotic) toxicity

Miscellaneous causes

  • Too low or too high red blood cell count
  • Low levels of potassium, calcium, or glucose (blood sugar)
  • Heart/circulation and/or respiratory diseases

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