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Why Do Older Pets Have Trouble Walking?

There are many physical changes that occur in senior pets as they age. Older dogs may begin to slow down and may struggle to stand or even walk. These changes in mobility can occur gradually and may not be noticeable at first. But, just like in humans, your dog’s body takes a lot of wear and tear. And overtime this can lead to aches and pains that make it harder to move.  

Signs That Your Senior Dog is Struggling to Walk


Changes in your dog’s mobility and strength can be small and gradual or occur seemingly overnight. Here are a few ways you can tell your dog is having trouble walking:

  • Difficulty standing
  • Slower or awkward gait
  • Loss of endurance
  • Tiring quickly on walks
  • Slow to rise after resting
  • Sudden loss of balance

Gradually slowing down is a natural part of your dog’s aging process. Struggling to walk may also indicate a more serious health condition. Always speak with your Veterinarian about any noticeable changes in your dog’s behavior. Keep track of your pet’s symptoms. Note times when you see your pet struggling to walk. Is he having difficulty on the stairs? Only on cold days? Or during long walks? Any details can help your Vet diagnose and treat your dog.

How to Help Your Dog Walk

Dog Wheelchairs and Mobility Assistance

Dog wheelchairs are designed to help your pet exercise. The wheelchair gently supports your dog’s hind legs, helping them to maintain their balance and to keep on moving. Keeping your dog active will keep them happier and healthier as well as minimize muscle loss. Wheelchairs are not just for paralyzed dogs. Wheelchairs can even benefit dogs with full use of their back legs.

Tip: It’s never too early for a dog wheelchair. Many senior dogs use a wheelchair on their “bad days” or when they want to enjoy a longer walk with their family.

Physical Therapy

Ask your pet care professional about an exercise program to keep your pet active. Many senior dogs benefit greatly from low impact, low stress activities like hydrotherapy. Your pet may benefit from a mix of different therapies including acupuncture, laser therapy or massage.

A dog wheelchair may be used to provide additional support during physiotherapy exercise as well as a rear support leash for light support.

A Healthy Diet

Make sure that your dog is getting a well-balanced diet designed for senior pets. A healthy diet will keep your dog at a healthy weight and prevent any added joint stress caused by obesity. Joint supplements like glucosamine, alleviate pain and help keep your dog active.

dog wheelchair for retriever

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  1. […] stubborn than puppies because they are older and get tired quicker. This happens because when the dog gets older it can be harder for them to stand up or even walk so you will catch them trying to lay down […]

  2. I have a 12 year old staff. He was knocked over recently, which has resulted to him not using his back legs. A mri scan was done nothing was detected other than a fractured rib. We have been doing daily exercises that were given to us by a trusted veterinary clinic, but not seeing any results, I know it’s going to take time. Is there any rehabilitation centre for my dog, or other excessive I could do to try and improve his back legs.

    • Hi Sarah, there are canine rehab facilities all over the world and certainly working with a CCRP will help to keep your dog active, improve his leg strength, and minimize atrophy. I would ask your veterinarian if they know of anyone local, there are at home therapies you can do as well, but structured exercise is going to be an important part of his recovery.

  3. Our dog is 13 she refused to walk what can I do to motivate her to walk? Could it be her joints?

    • Hi Sherl, if you’re seeing a noticeable difference in your dog’s behavior and willingness to move, it’s probably time to visit your veterinarian. There could be any number of reasons why your dog doesn’t want to move, but it’s important that your vet determines the root cause and will help you decide on the right treatment for your pet.

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