My dog refuses to walk. What’s causing this?

Original Question: Harley stops walking all of a sudden when he is out for a walk and will not go further. He will turn around and go back to where we started from. He shows no sign of discomfort and hops easily into the truck. He is familiar with all the trails we go on. This started a few months ago. He eats well, not lethargic, and regular. We may walk 15 minutes to 1 hour and he'll just stop and not go further. Sometimes he won't stop and we finish his walk, but right now 8 out of 10 times he'll stop. He is afraid of thunder and recently had dental surgery and had some teeth removed but this happens any time of the day. - Peter and Adele

My dog refuses to walk. What’s causing this? Aug 20, 2018

Hi Peter and Adele,

Thanks for your question.

I’ve had many pet parents tell me that their dog suddenly refuses to walk. There are a few different things that it is typically due to.

  1. Most common is developing arthritis. This is very common in dogs especially if they are a middle-aged, medium to large breed and are either healthy or overweight. I would recommend you look at our resources on the site for arthritis. Have your veterinarian palpate the joints and possibly take radiographs to determine if this is the cause.
  2. Pain. Sometimes dogs that have chronic pain will have a lack of desire for exercise and it is often not seen by their owners. I saw a case of a dog with significant dental disease that would not go to the park anymore because of it and the owner had no idea that there was any pain at all. You mention that there was a dental procedure performed so I would recommend that you book a follow-up visit and have the mouth assessed for any nerve exposure or retained roots from the extractions. Back and neck pain could also be sources of pain that will cause this behavior.
  3. A neurological issue. There can be weakness from a developing neurological issue that can cause this. This is not a common set of problems but needs to be on the list. Have your veterinarian perform a neurological examination to evaluate the function and if there are any deficits.
  4. Heart disease. Exercise intolerance or weakness can occur because of developing heart disease which can have very few symptoms other than just weakness if it is in the early stages. I recommend you have your veterinarian listen to the heart for a murmur and determine if there are other physical issues that could support this diagnosis.
  5. General health issues. There are metabolic diseases that could reduce energy and therefore it is a good idea to perform blood work and urine testing for any underlying conditions. This is simple wellness testing that should be done in our healthy pets on a routine basis anyway.

These are some good sources that I would start with. If the medical issues are all clear, you could consider a behavioral one but only after the medical issues are eliminated as possibilities.

I hope this helps.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

For a quick summary of why a dog suddenly refuses to walk click on the clip below!

My dog refuses to walk. What's causing this?
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My dog refuses to walk. What's causing this?
I've had many pet parents tell me that their dog suddenly refuses to walk. There are a few different things that it is typically due to such as arthritis, pain, a neurological issue, heart disease and general health issues that I will go over in more detail.
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Healthcare for Pets
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