Why Can My Dog Barely Walk? Possible Reasons & Causes

pup can't really walk
(Last Updated On: May 27, 2021)

Has your dog been stumbling or falling down repeatedly. Then you have reason to be concerned as dogs are supposed to be able to hold their weight quite well on their four legs. There are several reasons for your dog not being able to walk well and different possible parts of his body that are affected.

This article will talk about all the possible reasons so that you can see how to properly act on whatever is causing your dog’s instability.

Some Things To Check and Ask Yourself First

Gum Color

This may seem like a strange thing to ask, but the color of your dog’s gums can tell you things about your dog’s state. Are your pet’s gums dark pink, pale pink, or white? Pale gums can tell if you if the reason your dog can’t walk is because of unseen damage like internal bleeding from trauma or eating rat or mouse poison. As you can surmise, these are quite serious situations so checking your dog’s gums first can inform you of something very serious yet invisible that should be acted upon quickly.


Check if your dog is breathing normally or not. Are his breaths faster or slower than usual? This can also be a sign of something that is potentially serious, so take note of this and inform your vet of such symptoms.

Weight Distribution

Lastly, is your dog able to put any of his weight on his hind legs at all? Depending on the reason why your dog is barely able to walk, in some instances he will not be able to even stand to support his weight with his hind legs. Back injuries can cause your dog’s hind legs to become very weak and thus not able to support his weight.

What To Look Out For

First, you should examine your dog’s overall state of balance. You can do this by letting him stand on a flat even surface and then taking a closer look. Primarily, you should look at the way your dog stands, the position of his tail, as well as how symmetrical his limbs are.

After that, use your hands to cradle his head and then look closely at his eyes. Are there any strange movements or different pupil sizes? Maybe your dog’s eyes are responding strangely to light. If so, take note of that. Then you should gently move his head in all directions to see if he is experiencing any pain or stiffness. Check for heat, discharge, or pain in the ears. Check the inside of his mouth to see anything unusual like growths, or signs of infection or pain.

Proceed to check your dog’s spine by using a walking motion with your fingers to check on each of their intervertebral space. Be firm but gentle when doing this, and look if your pet is showing any signs of discomfort or weakness while you are doing this.

Then it’s time for the knuckling exam. This is done by first lifting up your dog’s leg then putting it back down with the top of his paw ‘knuckled’ under. Check your dog’s response to this incorrect positioning. If he does not correct the position, try pinching his toes and see if he reacts then.

Carpal Dog Paw Injury

For this next part, you’re going to have to lift each of your dog’s limbs one by one and imitating their normal range of motion to see if there is any discomfort, cracking, or even grinding. Obviously none of those are good signs so take note if any or all of those are observable in your dog. Another thing you should look out for is when your trouble has difficulties maintaining his balance while you’re doing this.

Possible Reasons Why


Disc disease is one of the potential reasons why your dog is having trouble walking. Wobbly walking or paresis or paralysis can be recurring episodes in dogs with IVDD. IVDD makes the intervertebral; discs of dogs to weaken and thus injuring your dog’s spinal cord.

Dogs with IVDD can be treated and rehabilitated with physical therapy so that their feet will function again.

Degenerative Myelopathy

This happens when your dog’s spinal cord slowly loses its connection with his brain. The results are a gradual loss of motor function, which can initially manifest as a wobbly walk, dragged toes, or crossed legs when walking. Your dog will not be in pain with this condition, but it can become terminal if it progresses without being addressed. Exercise, diet, and supplements can help slow the degenerative process and keep your dog walking for longer.

Arthritis and Dysplasia

Older large breed dogs are likely to develop arthritis in the hips and knees and dysplasia as they age. They will have trouble getting up and walking and will require a lot of rests in between.

Fibrocartillagenous Embolis (FCE)

This is the equivalent of human strokes in dogs and has similar symptoms. It’s common in Labs and Schnauzers more than any other breeds. AN FCE happens when a fragment of disc material breaks off and finds itself as a clot in the blood vessels connected to the spinal cord. Once the clot is there, it restricts blood flow and causes the area affected to slowly start to die because of the lack of blood. Permanent damage can occur if the clot is not resolved in time.

FCE most often affects dogs’ hind legs and can affect either one or both of those legs. This is a pretty sudden event, so you’re not likely to see or anticipate it occurring. It is also considered as an emergency so if it happens to your dog you should immediately bring him to the vet. There is no pain except for the initial one that occurs right when the blood vessel is first constricted. So if you hear your dog yelp just before he goes down, then it might be an FCE taking place.

Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

This can happen when your dog has been hit by a car, gotten into a fight, hit by a gunshot, or any activity that can cause injury to his brain or spinal cord. Large breeds can also rupture discs from traumatic sudden blows to the head or the spinal cord and can end in paresis or paralysis, sometimes permanent. Physical therapy and rehabilitation may be required to help your pet recover from this.


There are a lot of potential reasons why your dog is having difficulty walking, some more serious than others. Take time to analyze the symptoms and if you can’t, bring them to the vet for immediate diagnosis. This can make or break your dog’s mobility, and some causes can be addressed quickly to keep from getting any further damages.



    My dog is 12 years old. When she was three her got run over by a car and had a cast on her leg. Then when she was five she injured the same leg during a tornado. now seven years later that front paw started bothering her she limped around for a few weeks then just recently her back legs are starting to give out. Poor thing can hardly walk to the food bowl. Her appetite is good though. I suspect the front paw is ARTHRITIS, if so can it spread to her back legs too? Thanks in advance for any help. FL…

  • Brian Tiller says:

    I have a 7 year old Dane mix. He started limping on one rear paw. The next day, he wouldn’t put it down. Now I have to make him get up, and he will walk with it on the ground, but he is unstable. He’s drinking. He’s eating, but not much. I have massaged his entire body with no negative response other than pushing up on that paw as it would be if he had weight on it. Massaging that paw extensively brings no other negative response. He stays in a dog safe house all day with another dog. I cannot imagine how he could have hurt it. Any ideas?

  • Brian green says:

    I have a 5 year old chihuahua. I recently flea dipped her.3 days ago.2 days ago she started raising her hind legs as she walked

  • Brian green says:

    With raising her hind legs while walking,my chihuahua also had the runs lastnight

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