German Shepherd Having Trouble Walking: Causes + What To Do

When you notice your German Shepherd not able to walk properly, stand or walk very awkwardly, this can be very concerning.

So what makes a German Shepherd have trouble walking? Is it very serious?

Let’s dive in and uncover why a German Shepherd may have trouble walking and when to seek help.

Why is my German Shepherd having trouble walking?

A German Shepherd may have trouble walking due to orthopedic conditions, neurological disorders, injury, or bone cancer. Difficulty in walking can be from gradual onset in which the symptom slowly becomes more severe over time or sudden onset in which trouble walking occurs very quickly.

German Shepherd trouble walking

Possible causes of German Shepherd trouble walking

Orthopedic conditions

Orthopedic conditions or musculoskeletal problems are conditions that affect a German Shepherd’s bones, joints, muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissues that bind organs and tissues together. 

The musculoskeletal system allows a dog to move, protects the organs, and supports a German Shepherd’s body. When the system is affected by disease these functions become compromised.

The German Shepherd as a medium-sized dog is susceptible to orthopedic problems that lead to the development of an abnormal gait because of the sore leg(s). 

Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are inherited disorders that cause improper joint development resulting in arthritis. 

A German Shepherd with these conditions experiences stiffness in elbows and/or hips as they become older, pain and weakness in the hind legs, wobbly walking, difficulty or reluctance in getting up, lying down, or climbing stairs, and lameness of the legs. 

The condition begins during puppyhood and progresses as they grow, however, the symptoms appear in adulthood.  

Therefore a German Shepherd having trouble walking takes place gradually, meaning bone degeneration is gradual over years and it takes time for the symptom to appear.  

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is another orthopedic problem of German Shepherds. It occurs when puppies grow too quickly and the joint cartilage does not connect to the bones properly. 

This leads to unstable hind legs resulting in stumbling or falling.

Neurological disorders

Neurological disorders are conditions that affect the brain, nerves throughout their body, and the spinal cord. 

A neurological disorder that is common in German Shepherds is wobblers syndrome or wobblers disease. 

The disease leads to the narrowing of the neck vertebrae which pinches the spinal cord preventing the nerves from sending signals to the brain. This causes a German Shepherd to stop feeling their feet which affects walking.

The disease causes a German Shepherd to have a wobbly drunken walk. 

Read more: German Shepherd limping


A German Shepherd having trouble walking can also be due to injury. Injury can be on their legs or paws from stepping on something sharp such as nails, broken glass, or from cuts, sprains, fractures, broken bones, or trauma from being hit by a car. 

Difficulty in walking is sudden and you will immediately observe this symptom from a healthy walking dog to a sudden abnormal gait. 

This can affect their work and they may be seen limping.

Bone cancer

Bone cancer (Osteosarcoma) is aggressive cancer common in medium-large breed dogs such as the German Shepherds. It occurs in the bones of the dog including ribs, skull, vertebrae, and pelvis but most commonly in the limbs (legs).

In the legs, cancer causes lameness and pain which affects the stability when walking. 

Cancer takes time to progress and the presentation of symptoms therefore a German Shepherd will gradually develop difficulty in walking as cancer spreads.

When to seek help

A German Shepherd having trouble walking might progressively develop and not be quickly noticeable due to some underlying conditions.

This is in contrast to the sudden onset of difficulty in walking which can be indicative that something may be wrong with your German Shepherd.

In both cases, seek medical help when:

  • A German Shepherd has trouble working for more than 1 – 2 days.
  • Other symptoms of illness are present such as pain, fever, loss of appetite, or weakness.



The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination on your German Shepherd and have tests performed such as X-rays to determine the underlying cause.

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

Treatment for neurological disorders includes the administration of medication, rehabilitation exercises, neck braces, and in some cases surgery.

Orthopedic problems are treated through pain medication and rehabilitation exercises. Surgery may be required in severe cases.

To counter the effects of arthritis and its development a German Shepherd is provided with supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin which support bone and joint development. 

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is treated through the administration of medication for inflammation, supplements for the joints, exercise, or surgery.

Injuries causing difficulty in walking are treated by the removal of foreign objects that may be lodged in a dog’s paws to stop the discomfort and allow healing.  

Injuries due to fractures, broken bones, torn ligaments, or cuts are also appropriately treated.

In the case of bone cancer, treatment includes radiation of the limbs or surgery.


There are prevention measures that can be put in place to avoid the devastating outcome of a German Shepherd having trouble walking. Prevention measures include:

Regular health check-ups

Regular health check-ups help in the early detection of any disease or condition that a German Shepherd might have.

Early detection of disease allows for early treatment which prevents a German Shepherd from developing the adverse effects of the condition such as difficulty in walking. 

Provision of a healthy diet and exercise

A healthy diet helps a German Shepherd to be healthy and grow at a normal growth rate. To have a German Shepherd growing at an appropriate growth rate includes not overfeeding them because overweight puppies and adult dogs may develop arthritis. 

To also prevent puppies from growing quickly, do not overfeed them or provide extra supplements with additional calcium. 

Also, feed a German Shepherd puppy a medium-large breed puppy diet and not an adult diet with the right quantities,  to maintain their recommended growth rate and prevent orthopedic problems.

Some conditions may occur due to the genetic makeup of a German Shepherd, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, and not all cases of hip and elbow dysplasia can be prevented.  

Genetic screening by breeders helps in the production of puppies that have hip joints rated as normal grade or higher, which helps to minimize the occurrence of the condition.

However, as a German Shepherd owner, you can still reduce the occurrence by taking care of your dog’s skeletal health by feeding them the appropriate medium-large breed dog diet for proper joint and bone development, providing appropriate levels of exercise as well as avoiding overfeeding which leads to obesity. 


A German Shepherd having trouble walking can be very concerning and so should not be ignored. This is because it could be a result of a serious underlying health condition that affects your dog’s ability to walk.

By being aware of the conditions that affect your German Shepherd’s ability to walk, you can be able to appropriately care for them with the help of your veterinarian.

Always talk to your veterinarian when you notice your German Shepherd experiencing difficulty in walking so that they can determine the underlying cause and provide treatment.