What Are the Causes of Stiffness in Dogs?

A soft bed can help cushion sore joints.
Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Stiffness in dogs can be due to several causes. While sometimes stiffness may simply be due to old age, others may be more serious. It is important to monitor all of your dog's symptoms and tell your vet. This will help him make an accurate diagnosis and help your dog feel better.


Just as in humans, dogs can get arthritis in their joints. It can occur in older dogs or younger dogs, though the large breeds are most often affecting because their size may strain joints and ligaments. Affected joints may have suffered an injury previously, or the dog may have hip dysplasia or a similar condition. Fortunately, you can make your dog more comfortable by watching his weight, providing physical therapy and using pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications if they are recommended by your vet. A soft doggie bed will help those joints feel better, too.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is carried by deer ticks. When an infected tick bites your dog, it can transmit the disease. Other symptoms of Lyme disease include lameness, swollen painful joints, loss of appetite, fatigue and fever. If your vet suspects Lyme disease, your dog will be treated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic for three to four weeks.

Canine Anaplasmosis

Another tick-borne disease, canine anaplamosis is carried by deer ticks, just like Lyme disease. The symptoms are similar to those of Lyme disease, but also may include vomiting, diarrhea or even seizures. This disease can be prevented by simply using a medication that prevents ticks from biting your dog, however, it can be treated with antibiotics for about a month if your dog is infected.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

This disease is carried by several kinds of ticks: the American dog tick, the lone star tick and the wood tick. Other symptoms can include fever, skin lesions, cough, trouble breathing and neurological problems. If Rocky Mountain spotted fever is suspected, your vet will prescribe two to three weeks of antibiotic treatment.

A Note About Tick-Borne Diseases

You can protect your dog from tick-borne disease by using topical medications that prevent ticks from biting dogs. It is wise to check your dog for ticks every day. It takes up to 24 hours for an attached tick to infect a dog, so the sooner you can find and remove a tick, the better chance your dog has to stay healthy.