What To Do If My Dog Can’t Get Up

Dog laying in grass (text in image: What to do if My Dog Can't Get Up)Witnessing your dog being unable to stand up suddenly can be very alarming. This can happen as dogs age, or it could be the result of an injury or illness.

Instead of brushing it off and seeing 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 her 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?

Get 4 Free Pet Insurance Quotes

Some common reasons your dog may be unable to stand include:

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 toxins from bacteria called 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 present 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. If mild, your dog may be hospitalized and be given a urinary catheter and IV feedings. If severe, your dog’s breathing may be closely monitored in an intensive care unit (ICU). While in the ICU, a stomach tube may be placed for feeding and a ventilator can be used to help your dog breathe.

No matter the severity, you 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) is when the spinal cord nerves begin to degenerate, which causes communication issues between the brain and limbs. This is typically found in dogs between 8 and 14 years old.

It first presents with coordination loss in the hind legs, which may appear as the dog wobbling while walking or dragging his feet. Sometimes it 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 function of the front limbs as well. DM is not physically painful for dogs.


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


It costs $1,800 on average to help maintain a good quality of life for your dog, but it can cost as much as $3,000.

Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome

Geriatric vestibular syndrome (GVS) is presumed to be caused by a brain lesion or hemorrhage, but there is no evidence to support this thought. GVS affects balance and results in dizziness. It 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.


  • Recurring ear infections
  • Perforated eardrums caused by excessive ear cleaning or trauma
  • Stroke
  • Tumors
  • Polyps
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Meningoencephalitis
  • Certain drug and antibiotics

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


Evaluations can cost $500 to $1,000 alone. Additional training may be necessary, which costs more.


Ticks that carry and spread Lyme disease can cause paralysis in dogs. If your dog experiences this, it could extend into the bloodstream and reach your dog’s organs, which can be fatal.

If there is a tumor located on your dog’s spine, it can also result in paralysis. Tumors can spread viruses throughout your dog’s body that are life-threatening. The viruses can also go through the nerves and damage your dog’s organs. Paralysis due to tumors is typically a slower progression and not as fast-acting as paralysis from Lyme disease. If a tumor is present, it most likely will affect the hind legs first, followed by the front if not treated.

Infections that aren’t treated correctly (especially around the face and ears) can also cause paralysis. Infections can damage the nerves, muscles and vital organs.

Rabies and distemper can cause paralysis because they spread viruses into dogs’ brains. These are two viruses that can be extremely fatal and should be treated with seriousness. You can prevent rabies and distemper by vaccinating your dog against these diseases.


If you think your dog is suffering from paralysis, go to the vet immediately. Waiting can cause more damage, so if your vet is closed, take your dog to the emergency vet.

Your dog may be given a combination of painkillers, anti-inflammatories and steroids. These can help decrease swelling, improve nerve function and reduce any pain your dog may feel. If these medications are unsuccessful, your dog may be taken into surgery.


Treatment can cost between $4,500 and $8,500.

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

Ultimately, the reason your dog is unable to get up could be due to a number of reasons. Our best recommendation is to take your dog to the veterinarian. There is no substitute for a professional physical exam and consultation. We hope everything goes well, and please keep us updated.

Your vet may recommend a wheelchair for your dog. 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 mobililty-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 financially care for your dog’s health needs, 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.

Do you know why your dog is unable to walk?

Please Comment Below!

Comments (23)