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Dog Can’t Get Up: What Can I Do If He Is Having Trouble Walking All Of A Sudden?


Last Updated: April 28, 2023 | 3 min read | 31 Comments

This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM.

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Witnessing your dog being unable to stand up suddenly can be very alarming. Or perhaps your dog is having trouble walking all of a sudden. This can happen as a dog gets older, or it could result from an injury or illness.

Instead of brushing it off when your dog has trouble standing or walking to see if it gets better with time, call your vet and schedule an appointment immediately. It could be something you can fix, but you don’t want to wait too long because time is of the essence, and your dog could be experiencing pain. The sooner you determine the cause, the sooner your dog can hopefully start feeling like his happy self again.

Keep in mind that it’s in a dog’s nature to put on a brave face when he is hurting. So by the time you notice he is hurting, it can be severe pain he’s experiencing. That’s why we recommend contacting your vet ASAP.

Why Can’t My Dog Stand Up?

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Some common reasons your dog can’t stand up include the following:

You’re probably aware of all of these, but there are some lesser-known illnesses that your dog could be suffering from. They include:


Botulism is a serious, rare condition caused by the botulinum toxin, which is released by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Common sources of the toxin include decaying hay, grass, and grain, decomposing carcasses, and spoiled vegetables. The most common way for a dog to suffer botulism is by eating a dead carcass with the toxin.


Symptoms become apparent 12 to 36 hours after contact with the toxin.

  • Excessive drooling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis that begins in the hind limbs and moves toward the front
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Facial nerve paralysis


Dogs suffering from botulism are treated differently depending on the severity, but hospitalization may be necessary. If your dog has mild botulism, he may be hospitalized and given a urinary catheter to keep his bladder empty (botulism can cause urinary continence). In addition, your dog may receive nutrition through an IV.

If your dog has severe botulism, he will need to be closely monitored at a veterinary hospital with an intensive care unit (ICU). If he also has trouble swallowing, he will need a stomach tube for feeding. A ventilator will help your dog breathe when his respiratory muscles become paralyzed.

No matter the severity, your dog will receive an antitoxin to help neutralize the toxin your dog ingested. Recovery takes an average of 1 to 3 weeks. If gone untreated, botulism can lead to fatal respiratory failure.


Keep your dog away from dead carcasses, and don’t let him ingest anything besides the food and treats you give him.


The average cost for treating botulism is $2,000, but it can range from $500 to $4,000.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) occurs when the spinal cord nerves begin to degenerate, which causes communication issues between the brain and limbs. It is typically found in dogs between 8 and 14 years old.

DM’s first symptom is coordination loss in the hind legs, which may appear as the dog wobbling while walking or dragging his feet. Sometimes the loss of coordination will appear in one leg and then the other. After 6 to 12 months, the dog will not be able to stand or walk. Eventually, the dog will lose the function of the front limbs as well. DM is not physically painful for dogs.


DM is not curable, but physical therapy can help with the quality of life.


Diagnosing DM can cost $2,000 to $4,000, and maintaining a good quality of life for your dog can cost more than $1,000 per year for supplements and physical therapy.

Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome

Geriatric vestibular syndrome (GVS), also known as old dog vestibular disease, has no known cause. It affects balance and results in dizziness. GVS is more common in older dogs. Fortunately, there is a full recovery in almost all cases; minor head tilts are the only effect left over.

Potential Causes

  • Recurring ear infections
  • Perforated eardrums caused by excessive ear cleaning or trauma
  • Certain drugs and antibiotics

It can also be present from birth as a congenital condition.


Diagnostic evaluations can cost $500 to $1,000. Additional physical therapy may be necessary, which costs more.

What Should I Do If My Dog Can’t Stand Or Walk?

Ultimately, your dog’s inability to get up could be due to a number of reasons, even if your dog has trouble getting up but walks fine. Our best recommendation is to take your dog to the veterinarian. There is no substitute for a professional physical exam and consultation.

Here are some signals that it’s time to take your dog to the vet:

  • Dog can’t walk on back legs suddenly
  • Dog can’t stand up and is breathing heavy
  • Puppy suddenly can’t walk
  • Dog won’t jump up on the bed anymore

Hopefully, there is a treatable solution. But, your vet may recommend a wheelchair for your dog either for temporary use or as a long-term “solution.” If that’s the case, we can help you find the right size for your dog and one that’s high quality but won’t break your bank account. There are also additional mobility-enhancing tools that may prove helpful.

Paying For Treatment

Finally, many of the treatment options we’ve discussed in this article are quite expensive. If you’re concerned about your ability to care for your dog’s future health needs financially, then consider pet insurance. Our comparison guide and quote form can help you choose a policy that’s right for you and your family. Please be aware that no pet insurance company will pay for a pre-existing condition. So, if your dog is already having issues, it’s probably too late. However, if you’re concerned about these kinds (or other) health issues arising in your dog’s future, then definitely consider insuring your pup.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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