There are a number of reasons why a dog may experience weakness in their hind legs from arthritis to deterioration. Here, our vets in Deer Park talk about why weakness occurs and what you can do to strengthen your old dog's hind legs.
What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?
There are a number of causes of hind leg weakness in dogs. Here we discuss some of the most common underlying conditions that can cause issues with your dog's limbs.
Just like humans, dogs can also be affected by arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that particularly affects the hind legs. This happens when their joints lack sufficient lubrication, resulting in painful movements. If your furry friend experiences any of the following symptoms, it's best to take them to the vet for a check-up:
- Difficulty climbing stairs or walking
- Bunny hopping while moving
- Development of large front-leg muscles and weakening of rear-leg muscles
If you observe that your pet's hip joints are looser than usual, this could be a sign of hip dysplasia. This condition can cause problems with balance and, in more serious cases, osteoarthritis. It is more common in larger dog breeds, including:
- German shepherd
- Labrador retriever
- Saint Bernard
- Great Dane
Hip dysplasia is primarily caused by genetics, but other factors such as size, weight, and overuse may also play a role in developing this condition.
Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
Your pet may be experiencing degenerative myelopathy, a condition in which the protective covering of their nerves deteriorates, resulting in improper nerve function. some of the symptoms that your dog may experience include:
- Quivering hind legs
- Hind legs coming together while standing
- Feet positioned at unusual angles
- German shepherd
- Cardigan Welsh corgi
- Rhodesian ridgebacks
Diabetes has the ability to cause weakness in your dog's limbs, including the hind legs. Insufficient insulin production leads to abnormal blood sugar levels, which can have this effect. Look for signs like increased thirst and hunger, incontinence, and weight loss. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, it's best to seek advice from a veterinarian and have a blood test done to confirm the diagnosis.
Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is a condition that can affect dogs, where a small piece of cartilage blocks their bloodstream, leading to spinal swelling. The result is temporary hind leg movement restriction and pain, which is especially common in larger dog breeds. Breeds such as German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds often receive a diagnosis of FCE.
If your pet needs surgical intervention such as tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), it can help restore leg movement. However, as advised by the surgeon, your pet may need to limit their physical activities during post-surgery recovery. While this restriction may cause temporary disability, it is necessary for a full and successful recovery.
Signs That Your Dog's Back Legs Are Weak
Many of the symptoms associated with leg weakness are quite similar and they may be difficult to distinguish from one another. This makes visiting your vet very important for diagnosing a potential; issue. If you notice any of the following behaviors in your dog, taking action promptly is important:
- Hind leg tremors
- Your dog's back legs are slipping out
- Swaying of the hind end
- Trouble transitioning from lying or sitting to a standing position
- Difficulty walking or complete inability to walk
- Inability to climb stairs
- Sudden reluctance to go for walks or play
- Stumbling and lack of coordination
- Muscle mass loss
- Decreased walking speed in general
How to Strengthen Your Old Dog's Hind Legs
Once your vet has diagnosed the root cause of your dog's hind leg weakness, they can recommend treatment options to help improve their quality of life. Some of the possible options include:
- It is recommended to take your furry companion for brief yet consistent walks on a daily basis. This will aid in gradually restoring their hind-leg muscles.
- Let your dog swim in a safe place. Swimming provides a low-friction way to work their muscles and benefits their overall strength.
- As dogs age, their metabolism slows down, and excess weight can strain weakening legs. To prevent this, ensure your pet enjoys a healthy diet with lean, protein-rich foods.
- One way to support your pet's joint health and mobility is by giving them supplements that contain Omega-3 fatty acids. These supplements can help reduce inflammation and provide extra nutritional support for aging joints.
- Inflammation-reducing treatments such as acupuncture and regenerative therapy can greatly address limited mobility and reduce pain.
How to Relieve Pain When Your Dog's Back Legs Are Weak
If strengthening exercises are just not going to work for your dog anymore, you may want to consider other options to help them live more comfortably and move around easier.
You can consider using mobility aids like a wheelchair, rear lifting harness, or hip brace. These aids will give your dog a certain level of freedom, enabling them to enjoy an active lifestyle during the longer, warmer summer months.
Preventive care on a regular basis will help with monitoring your dog's condition, allowing for care changes as needed.
Our veterinarians in Deer Park specialize in helping older pets maintain optimal health. They identify and treat emerging health problems at an early stage and provide proactive treatment while it's still manageable and convenient.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.