How to Prevent Hind Leg Weakness in Senior Dogs

by | May 17, 2021 | Dog Health

Weakening hind legs can be bothersome for you and your dog. In fact, the thought of your pet limping is enough to get you down. Wobbly or weak back legs could leave your pet in pain and put them at risk for accidents.

By knowing what causes dog back leg weakness, you can keep your pet from hurting and help them strengthen their legs. Read on to learn the causes of weak hind legs and get tips on making your pet’s legs stronger or maintaining proper leg strength. .

What are the Symptoms of Weak Hind Legs?

Symptoms of hind leg weakness could appear immediately or develop over time, depending on the root cause. So keep an eye on your pet’s physical condition and behavior as it could point to other signs of dog back leg weakness.

If your pet’s hind legs get weak, watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Wobbling during walks
  • Difficulties in walking and standing
  • Pain
  • Partial or full paralysis
  • Swelling
  • Extra body weight
  • Less muscle mass
  • Fatigue

Your dog could even go off-balance, walk slowly, hesitate to move, or stop peeing if they have weak back legs.

What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?

A variety of factors can weaken your pet’s hind legs. Let’s look at some of these causes.


Like humans, dogs can suffer from arthritis. Osteoarthritis can affect your pet’s hind legs. This form of arthritis occurs when your pet’s joints fail to lubricate properly. In turn, your dog can feel pain when they move their joints.

We recommend taking your pet to the vet if they:

  • Have difficulty climbing up stairs or walking
  • Perform a bunny hop
  • Develop big front-leg muscles and weakening rear leg muscles

Hip Dysplasia

If your pet’s hip joints are looser than usual, they could have hip dysplasia. Unsteady hips can make your dog go off-balance and could lead to more serious complications such as osteoarthritis.

Hip dysplasia is common among bigger dogs, including the following breeds:

  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Saint Bernard
  • Great Dane

Genetics mostly causes hip dysplasia, but size, weight, and overuse can also lead to the condition.

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy occurs when your pet’s nerve sheath degenerates. When this sheath breaks down, your dog’s nerves will fail to work properly. Your pet could have degenerative myelopathy if they’re experiencing any of the following:

  • Quivering hind legs
  • Hind legs that come together while standing
  • Feet positioned at unusual angles

This spinal condition can occur in most breeds but is most common among the following:

  • Boxer
  • German Shepherd
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks


Diabetes affects your dog’s leg joints, which could result in weak hind legs. When this happens, your pet can’t produce enough insulin and this could result in extremely high blood sugar.

Canine diabetes can make your dog thirstier and hungrier. Moreover, your pet could become incontinent and lose weight. Your vet can perform a blood test on your dog to diagnose whether your pet has diabetes.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

When a small piece of cartilage ends up going into your dog’s bloodstream and clogging it, fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) occurs. The cartilage keeps your pet’s blood from flowing into their spine, leading to swelling. As a result, your dog can only move one of his back legs. FCE could trigger temporary pain, as well.

This form of embolism affects large and giant dogs. German Shepherds and Irish wolfhounds are two breeds often diagnosed with FCE.

Limited Mobility

Hind leg surgeries, like tibial plateau levelling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery, could help your pet’s legs move normally again. However, your surgeon will recommend limiting your pet’s activity after surgery for a full recovery. In this case, temporary disability could occur.

How Can You Keep Your Pet’s Bones & Legs Strong?

The tips below can help your dog get stronger bones and hind legs.

Get Your Furry Friend Moving

Walking is a great way to strengthen your dog’s back legs. If you’re walking your pet, keep it slow and short. After all, a long walk could end up doing more harm than good.

You could take your dog for a swim or try stretching your pet’s hind legs for more strength. Have your dog lie down and give their legs a good stretch.

Give Your Dog Vitamins & Minerals

The right vitamins and minerals are essential for stronger bones. Keep your dog’s bones healthy with the following nutrients in their daily meals:

  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D helps your pet’s bones healthy by helping it absorb calcium.
  • Vitamin K & Magnesium – Like Vitamin D, these two nutrients help maintain bone health for dogs.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps produce collagen to keep bones intact and strong.
  • Vitamin E – Think of Vitamin E as a shield against free radicals that could damage your dog’s cells.

Include More Protein in Your Dog’s Diet

Your pet’s bones can grow and stay healthy with the right amount of protein. Consuming less protein limits calcium absorption, which, in turn, affects bone health.

You can include protein-rich food like chicken, beef, tuna, and milk to your pet’s diet for healthier bones. Plant-based protein sources are good for your dog, as well as pumpkin seeds, potatoes, and oats.

Get Nutritious Dog Food

Most animal feed brands offer dog food with enough calcium and phosphorus. The American Association of Feed Control Officials sets these standards for dog food.

Keep Your Dog at a Healthy Weight

The more your pet weighs, the more pressure it puts on their bones and joints. In turn, moving around could be difficult for your furry friend. Excess pressure from your dog’s weight could cause their bones to weaken and experience other health issues.

Give Your Pet Bone & Joint Supplements

Bone and joint supplements provide the necessary nutrients to your dog. 

Bone and joint supplements for your pet contain the following ingredients:

  • Glucosamine – helps relieve pain and joint damage
  • Chondroitin – reduces inflammation in your dog’s joints
  • Collagen – keeps your pet’s bones and joints healthy
  • Fish oils – contain Omega-3, a nutrient that helps control inflammation and improves your dog’s mobility

Ensure Good Bone Health for Your Dog

Weak hind legs can affect your pet’s balance, mobility, and health. With the right care, your dog can get stronger back legs and move freely. Keep our tips in mind to ensure healthy dog bones, and contact your vet if you observe any problems.

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