Dog on leash
Walks are why many of us get a dog. A dog lover almost always has a friend ready to go for a walk to jump-start the day or wind down after work. When our best walking buddies don’t want to go along, it’s worrisome, especially if they are usually rarin’ to go.

There are many different reasons a dog might be reluctant to go for his normal neighborhood stroll or a hike on a nearby trail. Let’s look at some of the possible causes.

Weekend Warrior Syndrome

If your dog isn’t interested in his usual stroll, he might simply be tired. Show of hands if you’ve ever gone all out on the weekend with a big home-inprovement project, a game of touch football or some power shopping at the local megamall. You’re tired afterward, right? It’s more activity than your muscles and joints are used to.

Same thing with dogs. Young dogs may still be “growing” their musculoskeletal system. Too much running, jumping or even walking on hard surfaces can leave them feeling painful. Middle-aged and senior dogs, on the other hand, might have trouble rebounding after an active weekend or have less energy than in the past. It’s hard to tell, because they will do their darnedest to keep up with us, but sometimes the activities they used to do without a second thought are getting to be too much for them.

For a young dog, less than 18 to 24 months old, ask your veterinarian or the breeder about appropriate levels and types of exercise. And while your older dog might still seem the same, ask your veterinarian if it’s time to ease up, slow down and take a few more breaks. It will be good for both of you.

On the Injured List

A dog who is limping may have a muscle sprain or strain. A plant awn or burr or other sharp object might be embedded in his paw; a broken nail can be painful as well. Dogs can also hurt themselves jumping on or off furniture or in or out of the car or playing rough and tumble in the backyard. One common type of canine injury is a cruciate ligament tear.

If you notice your dog limping, check his paws and nails carefully to make sure there are no cuts or foreign objects that are causing him pain. Cancel the walk and give your dog’s body a rest. If he’s still limping the next day, call your veterinarian for an appointment. A thorough physical exam with palpation and evaluation of your dog’s gait by a vet’s trained hands and eyes may bring to light an injury or problem you didn’t know was there. For instance, certain tick-borne diseases can cause limping.

Orthopedic Problems

Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, panosteitis, intervertebral disc disease and osteoarthritis are just a few of the conditions that can cause dogs to limp or be reluctant to walk. Some of these conditions are congenital, meaning dogs are born with them. Others develop over time.

Another possible deterrent to walking is obesity. Yes, it’s a disease. Excess weight can put uncomfortable pressure on your dog’s joints and can make him unwilling to walk.

Senior dogs may be suffering the onset of osteoarthritis. Observe whether your senior dog has gradually become slower to rise from his bed and more cautious about negotiating stairs.

Heart Disease or Cancer

A dog who is reluctant to walk sometimes has a more dangerous condition lurking in his body. If you notice that your dog is stopping frequently, sometimes insistently, don’t necessarily write it off to creeping old age. Exercise intolerance can be a subtle sign of congestive heart failure or other serious conditions.

A dog with bone cancer can also be slower or more reluctant to walk for no apparent reason. That’s because a tumor may be interfering with his ability to walk.

Sometimes all a dog needs is a little R&R before he’s back on his daily walk with you. Any time you notice a continuing reluctance to walk, though, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian and schedule an exam. Your dog may need medication or surgery to bring him back to his status as best walking buddy.

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