What Causes Hind Leg Lameness in Dogs?

by | Jan 17, 2023 | Dog Health

A dog’s hind legs often work harder than other limbs. A minor injury can cause significant issues to their mobility and quickly reduce their quality of life.

A common sign of hind leg lameness for dog owners to look out for is sudden onset limping or leaning forward more often to support its weight. This is often associated with pain and injury.

What is Hind Leg Lameness?

Hind leg lameness is a painful condition similar to a broken bone, sprained ligament, or pulled muscle. Most cases require professional veterinary care. Some pups may need to undergo emergency treatment to reduce complications with their mobility and stance. Severe cases of limping and lameness can lead to complete immobility if left unchecked.

Veterinarians classify limping into two categories: gradual onset and sudden. The former slowly develops over a long period, while the latter happens instantaneously. 

Causes of Canine Hind Leg Lameness

Hind leg lameness in dogs can be due to different factors.

Physical Trauma

Physical trauma is an injury caused by a blunt force that could result in bruises or broken bones. Torn or ruptured ligaments, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears, can also hinder your pup from moving naturally and painlessly.

Vehicular Trauma

Many pet owners let their dogs run outdoors without a leash. However, leaving your pup unattended puts them more at risk of having an accident. They may get hit by a car, a bike, or running pedestrians.

Vehicular trauma can result in minor or life-threatening injuries. If your dog gets into a vehicle-related accident, you should bring it to the vet regardless of the severity. Some injuries can easily be detected, while others may require more specialized procedures like x-rays. Not all symptoms may be visible, such as broken bones, strained muscles, internal bleeding, or a head injury.

Playful Nature

Dogs are known for their playful nature and energetic behavior. They could injure themselves when they jump from high places, bump into furniture, trip while running around the house, or fall down the stairs. Most dogs will continue to move while recovering from an injury as they can misjudge their current condition. 

Pet owners should know how to limit their dog’s movement and activity to prevent further injury. Pups need to rest appropriately in order to heal and return to their normal lifestyle. 

Paw Injuries

The paws of your dog may get burned, bitten, or stung by bees and other bugs. Infection or broken toenails may also make the paw painful when bearing weight. 

Dogs will typically walk in an irregular way or chew on their paws more than usual if they’re having issues with their nails or paw pads. We suggest checking their feet and legs for any signs of infection, abnormalities, or injury. Immediate treatment is recommended.

Joints & Tendon Disease

The joints and tendons of dogs play a crucial role in their mobility and health. The tendons connect muscles and bones and keep them in place as they move. However, these soft tissues can deteriorate over time and cause lameness and mobility problems. 

A common problem in canine hindlimbs is hip dysplasia; the improper formation of the hip joints. Ideally, the ball and socket joints in the legs should grow at equal rates. However, this condition causes abnormal development where they do not fit together correctly. This unequal growth causes the hips to be out of place.

Luxating patella is another rear leg condition that causes the kneecap to pop out of its groove. This condition may worsen over time and significantly affect your dog’s movement. This complication is more common in small dog breeds and is known to be hereditary.


As your dog ages, it becomes weak, and its overall well-being deteriorates. For example, older dogs are more prone to developing arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints as they become less smooth over time. The bones create coarse friction against each other and cause uncomfortable sensations when moving them.

Spotting Lameness in Dogs

Pet owners must spot symptoms of lameness as soon as possible. Early detection can help treat this condition better and prevent it from worsening. Some signs of rear leg lameness in dogs that you should take note of are:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain & discomfort
  • Refusal to move
  • Muscle & weight loss

What to Do if Your Dog has Hind Leg Lameness

The first thing pet owners should do is bring their dog to the vet. Your vet will recommend appropriate treatment options.

Adequate rest

Treating minor cases of lameness should always include proper rest and reduced physical activity for your pet. Your vet may also prescribe medications your pup can take during its recovery period.

Weight loss

Canine obesity causes additional stress on the joints and puts dogs at a higher risk of developing other musculoskeletal conditions. Your pup must lose the extra weight that contributes to its lameness. You can ask your vet for a diet to give your pet or exercise routines you can do at home.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy reconditions specific parts of your dog’s body affected by the injury. Undergoing these sessions will help strengthen its hind legs, pave the way to proper recovery, and improve its limbs’ flexibility and overall control.


Surgery for more severe cases of lameness may be suggested. Operations may be needed to replace dislocated joints, fix fractured bones, suture torn tendons, and perform neurological procedures to help treat your dog’s limping.

Provide a Comfortable Life for Your Pup

Lameness is a condition that you should not ignore. Bring your dog to your vet at the first sign of its symptoms, to help reduce the onset of other more complicated injuries.

Take care of your dog so it can enjoy a comfortable and happy life with you. Visit the TPLO Info blog to learn more about treating common dog conditions and other injuries.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This