With the first deep snow of the season, I see many many older dogs present for “not being able to walk” or “walking stiff.”
Is it just the cold weather? Probably not. (I doubt it’s helping though!)
Deep snow can be hard on old dogs. Why?
It is common for older dogs to have some level of arthritis in the lower back or rear legs. Many dogs compensate well and don’t show symptoms…they just shuffle their back feet along and fake it. (Dogs want to please us, and are very talented when it comes to hiding pain.) Their gait has changed from picking up their feet to more of a shuffle. This is often subtle, and many owners do not notice this change. Add a foot of snow into that mix, and they now have to pick up their legs, taking them through an entirely different range of motion than what they had been doing. Their joint pain flares up from this extra motion, and muscles that are weak from disuse are sore from being used.
Imagine walking normally for several months, with some discomfort in your hips, knees, or back (but you make it work). Then one day you have to march every single step you take with your knees high. You would be sore the next day…. maybe to the point of barely being able to stand!
Take-home message – if your dog doesn’t want to move around much after time out in the snow, it could be a symptom of something that has been lurking under the radar! Immediate help – shovel a path for the old guy, so he doesn’t have to pick up his feet as high. Better yet, get him checked out by your veterinarian who can, most importantly, get some pain relief for the poor kid!