We wrote this comprehensive guide to highlight some of the many signs you should look out for if you notice your dog is struggling to stand up. These issues can range in severity from temporary injuries to life-threatening diseases.
Rather than allow your dog to struggle and its issue to worsen, watch out for the following signs and do everything you can to support your canine companion!
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Top 10 Signs You Need to Look Out for if Your Dog Struggles to Stand Up
1. Chronic Shivering and Shaking
If you also notice that your dog seems to shake and shiver at odd times, or if they are doing so continuously, you need to visit a veterinarian immediately.
In many cases, what looks like shivering is muscle spasms. These ongoing muscle spasms tend to be localized in the hind limbs and lower back.
Unfortunately, this issue and an inability to stand without struggle almost always point to a serious back-related issue.
More specifically, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). This is a potentially debilitating condition where the discs between the spinal vertebrae burst or bulge into the spinal cord. This is particularly common in short-legged breeds, like French bulldogs and dachshunds.
Depending on the severity of the issue, your dog could be in tremendous pain. Luckily, timely treatment can prevent permanent damage and the need for surgical correction.
2. Heavy Breathing and Chronic Coughing
If you notice that your dog is beginning to breathe heavier than usual, and they have trouble getting up, it could be a sign of another very serious issue.
Atlantoaxial luxation is another spinal disorder that can impact dogs. The condition occurs when there is excessive movement between bones in the neck, which can cause pinching of the spinal cord.
While it can be a genetic condition that a dog acquires at birth, it can also occur from an injury. Like IVDD, atlantoaxial luxation should be treated by a veterinarian immediately. It can require surgery, and the sooner you act, the better the chances are that the dog will recover.
For more information about atlantoaxial luxation, we encourage you to read the following guide from the Southeast Veterinary Neurology Clinic – Atlantoaxial (AA) Luxation in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.
3. Lowered Head While Walking
If your dog struggles to get up and carries its head lower than usual, it could also be another sign of atlantoaxial luxation.
You may notice that your dog walks fine once standing, but they have begun to hold their head in a weird position. Many people ignore this issue, but it is another sign of atlantoaxial luxation.
Atlantoaxial luxation is far more common in toy breeds, like Yorkshire terriers, chihuahuas, and toy poodles, than in larger breeds. So, if you have a smaller dog and you notice these symptoms, visit a veterinarian immediately for an assessment!
4. Abnormal Eye Movements
If your dog’s eyes seem like they are in an abnormal position, or they seem to dart in odd directions, it could be a sign of another serious condition. This is particularly concerning if your dog also struggles to stand up.
In most cases, this combination of symptoms means there is a problem with your dog’s ability to balance itself. You may also notice that your dog’s head tilts to one side or that they struggle to walk in a straight line.
There are many causes of balance issues. Some are relatively mild and easily treatable, like an ear infection. Others are extremely serious, like brainstem and inner ear tumors.
The best course of action is to take your dog to a veterinarian right away. Inform the veterinarian of the symptoms you have witnessed, and they will be able to assess your pooch. Once diagnosed, a treatment plan can be established to help your pooch!
5. Odd Sounding Barks and Other Vocalizations
If your dog’s bark sounds different and they struggle to stand up, your dog may be in the early stages of an issue related to tick bites.
Ticks can carry a neurotoxin that can enter a dog’s bloodstream following a bite. This can cause a rapidly progressing form of paralysis. Typically, the first sign will be that the dog will begin to struggle to go from a lying position to a standing position.
You will also notice that the dog barks differently and creates other strange sounds.
Fortunately, once the tick is removed, the supply of the neurotoxin is cut off. This means that the issue will end and your dog will recover full mobility.
That said, you need to remove the tick properly. To be safe, visit a veterinarian to ensure the tick is fully removed and your dog is healthy!
6. Difficulty Sleeping and Lying on Either Side
If your dog struggles to stand up and lie down on either side, there is a good chance that this combination of symptoms is a sign of hip dysplasia.
While hip dysplasia can impact a dog’s ability to walk, this tends to occur in the later stages of the condition. To start, you may notice mild limping, straining while standing up, and difficulty sleeping on the hips.
This is particularly common in larger breeds and gets worse as the dog ages. While there are surgeries that can ease pain related to hip dysplasia, they are seen as a last resort.
Before surgery, a veterinarian can prescribe various medications and supplements to ease the pain. Plenty of therapeutic exercises and stretches can support your dog. These will increase the range of motion and potentially ease pain.
For more information about spotting signs of hip dysplasia, the Organization of Long Island Veterinary Specialists has published a useful guide – LIVS – How to Identify Hip Dysplasia in Dogs.
7. Changes in the Dog’s Gait
If your dog can walk but seems slower and has an altered gait, it could be a sign of arthritis. Arthritis is caused by severe inflammation within the hip joint.
Like hip dysplasia, canine arthritis can make it difficult for the dog to stand. It can also grow worse gradually, especially if it is left untreated. You may notice that your dog tires quickly and also appears to be in pain during light activities.
Arthritis is very common in old, overweight dogs. The extra weight they carry can cause significant damage to their aging joints.
Plenty of supplements and medications can help ease an old dog’s arthritic pain. This is why it is important to visit a veterinarian, especially if your senior dog has begun limping.
8. Incontinence (Loss of Bladder Control)
If your dog is starting to have accidents in the house as well as struggling to stand, they could be suffering from weak back legs.
Given that the hind legs are heavily involved in standing, as well as posturing to eliminate waste, the combination of incontinence and difficulty standing can point to issues with the hind legs.
Weak back legs could be a simple sign of underuse and aging, or it could be a more serious issue like inherited degenerative myelopathy disease.
Before the hind legs can weaken to debilitating levels, have your dog assessed by a veterinarian. They can come up with a treatment plan and get to the bottom of the issue.
9. Noticeable Weight Loss
If your dog struggles to stand up and has lost a significant amount of weight, it could be a sign of muscle atrophy.
Essentially, muscle atrophy describes a significant loss of muscle mass. When a dog suffers from muscle atrophy, its muscles are wasting away. It can occur from aging, illness, or even just reduced activity.
Muscle atrophy can occur in any breed and usually presents itself in the hind legs. When these muscles weaken, it can make it difficult for dogs to stand, even if they seem to walk without struggle.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can help your dog manage muscle atrophy. Rehabilitation can include a specialized diet and exercise plan. For more information and to ensure the condition is diagnosed early, take your dog for an assessment with a veterinarian.
10. Overgrown Nails
While it may seem like a fairly trivial issue, overgrown nails can cause serious mobility issues for your dog.
If you notice that your pooch is struggling to stand up and its nails look overgrown, it is probably time for a nail trim. Unlike human nails, there is a blood vessel that grows within a dog’s nail. This blood vessel, which is known as the quick, is surrounded by nerve endings.
As you can imagine, when the nail bends, drags, or even just gets in the way, it can be painful for the dog. This is why timely nail trimmings are important. Not only will it reduce the chances of a painful nail injury, but it will also help your dog stand up easier.
One of the things people ask is, “How do I trim my dog’s nails when they hate it?”
You’re in luck. We have an article with some great nail trimming advice.
The more frequently you trim the nails, the easier it will be to “train” the quick to not grow as long. If you are unsure how to perform nail trimming, the American Kennel Club has an informative guide – How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails Safely.
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