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Dogs With Mobility Issues and Treatment Options

Updated on May 9, 2020
Cynthia Hoover profile image

Cynthia is a pet owner and animal lover. From cats and dogs to livestock animals, Cynthia loves caring for her pets.

Sometimes treating a dog with mobility issues can be as easy as changing things at home.
Sometimes treating a dog with mobility issues can be as easy as changing things at home.

Mobility issues with our canine counterparts is not abnormal occurrence. Often as our dogs age they will have more and more issues with mobility. Trauma and other injuries may contribute to mobility and effect a dogs ability to move as well. Mobility issues with age are a common problem for many breeds.

Learning some effective ways to help our pets with mobility issues only increases their quality of life. And as they get older we as pet owners hold the responsibility for a happy life for our pets. Understanding what causes mobility issues and how to treat them helps not only our dogs but the owners as well.

Symptoms of Mobility Issues in Dogs

First learn the symptoms and then you can move on to learn treatment options. If your dog is exhibiting any of the following he/she may be having mobility issues:

  • Limping
  • Stiffness
  • Slower movements
  • Slipping or tripping
  • Lays around more than usual
  • Favoring one leg over the others
  • Falls while trying to jump or climb
  • Issues remaining upright while sitting/standing
  • Reluctant to play or no longer enjoys active time as they once did

Not all symptoms will mean their is an underlying cause for mobility trouble for your dog. For example I have a red-tick coon hound, she is an energetic ball of fire most days. But every now and then she spends all night harassing a treed raccoon or some other critter and will come back and need some rest.

She has come back and exhibited all these symptoms just from exhaustion. She is fairly young and has no underlying issues. This is where actually knowing your dog, their routines and average behaviors is important. If you feel that your situation fits any of these symptoms and they cannot be easily explained away, it is time to see your vet.

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Common Causes for Mobility Issues

Discovering the common causes for mobility issues will help you figure out the best treatment plan. Some mobility issues will require more in depth care, and often diagnosis from a veterinarian.

  • Arthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Cruciate ligament
  • Degenerative myelopathy

Arthritis effects our pets as they age just as it does their owners. It is extremely common in both canine and humans. In most cases of elderly dogs exhibiting signs of mobility trouble it is likely due to arthritis.

Hip dysplasia effects certain breeds more routinely than others. It happens when the ball and socket joints of the hip don't fit correctly. Surgery is an option but is fairly costly. If choosing a new pet research how prone they are so you can better prepare to care for them should the need arise.

Muscle atrophy can be a culprit as dogs age due to reduced activity, or even be caused by an illness. This can create mobility issues for your animal as a result of the muscle loss.

Cruciate ligament is similar to a dogs human counterpart having a torn ACL tendon. A tear in the tendons in the hind leg. This can often need surgery to repair just like with humans. If not attended properly this can result in further injury to the dogs other legs and joints as well. A veterinarian visit is a requirement for proper diagnosis.

Degenerative myelopathy effects dogs as they age usually around 8 to 15 years old at onset. An accelerating disease of the spinal cord can result in complete loss of control over the hind legs. While there is no current treatment for Degenerative myelopathy your pet shouldn't feel any pain. And can go on to live a happy life, with your help of course.

Treatment Options

Seeing our pets struggle with simple basic functions like walking or running can be devastating. Please discuss any treatment options and confirm your suspected diagnosis with your veterinarian.
Not all treatment options work for all dogs and all mobility issues. There is no simple plan to 'fix' or 'cure' all here. All dogs are unique and unfortunately they don't have the ability to verbalize with owners what works or not.
If your dog is having mobility issues you may see some improvements with some treatments.
Treatment options are not always medicines that come in prescription form. There are many 'treatment' options that involve simple changes around their environment.

Small changes you can make are:

  • Add carpets or rugs to linoleum or hardwood floors
  • Swimming
  • Regular exercise
  • Pet beds should be thick and soft
  • Using pet steps or ramps
  • Raised food and water dishes
  • Use a harness for walking instead of collar
  • Wheelchair carts
  • Adding supplements


Hardwood, tile and linoleum floors are lovely to view, though hard for a dog with mobility issues to navigate. Consider adding some low cost carpets or rugs to allow something for your dog to walk on that isn't so slick.

Swimming and Exercise

Swimming is a great way for dogs with mobility issues to get regular exercise without struggling. Not having regular exercise can make mobility issues worsen over time. Lack of exercise will only increase muscle loss.

Even if your pet has issues with walking long distances, try taking them for a swim. Or short walks several times a day versus longer less frequent walks.

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Pet Beds

Pet beds, for the love-stop buying the low budget ones. Normally I will be the first to tell you where to get things cheap. But, pet beds are not something to skimp on. Have you ever slept on the floor? It sucks, you wake up stiff and sore and you have trouble moving around without pain the next day. For a dog with mobility issues already sleeping on the floor or an inadequate pet bed only makes things worse.

My dogs have Furhaven pet beds, these are therapeutic thick beds with a medium price range. All my dogs are larger breed dogs so they have the biggest beds.

Sofa style beds like these allow the dogs to achieve more comfortable positions. My one dog likes to elevate her torso over the edge and others are happy to tuck in the center. The removal covers- if you have dogs you know how important that is without me saying.

No matter what kind or brand you choose make sure it's a comfortable thick option. If you wouldn't want to sit on it, then its likely not a comfortable option for your pet.

Raise Items for Accesability

Raise things up, using ramps or steps or whatever you can. Ramps are preferable, if a dog slips they slide down. With steps they can topple and bang them selves, potentially causing injuries.

You can buy pet ramps, if you have basic construction skills you can easily make them yourself. The same with food dishes and water, raise them it is easier than dogs having to hunch over to eat their dinner.

Consider a raised basket for favorite dog toys too. If a dog is already having mobility issues that constant bending down to reach things is likely uncomfortable.


Stop walking with collars and leads switch to a harness. Using a harness instead of a traditional collar gives you the dog walker the ability to help support the animal. Harness walking will also discourage certain behaviors and keep your dog focused on the walk.

Most dogs don't tend to tug or try to run too much with harnesses over collars. Using a harness also helps to prevents any potential injuries to neck from pulling on the collar. While that may seem minor, dogs with mobility issues are often prone to other injuries.

Wheelchair Carts

Wheelchair carts are an option for dogs suffering with Degenerative myelopathy. As mentioned this disease has no cure, but that is no reason to leave our pooches in a sedentary lifestyle. If you cannot afford to purchase one. It is likely that someone you know would help you build one. They can even be made from inexpensive PVC pipe and a couple of wheels.


Mobility Supplements

Supplements for mobility issues are also an option. I have a Norwegian elk-hound who is really getting on in years and arthritis is setting in. She is also blind and deaf, you can imagine it's a lot for her to get around sometimes.

Before I get into the supplements I use, please talk to your vet. While I do love sharing my pet adventures and treatments with everyone. And what has worked for me and my pets, nothing substitutes veterinary advice. I always discuss alternate treatments, their ingredients etc with a vet before administering.

While my dog is no longer a spry young thing we do love to still walk and hike. For her arthritis I also treat with, well dog treats. PremiumCare Glucosamine for dogs, these come in treat form and are duck flavored. These treats should be discussed with your vet, for proper dosage and ingredients. These do have hemp in them, and not all breeds do well with them. It can cause some stomach issues and mild allergies (dry skin).

Now my dog is in no way cured love her heart, she is old. But these treats do seem to help her tough through our walks and actually enjoy them more. Before I started giving her the treats she would be ready to head home much sooner. She at times now has the energy to go for longer walks than I do.

As much as I hate to say it, there are not many mobility issues for aged dogs that have an effective cure. As pet owners it is up to us to make these issues less of a struggle for our pets.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2020 Cynthia Hoover


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