Old dogs can’t walk

With age, several health problems can accompany dogs and some of these pathologies can result in weakness and loss of dogs’ movement. This post will talk about the main causes of diseases that lead to loss of leg movement in elderly dogs.

Old dogs can’t walk

It is common for many elderly dogs to end up losing leg movements due to carelessness and lack of treatment for some pathologies. The total loss of movement in the dog’s legs is a symptom that can be generated by several diseases.

Many neuronal and orthopedic injuries can lead to loss of leg movement in older dogs. But usually, dogs can show other symptoms such as weakness, lameness, vocalization and others. And when not properly diagnosed and treated these diseases can lead to complete loss of movement in dogs.

Some causes that can result in the loss of movement in old dogs:

  • Trauma;
  • Orthopedic diseases;
  • Infections;
  • Drug effects;
  • Neuromuscular diseases.


Old dogs can suffer spinal trauma, especially in the cervical region, which can affect dogs’ locomotion. The most common traumas are run over accidents, falls from heights and aggression from tutors and other dogs.

The main symptoms to be observed are pain at the site of injury, vocalization, prostration, and loss of movement of the legs. A veterinarian should be consulted, often dogs may need surgery.

The diagnosis can be made by imaging exams, in some cases specialists in neurology or veterinary orthopedics can be consulted. Some dogs can walk again after treatment and physical therapy.

However, other dogs can lose movement forever, and palliative care is needed to give a better quality of life for these old dogs.

Orthopedic diseases

Diseases such as, disco spondylitis, osteoporosis, arthritis and even bone tumors are common in old dogs and can cause animals to lose movement of the legs.

Consultation with a veterinary neurologist may be indicated. Imaging and laboratory tests can help with the diagnosis. Some dogs can be treated surgically, but others must live with the loss of movement in their hind legs. 

For these animals, therapies such as acupuncture and physiotherapy may be indicated, in addition to palliative care to provide well-being for the dog.


Diseases such as tick disease, distemper, botulism, and meningitis can lead to neuronal changes that cause some animals to lose movement of the legs.

Old dogs may have other symptoms such as apathy, lack of appetite, tremors, vocalization, and fever. A veterinarian should be consulted for proper diagnosis and treatment.

When treatment is started at the beginning of the appearance of symptoms, it can reduce the chances of the animal having sequelae. Therefore, the correct diagnosis and at the right time can benefit animals.

Drug effects

Some drugs used for anesthesia can lead to temporary paralysis of the legs. However, when these drugs wear off, the animals return to moving normally.

Some animals may suffer from spinal injuries due to the application of local anesthetics. So many can lose the movement irreversibly.

Neuromuscular diseases

Some neuromuscular diseases such as degenerative myelopathy in dogs can also affect animals. These diseases affect the spinal cord leading to weakness and loss of movement.

Dogs with this pathology should be diagnosed as soon as possible. Medications can be taken to prevent the disease from getting worse. Some dogs can re-establish the movement of the hind legs.

Care to be taken with old dogs that cannot walk

Dogs that have lost the movement of their legs should constantly consult with a veterinarian. Physiotherapy and even acupuncture for dogs is indicated, leading to muscle and bone stimulation, preventing the worsening of the dogs’ condition.

Care must be taken with the animal’s excreta, the use of diapers that must always be clean is indicated. The accumulation of dirt can lead to diaper rash in the dog, and even wounds that can be an opening door for myiasis.

It takes a lot of patience from the tutor, as they are dogs that will need a lot of attention during the day, both for feeding and for cleaning their diapers. 

In addition, the dog should not stay in one place, it is interesting to place it in calm and peaceful environments, ventilated but without direct contact with sunlight.

How to prevent dogs from losing movement in the legs?

Prevention can be related to changes in the environment, such as avoiding stairs, access to the street without a tutor and high places without a fence. A good balanced diet for old dogs can also prevent metabolic changes that can favor the appearance of some pathologies in dogs.

Infectious diseases can also be prevented with periodic vaccines and the use of medicines to prevent fleas and ticks. That’s why veterinary checkups are indicated from time to time to assess the animal health.

General care for elderly dogs

Elderly dogs, due to predisposition to several degenerative diseases, should receive specific and balanced foods for older dogs. These foods are balanced to meet all the needs of the elderly dog, giving the animal a longer life expectancy.

As a result of old age, problems like arthritis, osteoarthritis, spinal problems, and others can appear. As a result, older dogs may have reduced mobility. Therefore, walks, games and activities of lesser intensity must be done with the animal, always respecting the dog’s wishes.

Elderly dogs tend not to control their body temperature very well and may suffer from temperature changes, so it is recommended to use heaters, beds and blankets for the cold season, thus avoiding thermal stress for elderly dogs.

Elderly dogs are more sensitive to various diseases, so routines to the veterinarian should be intensified. Checkup exams can be done more frequently for monitoring and diagnosing diseases in dogs.


Elderly dogs need special care so that it is possible to prolong the life of these animals so that they have quality of life. So that these dogs do not lose movement, periodic consultations should be made with the veterinarian. And for dogs that have already lost movement, palliative care can be taken in addition to activities such as acupuncture and physical therapy may be necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): ​​Old dogs can’t walk

How do I know if my dog has disco spondylitis?

The dog may have lameness, changes in the way it walk, pain when palpating the region, difficulties in locomotion, in more advanced cases, the dog may even stop walking. For diagnosis, an X-ray exam can be performed that identifies the disco spondylitis presented by the dog.

How to prevent distemper?

Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects dogs and can be prevented by vaccinating puppies and performing annual booster vaccinations.

What to do to prevent dogs from generating wounds from lying down for a long time?

Dogs can be placed on rubber floors or beds, to move the dog you can use carts or structures made to prevent the dog from crawling on the ground. The dog should not stay in the same position for a long time, being necessary to move from one side to the other. Care should also be taken with the place where the animal will stay, as the place has to be ventilated without direct sunlight.


Chaves, R. O., Beckmann, D. V., Santos, R. P. D., Aiello, G., Andrades, A. O., Baumhardt, R., … & Mazzanti, A. (2014). Doenças neurológicas em cães atendidos no Hospital Veterinário da Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, RS: 1.184 casos (2006-2013). Pesquisa Veterinária Brasileira, 34(10), 996-1001.

Joaquim, J. G. F., Luna, S. P. L., Torelli, S. R., Angeli, A. L., & da Gama, E. D. (2008). Acupuntura como tratamento de doenças neurológicas em cães. Revista Acadêmica Ciência Animal, 6(3), 327-334.

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