Stiffness in Dogs Legs

Kay Rice
by Kay Rice
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QuestionWhat are some reasons as to why my 2 year old, 68 pound shepherd/hound mix would have stiffness in her legs. It hurts her to sit down and lay down. If she does lay down, she does it very slowly and looks uncomfortable. What could be wrong? (Hailey Crowley - North Carolina)

Answer

Stiffness when sitting and laying down can be signs of several muscular or skeletal problems in young, large breed dogs.  I will discuss the possibilities below, but it is a good idea to have her examined by her veterinarian soon. The vet can perform a simple physical exam and determine if the problem is in the back, knees, hips, elbows, etc. X-rays may be necessary for a final diagnosis and treatment plan.

One of the most common causes of pain in young large breed dogs is hip dysplasia. This is a genetic problem in German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers and other large mixed breeds.  The hips don’t develop properly and don’t ‘fit’ into the hip sockets like they should. This predisposes the dog to premature arthritis at an early age, stiffness and pain. Some of these dogs have difficulty jumping and may seem painful or stiff when sitting/laying down.

Knee problems like ‘floating kneecaps’ or luxating patellas can also cause difficulties. This knee problem is typically seen in dogs that have unusually straight rear legs and arthritis can set in and cause pain. When the knee cap ‘pops out’ of place, this also causes stiffness and pain.

If the problem is in her front legs or shoulders, several other issues could be to blame. As previously mentioned, a thorough examination with the veterinarian is necessary to find out why she is having difficulty. Treatment options and plans will vary depending on the diagnosis, ranging from daily joint protection supplementation (glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate) to pain medication to surgery.

Disclaimer: This service is meant to provide advice only and is not meant to replace an appointment with a registered veterinarian. Users should always seek a second opinion. Unfortunately we are only able to answer several questions per week so not everyone gets a published answer. And, unfortunately we can't answer by email.
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