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Mobility Problems in Older Dogs: What You Can Do at Home

An aging dog relaxes on the porch with a ball.An aging dog relaxes on the porch with a ball.
An aging dog relaxes on the porch with a ball.An aging dog relaxes on the porch with a ball.

Much like human bodies, dog bodies develop aches and pains with age that can affect their mobility. The combination of age, muscle loss and a variety of orthopedic and neurologic conditions, like arthritis in dogs, all have an impact on an older dog’s mobility. The severity of their problems can vary from minor lameness or difficulty standing up from a lying position, to an inability to walk.

When your dog begins showing symptoms of mobility loss, there are some things you can do at home to help lessen their struggle and pain.

Identifying the Cause of Mobility Problems in Older Dogs

There are a variety of reasons why a dog might experience mobility loss. Talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you might have in order to get an accurate diagnosis of the problem before putting a treatment plan in place.

Some of the more common reasons for mobility problems in older dogs include:

  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a painful, crippling disease that causes a dog’s hip to weaken, deteriorate and become arthritic. It stems from the abnormal development of the hip joint – a ball-and-socket type joint – in which the head of the femur does not fit properly into the socket. Hip dysplasia can be mild and slightly disabling, or it can be severe and cause crippling arthritis in dogs.
  • Osteoarthritis: Degenerative joint disease (DJD), or arthritis, affects the smooth articular cartilage of the joint, which is the covering of bone in the joints that is responsible for the smooth, non-painful motion of joints. When it becomes worn, raw bone surfaces become exposed and rub together, causing dog joint pain and a lack of joint mobility.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): IVDD is a condition that occurs when pressure is placed on the spinal cord by disc material that herniates beneath or adjacent to the cord. The condition may be acute (occurs suddenly) or chronic (slowly develops over time), and depending on the location of the disease, the front or back legs (or both) can be affected to varying degrees. This is one of the most common reasons for neck and back pain in veterinary patients.

Tips To Improve Your Dog’s Mobility At Home

If your dog is diagnosed with any of the above mobility issues, there are plenty of preventative measures that you can take at home to help improve their condition and make them feel more comfortable. Here are a few ways to alleviate mobility problems in older dogs:

Create A Regular Exercise Routine

When it comes to mobility problems in older dogs, strenuous exercise should be avoided. Exercise your pet regularly but moderately. Swimming can be very beneficial if that option is available to you; it helps older pups maintain good muscle mass and tone while keeping weight off the hip joints, relieving dog joint pain.

Natural Remedies or Medication

Many people prefer to try natural remedies for dog joint pain and arthritis, such as supplements that contain glucosamine and chondroitin. If your veterinarian has recommended medication, educate yourself about the potential side effects. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are one of the most common medications prescribed for joint pain. These medications can cause kidney, liver, or digestive problems if not administered properly. Also, be mindful of the fact that dogs should never be given over-the-counter medications that are made for human consumption, such as Advil or Ibuprofen. For optimal safety, consult a veterinarian before administering any pain medication to your dog.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

If your elderly dog is overweight or obese, that can be a contributing factor in dog joint pain and mobility issues. Help your dog maintain a healthy weight, and consider a weight loss program if they are struggling. Your veterinarian can advise you on how to get your dog to lose weight safely and effectively.

Be Thoughtful About Your Floors

A telltale sign that a dog is in pain due to mobility problems is watching them attempt to grip their toes on slippery surfaces, like tile, laminate, or wood flooring. This can cause your dog to slip and fall. To reduce their discomfort, place rugs and carpets on these surfaces. Keep the floors dry because wet floors are especially slippery and a hazard. Dry areas with fans, towels or both. There are also booties that can be purchased that provide extra traction when standing and walking on slippery floors.

Maintain Proper Hygiene

Keep your dog’s nails trimmed. Long nails can cause dogs to slip on smooth surfaces. In addition, some dogs grow long hair on the bottoms of their feet between their paw pads, which can get wet and cause them to slip. In the winter, ice can adhere to this area causing additional difficulty getting traction. Be sure to trim their hair and nails to help them better navigate your home.

Enlist The Help of Mobility Aids

There are a variety of tools you can use to help your dog’s mobility:

  • Mobility slings are pieces of material with handles designed to go under your dog’s abdomen or chest, with the handles over the back to help you get your pet up, walking, or provide extra support going up or downstairs. These are commercially available or you can make your own.
  • Mobility harnesses are commercially available harnesses that have handles over the back. These are excellent for pets with neurological disease to help them get up or walk.
  • Strollers can help you take your dog on walks and maintain quality of life without forcing your elderly dog to walk.
  • Non-slip booties have traction on the bottom that can help dogs get up from a lying down position without slipping.
  • Toe grips are glued to your dog’s nails to provide traction. This works great for dogs that struggle on slippery floors.
  • Inexpensive bath mats or yoga mats are a great way to provide some traction for dogs. This can be great on grooming tables or for small kennels or crates.

Help With Mobility Problems in Older Dogs

While it’s normal for dogs to experience the loss of mobility with age, if they seem to be experiencing pain or extreme discomfort, it’s best to take them to see the vet to discuss all of their treatment options. If you don’t currently have a trusted vet to take your dog to, use our Vet Locator tool to help you find an expert vet in your neighborhood.

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