Dogs are very good at coping with pain and mobility problems. This is why it’s often hard to detect problems until they become severe. They shift their weight or alter their gait to make walking less painful, and of course they can’t tell us they’re in pain. So difficulty getting up after a period of stillness is often the first sign that your dog has a problem. By figuring out the cause and putting together a treatment plan, you can help your dog cope with whatever problem is causing him to struggle.
Lameness caused by injury or disease, hip dysplasia and arthritis are common causes of mobility issues in dogs, and if present would likely cause difficulty in getting up. Old age is another cause. A combination of joint wear and muscle weakness can make standing after prolonged immobility painful or difficult.
Lyme disease, which is caused by a tick bite, can cause limb lameness. Obesity, especially in older dogs, can make it difficult to get up after lying down too. Panosteitis (bone inflammation), bone cancer and nerve inflammation can also make getting up difficult.
Injury to the paw, paw pads or legs can cause your dog to struggle when getting up. If your dog’s symptoms are sudden, it is probable that he has an injury rather than a joint or age-related mobility problem. Broken nails, lacerations to the paw pads and ligament injuries will make it difficult for your dog to get up.
Look at other symptoms and changes in behavior. For example, an elderly dog who is reluctant to play, less active in general, has gained weight and struggles to get up after lying down is likely to have arthritis. An otherwise active dog who suddenly has difficulty getting up after lying down may have an injury. Examine the paws and legs. If your dog has been urinating more than normal, Lyme disease may be the cause. It’s helpful to give your veterinarian as much information as possible, so be vigilant if you notice your dog struggling to get up.
Gentle massage can help relieve joint pain in dogs. Always consult a professional for advice before giving a massage. For dogs with arthritis, carrying too much weight compounds the problem. Prevent your dog from gaining weight and help him shed some fat if he’s already overweight by monitoring his portion size and reducing it if necessary. Your vet will be able to advise further on weight management. Certain foods also help with mobility problems. Cod liver oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids for joint relief. You can also help reduce joint stiffness and pain by making sure your dog’s sleeping area is warm and dry. Keep a close eye on your dog and physically support him when he tries to get up after lying down.
A young, otherwise healthy dog with hip dysplasia may be a suitable candidate for a hip replacement. Your vet will determine his suitability by examining his hips with X-rays. For arthritic dogs, an anti-inflammatory drug treatment plan can help.
- Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images