Unsteady Gait in a Dog: Raven’s Stumbling and Trouble Walking

Dealing with your dog’s mobility issues can be equally hard on you and your dog.

The list of potential things that can impair your dog’s ability to walk is long and can include:

  • injuries/trauma
  • degenerative conditions
  • metabolic disorders
  • endocrine disorders
  • heart and blood disease
  • infections
  • poisoning
  • immune-mediated conditions
  • adverse reactions
  • neurological conditions
  • cancer

The potential suspects differ with acute or gradual onset. It is not always easy to figure out what the cause is. But an accurate diagnosis allows adjusting therapy for the best possible outcome.

Unsteady Gait in a Dog: Raven's Staumbling and Trouble Walking

Raven’s story

Raven was a 10-year-old Boxer. He’s a happy boy, although he has had his share of health challenges. When Raven was younger, one after the other, he tore his cruciate ligaments. He had surgery to repair both knees. Unfortunately, Raven suffered from one of the potential complications of this repair—infection at the implanted plate. That meant a third surgery to remove the hardware.

Further reading: Talk To Me About Dog ACL/CCL Injuries

Raven’s physical therapy

Raven was seeing a physical therapist for his knees. He had advanced arthritis and poor range of motion—his knees didn’t bend well.

Physical therapy restored and maintained good function of Raven’s knees.

Raven’s stumbling

Everything seemed good and then a new problem cropped up. Raven’s gait became awkward and he seemed to stumble when he turned. This was new and concerning.

As a result, his PT veterinarian recommended further testing and an MRI. He was concerned that Raven might have developed a tumor that was messing with the way he walked.

Nailing down the cause of the recent change would dictate further therapy. For example, if Raven had IVDD, it would alter his exercise. If he had a tumor, he would not be able to get laser therapy.

Raven’s diagnosis

But Raven had neither of those things. He didn’t have IVDD, and he didn’t have a tumor. Rather, he was suffering from degenerative myelopathy (DM).

DM is a progressive degeneration of the spinal cord. The damage to the nerve fibers leads to loss of communications between the brain and the nerves that control muscles. The first signs are usually progressive weakness and lack of coordination of the hind legs. The problem slowly moves forward and, over time, might lead to complete paralysis.

Raven was stumbling because his brain and hind legs weren’t talking and he didn’t know where his back end was.

Managing Raven’s DM

There is no cure for this condition. The goal of therapy is to slow the degeneration. Raven’s management included:

  • supplements
  • physical therapy
  • massage
  • heat therapy
  • and acupuncture

Raven regularly visits his rehab center, and his parents work with him at home in between the appointments.

The main priority is to preserve Raven’s muscle mass. His exercises target functional strength and control and include:

  • sit to stand
  • walking backward
  • figure eights

At some point, Raven might need a wheeled card to get around. But for now, he’s doing well.

Source story:
Canine Physical Rehabilitation – Case Study: Raven

Related articles:
Drunken Gait/Ataxia in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Stumbling Around?
Canine Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Understanding DM and Top 10 Management Suggestions

Further reading:
Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

Categories: Alternative treatmentsAtaxiaConditionsDegenerative Myelopathy (DM)Dog health advocacyMobility issuesPhysical therapyReal-life StoriesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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