Subtle Signs of Mobility Loss in Senior Dogs

Senior Dog Mobility Loss

There are many noticeable changes in a dog’s behavior as they age. Your senior dog may slow down, their activity levels change, and they may need more rest as they get older. Physical changes and signs of mobility loss may become apparent as well.

The early signs that your dog’s mobility is changing can be easy to miss but are important for a pet parent to pay attention to. Noticing signs of mobility loss in its earliest stages can help you make the right choices to help your pet and improve their quality of life.

5 Subtle Signs Your Senior Dog Has Mobility Issues

1. Struggling to Stand Up

Canine Mobility Loss Sign: Struggling to Stand

As dogs age they lose muscle strength and many senior pets will begin to show signs of arthritic joint pain.

Pushing up off the ground and standing can be incredible challenging for an elderly dog. Standing up may be hard, painful, or just a slow process for an aging dog. A simple rear support leash can be used to help support your dog’s hind end and gently guide your dog to a standing position

2. Swaying Hind End

Mobility Loss in Dogs Sign: Loss of Balance

As muscles atrophy, especially in the hind end, standing or walking for extended periods of time becomes challenging for older dogs.

A dog whose back legs sway, wobble or occasionally loses its balance is most likely beginning to lose hind leg strength. Inability to maintain their balance is very common in senior dogs.

3. Unwillingness to Jump on Furniture or into a Car

Senior Dog Mobility Loss: Unwillingness to jump

Jumping onto the couch or vehicle can be painful for pet’s with arthritis or impossible for a dog whose back legs are losing strength.

If your dog seems reluctant to jump or climb it may be because they don’t feel confident or safe doing it anymore. Offer them assistance, ramps or pet stairs can be used to safely access furniture. A support harness can be used to gently your dog in or out of the car.

4. Refusing to Climb Up or Down the Stairs

Canine Mobility Loss Sign: Reluctance to Use Stairs

An inability or reluctance to use the stairs is often the first sign your dog is experiencing mobility loss.

They may no longer have the strength or control to safely use the stairs on their own. Pay attention to how your senior dog goes down the stairs, if they rapidly descend the stairs, they may not have enough strength to control themselves on the stairs.

5. Scraping Nails or Dragging Paws

Paw Knuckling in Senior Dogs

 Mobility loss in senior dogs begins in the back legs. You may even hear this happening before you see it.

During your daily walk, listen for scraping nails on the pavement, this may happen only occasionally. And after your walks check your dog’s paws. Uneven wear on your dog’s nails is often a sign your dog is struggling with their paw placement. Other dogs may scrape the tops of their paws, leading to patches mission fur or even scrapes and wounds.


Changes in your dog’s mobility is nothing to worry about. Pay attention to your dog’s changing needs, help when you can and let your vet know about any significant changes. With some small changes to their life, and help from you your senior dog will continue to live a happy and active life.

Pet Parent's Guide on How to Help Your Aging Pet

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