Great Dane Having Trouble Walking: Causes + What To Do

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

So what makes a Great Dane have trouble walking? Is it very serious?

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

A Great Dane having trouble walking occurs 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.

Great Dane Having Trouble Walking

Possible Causes of Great Dane Having Trouble Walking

Orthopedic conditions

Orthopedic conditions or musculoskeletal problems are conditions that affect a Great Dane’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 Great Dane’s body. When the system is affected by disease these functions become compromised.

The Great Dane as a large breed dog is highly 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 Great Dane with these conditions experiences stiffness in elbows and/or hips as they become older, have pain and weakness in the hind legs, wobbly walk, with 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 Great Dane 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 Great Danes. 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.

The condition starts around 6 to 10 months of age and shifts from leg to leg. It does not cause permanent damage to a Great Dane’s limbs but requires management with pain medication because of the pain felt when walking.

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 Great Danes is wobblers syndrome or wobblers disease. 

The disease leads to narrowing of the neck vertebrae which pinches the spinal cord preventing the nerves from sending signals to the brain. This causes a Great Dane to not feel their feet which affects walking.

 The disease causes a Great Dane to have a wobbly drunken walk. 

Read more: What is Wobblers in Great Danes?

Injury

A Great Dane 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.

Related: Why is my Great Dane shaking?

Bone cancer

Bone cancer (Osteosarcoma) is aggressive cancer common in large breed dogs such as the Great Danes.

It occurs in the bones of the dog including ribs, skull, vertebrae, and the 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 Great Dane will gradually develop difficulty in walking as cancer spreads.

When To Seek Help

A Great Dane 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 Great Dane.

In both cases, seek medical help when:

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

Treatment

The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination on your Great Dane 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 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 Great Dane 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 the 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.

Prevention

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

Regular health check-ups

Routine health check up for your Great Dane by a veterinarian help in the early detection of any disease or condition that a Great Dane might have.

Early detection of disease allows for early treatment which prevents a Great Dane 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 Great Dane to be healthy and grow at a normal growth rate. To have a Great Dane 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 Great Dane puppy a large breed puppy diet and not an adult diet with the right quantities, that is about 4 lbs per week to maintain their recommended growth rate and prevent orthopedic problems.

Some conditions may occur due to the genetic makeup of a Great Dane, 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 Great Dane owner, you can still reduce the occurrence by taking care of your dog’s skeletal health by feeding them the appropriate large breed dog diet for proper joint and bone development.

Also by providing your Great Dane the appropriate levels of exercise and  avoiding overfeeding prevents  obesity. 

Related: How to keep a Great Dane healthy

Conclusion

Limping is a sign that something may be wrong with your Great Dane. It could be due to injury or a serious underlying health problem.

If your Great Dane is limping due to injury or underlying health condition, medical care is required. 

With the right treatment and care, Great Dane limping can be managed. Therefore consult your veterinarian when you notice signs of limping.

Sources

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Patricia Williams

Patricia Williams

Patricia Williams is a writer, mum, and animal lover with extensive experience with dogs. She loves talking about animal advocacy and care. She lives with 4 German Shepherds and 1 cat.