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Mobility Matters: Tips to Improve Mobility in Senior Dogs

As dogs age there are noticeable changes in how they move. As a dog gets older and moves into their senior years they start to slow down and sleep more often. There are many reasons why an elderly dog slows down. As your dog ages their legs lose strength, muscle mass is lost, and arthritic joints start to ache. The impact of an older pet’s natural slow down process is apparent, many pets have trouble standing up, they walk slower and tire more easily. 

So why does a dog’s mobility matter? An active dog is happy, they enjoy life longer, and overall they experience a higher quality of life. Improving canine mobility means understanding what your dog’s aging body is going through, dealing with the symptoms of canine mobility loss, and doing everything you can to keep your dog active. Here is everything you need to know about improving mobility in senior dogs:

Signs and Symptoms Your Dog’s Mobility is Worsening

Small Dog Wheelchair - Diesel

Most dogs will show signs of joint pain and leg weakness in their hind legs first. Many conditions that impact a dog’s mobility start with hind leg weakness.

As dogs age their muscles weaken and the dogs muscles and joints degenerate over the years. Some signs of back leg weakness in dogs are easy to spot, other symptoms a dog’s mobility is worsening can be easy to miss.  Signs a dog’s mobility is starting to change include:

  • Sudden loss of balance
  • Wobbly gait and swaying while standing
  • Instability
  • Walking slowly or dog has become reluctant to walk
  • Dog struggles to stand up or is slow to rise 
  • Difficulty climbing the stairs or jumping onto furniture
  • Muscle atrophy or loss of muscle
  • Paralysis
  • Dragging paws or knuckling over when walking
  • Dog shows signs of pain, such as licking joints

Causes of Canine Mobility Loss

large dog wheelchair

Dogs can experience changes in their mobility for a wide range of reasons. Past trauma and old injuries, even those that have healed well, can lead to arthritis when a dog ages. Although arthritis is a leading cause of older dogs “slowing down” it’s not the only health issue that impacts a dog’s mobility, causes of back leg weakness include:

  • Degenerative Myelopathy or DM 
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease or IVDD
  • Neurological conditions that impact the spinal cord and nerves
  • Wobbler Syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis 
  • Hip Dysplasia 
  • Knee injury, patella luxation, or cruciate tear

Understanding what’s causing your dog’s mobility concerns is crucial to ensuring they get the proper care and mobility support they need to live a long, happy life. A dog’s inability to walk and mobility struggles are not an end of life decision, there are many options available to you and your dog. 

Senior Dog Mobility Problems Solved

Dog wheelchair for dog rehabilitation therapy

Educating yourself on canine mobility is important and there is a lot of misinformation out there. Every year dogs are euthanized unnecessarily due to the fact that their owners are unaware of the options available.

With a few simple changes, it’s possible for a dog with mobility problems to live a long, happy, and active life. Luckily mobility loss does not have to be an end of life decision and euthanasia is not the only option. There are plenty of mobility options available and there is no reason why a dog with paralysis or hind leg weakness can’t continue to have an incredible life.

Proper care and treatment of a dog’s mobility loss will vary depending on the cause and the severity of their diagnosis. Always speak with your veterinarian regarding the best treatment plan for your dog. Here are a few of the many mobility solutions available for senior pets:

Dog Wheelchairs and Mobility Support

Small dog wheelchair for dachshund

Senior dogs who are unable to walk or stand on their own without stumbling, falling, or losing their balance need the assistance of a dog wheelchair. Back leg paralysis in dogs is a common use of a dog wheelchair, but a pet doesn’t have to be paralyzed to benefit from a mobility cart. Dogs can rely on a wheelchair for short-term use or rely on a cart for the rest of their life.

Short term rehabilitation from an injury or surgical recovery is a common use for a dog wheelchair. Other dogs rely on wheelchairs as a long term mobility solution. Benefits of a dog wheelchair include:

  • Help pets with balance issues
  • Provide stability
  • Support a senior pet who tires easily
  • Reduce pressure on aching and arthritic joints
  • Provide mobility support for a paralyzed pet
  • Allow pets with weak hind legs to exercise
  • Make it easier for special needs pets to go to the bathroom naturally

By providing an elderly dog with a wheelchair, you are giving them an opportunity to stay active longer and enjoy every minute they have left with their family.

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Dog Physical Therapy and Structured Exercise for Rehabilitation

Working with a canine rehabilitation specialist is vital to a senior dog’s health, but especially critical in older dogs already showing signs of mobility loss. A typical dog physical therapy session involves strength training exercises, hydrotherapy swim sessions, and treadmill walks. This type of exercise helps to increase a dog’s strength and endurance, while maintaining muscle mass and working to combat mobility loss from worsening. 

Natural Solutions for Improving a Senior Dog’s Mobility

French Bulldog uses small dog wheelchair

A holistic approach to improving a dog’s mobility is possible. Acupuncture is a popular natural way to treat a dog’s joint pain and reduce inflammation.

Laser therapy is a non-invasive procedure to increase blood circulation and help cells regenerate. There are two types of laser therapy, hot and cold. Cold laser therapy is recommended for dogs with arthritis, tendon issues, or wounds located closer to the skin’s surface. Deep tissue conditions use hot laser therapy for treatment. As an added benefit laser therapy can release endorphins, leaving a dog with a sense of well-being after treatment.

Other natural treatments include: chiropractic treatments for dogs, massage therapy, acupressure, aromatherapy, and sound therapy. Many natural and holistic treatments can be incorporated into traditional therapies and recovery plans. In fact, many rehab specialists regularly incorporate elements of massage, acupuncture, and laser therapies into their regular rehabilitation sessions with dogs. 


By knowing the early signs of mobility loss in dogs, you can look for key indicators that your pet’s mobility needs are changing. Share your observations with your veterinarian and make sure your senior pet is given every opportunity to live their best life possible. By giving your pet the support they need, there is no reason why your dog can’t continue to enjoy an active life.

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