Degenerative diseases

My Dog Can't Stand Up or Walk Properly

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 28, 2024
My Dog Can't Stand Up or Walk Properly

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Dogs are animals which love to expend energy. Of course, some dogs are more energetic than others, but a healthy dog will need to exercise and move about to some degree. This is why witnessing our dog having trouble standing up after lying down can be a worrying sight. If this instability continues when they are walking, this worry is compounded. We might experience some stiffness after sitting down for some time, especially as we age. Dogs are no different in this regard, but age is not the only reason why a dog may have trouble standing or walking.

At AnimalWised, we understand why your dog can't stand up or walk properly. We look at the various causes of this mobility issue and find out if there is anything you can do about it.

You may also be interested in: My Dog's Jaw Hurts
  1. Why can't my dog stand up or walk?
  2. Trauma
  3. Diabetes
  4. Hip dysplasia
  5. Arthritis
  6. Ataxia
  7. Neurological disorders
  8. What to do if my dog can't stand up or walk properly

Why can't my dog stand up or walk?

There is a difference between a dog having trouble standing up and a dog unable to stand at all. This difference is usually due to whether they have an acute or chronic problem. Often the former can lead to the latter, which is why it is important to treat mobility problems as soon as possible.

If the reason why the dog cannot stand or walk is due to an acute problem, then it is possible we can treat it. If, for example, the dog has broken their leg, we may be able to set it and return them to health. However, many of the reasons why dogs can't stand up properly is due to degenerative diseases. In these instances, the disease will progress until mobility fails completely. Slowing this progress is essential, but it may not be possible to stop it.

Finally, not all reasons why a dog can't stand are due to physical impairment of the legs. Since the movement of the legs is coordinated by the brain, neurological problems can arise which cause them to have problems standing or walking. These can be degenerative, but it is also possible they are acute and will heal with time and the correct treatment. To understand what treatment may be possible, we need to look at the individual reasons a dog can't stand or walk properly.


Dogs are often too good at hiding their discomfort. When they suffer an injury, they may not show any obvious signs of pain, but this will depend on the severity of the trauma. The type of trauma they experience can be varied. They may suffer a road traffic collision, fall from a height or even sustain injuries in a fight with another dog.

The injuries the dogs can suffer may not be obvious, at least at the beginning. If the trauma is internal, the dog might not have any wounds visible on their skin. If there is a broken bone, torn ligament or cartilage damage, it will affect their mobility. It may mean they struggle to get up from lying down or walk with an unusual gait.

Although many traumas are treatable, if they are not tended to immediately, they can cause permanent damage. A dog's broken bone can be set, but if it isn't, it will heal improperly and cause lameness. Even if they don't show obvious signs of injury, if we see our dog has been in a severe accident, we should take them to a veterinarian for examination just in case.

My Dog Can't Stand Up or Walk Properly - Trauma


You may not think that diseases related to diet can affect a dog's mobility, but it is possible. Diabetes is a disease which affects the dog's ability to produce enough insulin or their cells ability to respond to insulin. When this happens, it can affect the dog's blood sugar levels.

If the dog's blood sugar is low, it can have various effects on their body. One of them is an inability to stand up easily. If they have trouble standing due to low blood sugar, it is unlikely they will be able to walk for any length of time. Diabetes in dogs will need to be managed with various treatments, including a change in diet and insulin injections when their blood sugar is low.

Our article on insulin for dogs with diabetes will help explain more about symptom management of diabetes.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a degenerative disease which has a large genetic influence, but it is also possible it will develop due to lifestyle issues. It is a bone disease which affects the hip joint, causing the ball joint to fit improperly in the socket.

Dogs do not usually show symptoms of hip dysplasia until at least 6 months of life, but they may not show symptoms until later in life. Certain breeds are more likely to have hip dysplasia, including the German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, English Bulldog and many others. If the dog is prone to hip dysplasia we have to be careful we don't exacerbate it. Obesity in dogs is a risk factor, as is over-exercising dogs with this condition.

If you have a dog breed prone to hip dysplasia, we should be observant to see if they have problems standing or walking. Even if you don't, however, we should take the dog to a veterinarian for tests.


Another degenerative disease which means a dog can't stand up or walk properly is arthritis. This is general term for different types of joint disorders, but they often result in both pain and stiffness. This makes it difficult for the dog to make some basic movements, including getting up properly.

Causes of arthritis in dogs are varied, but it is a common problem in older dogs. This is because wear and tear of the dog's joints occurs over time. This can be exacerbates by improper exercise, obesity and trauma. As with hip dysplasia, there is also a genetic factor which means certain breeds are more likely to develop arthritis.

Treatment of arthritis in dogs is varied, but is mainly designed to slow down its progress and manage symptoms. NSAIDs will likely be given to treat the pain and inflammation, dietary changes will be implemented to strengthen joints and reduce obesity risk, and their exercise routines will be amended.


Ataxia is another general term for a range of disorders in dogs, in this case those which cause the dog to have trouble with their gait. Often we notice it because the dog walks like they are drunk. It is not a condition in and of itself, but a symptom which present with many different disorders.

Causes of ataxia in dogs include:

  • Canine distemper
  • Vestibular disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Brain tumor
  • Wobbler syndrome
  • Side effects of drugs
  • Intoxication
  • Various infections

Since the causes and types of ataxia in dogs are varied, the treatment is equally diverse. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and reduction of the symptoms will depend if this is acute or chronic. For example, if a dog can't stand up due to the side effects of drugs, it is likely this will stop once administration of said drug is discontinued.

Neurological disorders

Ataxia is also a possible symptom of many neurological disorders, but it is worth looking at these in a little more detail. Neurological disorders affect the brain so it is unable to send signals properly to the rest of their body. When a dog's brain is not functioning properly, the signals which should send information telling them to get up might be confused.

There are many reasons a dog can develop a neurological disorder, but age is one of the most significant. As a dog gets older, just as their joints can deteriorate, so too can their neurological functioning. There should be some slowness experienced in senior dogs, but some may change significantly. Older dogs can develop dementia, meaning their personality and behavior can become problematic.

There are other reasons dogs can develop neurological disorders which are not due to age. If the dog has experienced head trauma, this can result in damage which affected their gait or even result in paralysis of their extremities.

What to do if my dog can't stand up or walk properly

As you can see above, the reasons why a dog can't stand are varied. Some might be temporary, but it is important to determine how much damage might have been done. If you see your dog struggling to get up or they have an altered gait when they walk, you need to take them to a veterinarian immediately. They will be able to assess their medical history and perform examinations which will lead to diagnosis.

When a physical problem is suspected, the veterinarian will likely take x-rays or perform an ultrasound. However, if these are inconclusive or a neurological problem is suspected, they may need to perform more comprehensive exams such as an MRI or CT scan.

Once the underlying cause has been determined, the veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate course of treatment. In some cases, if the problem has progressed sufficiently, the dog's prognosis is poor. In these cases, it may be more humane to euthanize the dog rather than let them continue in serious discomfort, pain or disorientation.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Can't Stand Up or Walk Properly, we recommend you visit our Degenerative diseases category.

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My Dog Can't Stand Up or Walk Properly