Medical Monday Advice: My dog is reluctant to walk

#Medical Monday: Question from a concerned doggie owner in East London:

"Good Day, Our kennel manager has a problem with her border collie and asked me to drop, you a line to ask for help. He is Approximately 3 years old. He loves to go on his walk with her, but recently on the way home, he just sits down and refuses to move. He is healthy, it just seems that he wants to continue to walk and not go home. What can she do to over come this problem?

Thanks, Val SPCA East London, South Africa

Unhappy dogwalker

Dear Val,

A sudden reluctance to walk can be the first indication of an underlying problem. It is important to rule out the following:
· Is it a behavioural response or
· Is there an underlying medical reason for him to be reluctant to walk?

Behavioural response:
You need to look at his immediate surroundings and answer the following questions:
· Is there a specific dog in the neighbourhood which may be eliciting a fear response?
· Will this behaviour happen in the vicinity of specific landmark like a manhole, draining pipe, excessive traffic?
· Is the surface under foot “paw friendly”?
· Do you alternate your route and will it happen on all the routes or just one specific route?

Underlying medical condition:
Many health conditions will be asymptomatic to the owner but can be aggravated by physical exercise.
· Musculoskeletal pain may not be evident at rest but after a certain amount of exercise may cause reluctance to walk; hip and spinal pain are some common causes.
· Underlying heart conditions like a heart murmur due to defective heart valves and an irregular heart rate will not be symptomatic until exercise.
· Mild anaemia will lead to decreased oxygen to the muscle and be aggravated by exercise.

Even if he appears healthy in all other aspects it is important to take him for a clinical examination to your vet to rule out the above concerns.

What to do?
Take him to his vet for a clinical examination; if he is given a clean bill of health you can try the following:
· Change the route your take him on.
· If a new route does not change the behaviour take him out of the neighbourhood with your car and go for a walk in a totally new area.
· If he repeats the behaviour on a new route take treats with to entice him to walk and change to the other side of the road.
· Walk with a friend and a dog he knows well to distract him.

Let us know if you are successful in resolving this challenging behaviour.

Regards, Dr Adel Ferreira

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