Why Is My Dog Trembling And Can’t Walk?
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There are several causes that can result in tremors and mobility problems in dogs. When establishing a diagnosis, it is important take into account whether the tremors are occurring at rest or during movement. These tremors may be due to cerebellar disorders, such as those that occur in poisoning in dogs. Some may also be localized rather than generalized, such as those that occur in the hind legs due to old age. In this AnimalWised article, we review the most common reasons why your dog is trembling and can't walk.
Tremors in dogs
Dogs can experience various types of tremors. A dog shivering due to a sudden draft of cold air is not the same as prolonged trembling. Tremors are involuntary and pathological movements that occur throughout the body or in one specific localized area.
A dog usually experiences trembling and an inability to walk when muscle weakness occurs. It is this weakness which causes a lack of co-ordination and means the dog can't walk properly or not at all. When the dog cannot walk at all, it means they are suffering from paralysis. Both incoordination and paralysis can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.
Trembling in dogs can be grouped into two important categories:
- Generalized tremors: occurs when the whole body is trembling. It is often due to a systemic problem such as a pathology or a neurological issue.
- Localized tremors: occurs when only a part of the body is trembling. If the tremors are affecting the libms, it is possible they impair the dog's ability to walk.
Causes of generalized tremors and incoordination in dogs
There are various reasons for trembling in dogs. While they will mostly be due to physiological issues, psychological or emotional trauma can result in trembling. The latter doesn't usually prevent the dog from walking, so paralysis and incoordination is usually due to a physical issue.
The reasons why your dog is trembling and can't walk include:
- Encephalitis or brain inflammation: this brain involvement can originate from several sources, although the most well known is likely canine distemper. This is a highly contagious viral infection which results in a dog convulsing, walking in an uncoordinated way, suffering from behavioral changes (increase in aggressiveness) and fever. If not treated quickly, a dog suffering from this disease can end up in a comatose state. Dogs that do recover from this disease may be left with permanent neurological sequelae and may suffer from epilepsy in dogs. In some cases it can be fatal.
- Poisoning: there are many toxins that can poison your dog. They include natural toxic material such as those found in plants toxic to dogs, as well manufactured chemicals and compounds found in products such as cleaning materials. They result in various symptoms, including tremors and difficulty moving. The clinical picture will depend on the ingested substance. Some of the symptoms that can occur include vomiting, weakness, spasms, convulsions, uncoordinated gait, nervousness, hypersalivation, agitated breathing, diarrhea, abdominal pain, paralysis or coma. The prognosis will depend on the toxin, health of the dog, and the amount ingested, as well as other factors.
- Congenital disorders: many puppies are born with physical and mental abnormalities due to their genetic inheritance. They can affect the fetus during gestation and cause various disorders which have a wide range of symptoms. When they affect neurological development, they can often result in trembling and an affected walk. This is seen with wobbler syndrome in dogs where the dog often can't even stand up properly.
- Metabolic diseases: dogs may have issues with the hormones they produce. Since these hormones are used in transmitting information and commands throughout the body, they can result in trembling and an inability to walk properly since the signals are confused. This can be due to either overproduction or underproduction of hormones. Metabolic diseases in dogs include Addison's disease, Cushing's disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes in dogs.
- Epilepsy: one of the most common nervous system disorders in dogs that results in trembling is epilepsy. Rather than a disease in itself, it is a range of disorders which result in a dog having seizures. These cause various parts of the dog to tremble and they often can't walk during an episode. These seizures are temporary, but they can return with greater frequency depending on the cause.
- Trauma: a dog can suffer various types of trauma. These can include road collisions, falls from heigh, attacks from other animals and many more. If the dog's brain has been damaged, it can result in generalized tremors and the whole body is trembling. If the trauma affects their extremities or other body parts, it can result in spinal damage, broken bones or other issues which mean the dog can't walk and trembles.
- Cold: if you see a dog shivering and the ambient temperature is very low, their trembling is likely due to cold. If the dog isn't walking, they may be developing hypothermia and their body is shutting down. Learn about what to do in these situations with our article on hypothermia in dogs.
- Fear: there are also psychological issues which can cause your dog to tremble. If we discover a dog shivering alone, it is possible they have been abandoned and/or abused. In these cases, the dog trembles and doesn't walk because they are paralyzed with fear. There are also other circumstances where a dog will shake with fear, but dogs with poor socialization and which have experienced trauma are particularly prone.
If your dog trembles and falls, it is most likely due to one of the above problems. It is essential you go to the veterinarian as soon as possible. A vet will be able to determine the cause of the problem and treat it accordingly. In many cases, an early diagnosis means the difference between life and death.
My older dog is trembling and can't walk
As you can see, the causes as to why a dog is trembling and can't walk can affect a dog of any age. However, there are mitigating factors in the development of these symptoms. Generally speaking, trembling occurs more often in older dogs. This is due to the deterioration of a dog's body over time, but may also be related to specific experiences and traumas.
Although trembling in dogs can occur on any part of the body, they are particularly associated with the hind legs. This is because degeneration or trauma can affect various parts of the spine, but the sections furthest away from the skull have more opportunity to be affected. This localization hinders mobility and will explain why your dog is trembling, falling and cannot hold themselves up normally.
The degeneration of a dog's body due to age not only affects their musculoskeletal system. It can also affect neurological function, resulting in systemic problems. Physical degeneration of bones and joints can affect gait and posture, but neurological degeneration can affect many number of bodily systems.
An example of this is cognitive dysfunction syndrome in dogs, a syndrome similar to Alzheimer's disease in humans. This syndrome can affect dogs over 10 years old and includes the deterioration of their mental faculties. Dogs that suffer from this may present:
- Sleeping a lot during the day and not much at night
- Walking in circles
- Stiffness or weakness
- Uncontrollable sphincter
We suggest visiting a veterinarian who can arrive at a diagnosis and treat the animal accordingly.
It is important to remember that with age there are many dogs that suffer from osteoarthritis. This is disorder caused by joint inflammation which results in trembling and lack of walking. The exhausted muscle will naturally tremble as it fights the urge to move.
There are different types of arthritis in dogs. They are not usually curable, but there are medications that can relieve pain and manage other symptoms. It is also advisable that a dog with this disease exercises moderately, maintains a controlled diet and is offered an adequate, comfortable and warm resting place.
Lastly, a dog can also tremble and not want to move due to trauma caused by a blow or accident. As with the previous cases, it is pain that prevents the animal from making any movement, so it is very important to try and locate the damaged limb or body part and visit a veterinarian.
What to do if your dog is tembling and can't walk
Since the causes that justify these tremors and moving difficulty are varied, the best thing is to go to the veterinarian as soon as possible. In addition, it is advisable to try and examine your animal to check if these tremors are general or localized and, in case of repeated occurrence, to check for any existence of a wound, inflammation or any anomaly that you could discuss with a specialist.
Prevention is not always possible, but it is important to ensure their individual needs are met. For example, if a senior dog is trembling and suffering from mobility issues, we need to asses their needs. We will need to ensure their diet is suitable for their age range, we need to change their walking schedule and we may even want to consider treatments such as physical therapy for older dogs.
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.
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