If your pet is experiencing weakness in their hind legs, we recommend reading this article. Our veterinarians at Union City can provide guidance on how to improve or maintain their leg strength.

What causes sudden hind leg weakness in dogs?

There are various factors that can lead to your dog's back legs slipping or giving out. Let's explore some of these causes.


Dogs can also suffer from arthritis, similar to humans. Osteoarthritis particularly affects the hind legs. Their joints lack sufficient lubrication, causing painful movement. You should take your furry friend to the veterinarian immediately if they exhibit any of the following symptoms.

  • Difficulty climbing stairs or walking
  • Bunny hopping while moving
  • Development of large front-leg muscles and weakening of rear-leg muscles

Hip Dysplasia

If you notice looser-than-usual hip joints in your pet, this may indicate hip dysplasia. This condition can lead to balance issues and, in severe cases, osteoarthritis. Larger dog breeds, such as, have a higher prevalence.

  • 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

Degenerative myelopathy may be causing your pet to suffer, as it deteriorates the protective covering of the nerves, resulting in abnormal nerve function. Vigilantly watch for the following symptoms:

  • Quivering hind legs
  • Hind legs coming together while standing
  • Feet positioned at unusual angles
Many breeds of dogs are susceptible to developing a spinal condition, but certain breeds, such as:
  • Boxer
  • German Shepherd
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks


Did you know that diabetes can weaken the back legs of your dog? Inadequate insulin production results in abnormal blood sugar levels, which can have this consequence. Consider indicators such as increased thirst and appetite, incontinence, and weight loss. Consult a veterinarian and obtain a blood test to confirm the diagnosis if you observe these symptoms in your dog.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Dogs can experience fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE), where a small piece of cartilage obstructs their bloodstream and causes spinal enlargement. Temporary hind leg movement restriction and pain are consequences that are particularly prevalent in larger dog breeds. Veterinarians frequently diagnose FCE in German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds, among other breeds.

Limited Mobility

Surgery, such as tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), can help restore your pet's leg mobility. However, the surgeon may instruct you to limit your pet's physical activity during recovery. This restriction may temporarily impair, but it is necessary for a complete and successful recovery.

What are the symptoms of my dog's back legs not working?

Diagnosing the underlying cause without medical assistance can be difficult due to the similarity of symptoms between the conditions listed below. Consequently, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you notice any of the following behaviors in your dog, you must act quickly:

  • Hind leg tremors
  • 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
  • Collapsing

Tips on How to Strengthen old dog's hind legs 

After identifying the cause of your pet's distress and receiving treatment recommendations, there are non-medical steps you can take to aid in their recovery and restore their vitality.

  • 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.

Alternative Ways to Alleviate Discomfort

If your dog can no longer benefit from strengthening exercises, it might be time to explore other options that can improve their comfort and overall well-being.

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. 

As pets get older, they need regular preventive veterinary care and early detection of any health issues to ensure a good quality of life. 

Our Union City veterinarians specialize in assisting senior pets to maintain optimal health. They identify and treat emerging health issues at an early stage, while they are still manageable and practical.

Are you concerned that your dog's back legs may be weak? Schedule an appointment with the veterinarians at Reelfoot Animal Hospital today.