Why Are Dogs Back Legs Weak? Find Solutions and Support

Dogs' Back Legs Weak

Have you noticed lately that your dog’s back legs appear to have weakened unexpectedly? Several factors might be responsible for your dog’s trouble with standing and walking. Although it’s common for aging dogs to experience weakness in their hind legs, other hidden health issues might also be causing this sudden loss of strength in their back legs.

It’s essential to visit your veterinarian immediately to address the leg weakness in dogs and restore normal hind limb function.

Common Causes of Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?

There are a lot of reasons why your dog has weak back legs. Understanding the underlying cause of weak hind legs can help improve their condition.


Dogs are prone to arthritis. In most cases, it’s the osteoarthritis responsible for your dog’s back legs being weak. This condition happens when the joint is not adequately lubricated, causing poor hind leg function. Your dog might experience severe back pain when they try to stand up or walk. 

If your dog struggles when climbing stairs or performing a bunny hop, you should immediately take your pet to a veterinarian doctor.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is another common cause of back leg weakness in dogs. It occurs when the hip joints have become too loose. Hip dysplasia can lead to more complicated joint problems like osteoarthritis. 

Larger dogs like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds are more susceptible to hip dysplasia. In most cases, genetics are responsible for hip dysplasia. 

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy is a condition as a result of a degenerative nerve sheath. It causes malfunctioning of your dog’s nerves, leading to their hind legs shaking or coming together. Also, you might notice the dog’s legs are positioned at unusual angles.

Some giant breed dogs, like German Shepherds, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Boxers, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, are prone to canine degenerative myelopathy. This neurological disorder can be life-threatening.

Sadly, there’s no effective treatment option for canine degenerative myelopathy. The best you can do as a pet owner is to provide your furry friend with much-needed care and improve the dog’s quality of life. Nonetheless, it would be best to regularly take dogs suffering from degenerative myelopathy to the vet clinic.


Another common cause of back leg weakness in dogs is diabetes. This happens when the pet’s body is not producing enough insulin leading to high amounts of sugar in the blood. While the pet might eat more, you’ll notice a significant drop in the dog’s weight and incontinence. So, taking your furry friend to a vet doctor for a blood test is important to determine if the weak hind legs are due to diabetes and offers the right treatment options.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

In rare cases, a small cartilage piece can block the dog’s blood from flowing into its spinal cord, which causes swelling. This condition is called Fibrocartilaginous Embolism. Usually, it’s one of the rear legs affected.

While most dogs are rarely diagnosed with fibrocartilaginous embolism, Irish wolfhounds and German Shepherds are an exception.

Limited Mobility

After a hind leg surgery, it’s common to notice a loss in balance instability. So, it’s important to indulge your pet in physical therapy and limit their activity for a full recovery. In this case, it’s normal for your dog to experience hind limb weakness.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) 

Another condition that causes weak back legs is intervertebral disc disease. IVDD occurs when the spinal discs herniate, causing the spinal cord to compress and leading to pain in your dog’s hind end. Most dogs develop this condition due to too much physical stress on their spine. Also, you should know that in severe cases, intervertebral disc disease can lead to complete paralysis.

Vestibular Disease

This condition is also called old dog vestibular syndrome. It’s responsible for the weak hind legs in older dogs. Ear infections, tumors, trauma, etc usually cause vestibular disease. This non-progressive condition can be challenging to treat, as the treatment option depends on the cause of the disease. In rare cases where the cause remains unknown, the only probable solution is supportive care until their hind leg function improves.

Exercise-induced Collapse (EIC)

This disorder is common with Labrador Retrievers. It’s hereditary and manifests in young dogs between 6 months to 2 years. However, EIC tends to happen after a while of physically demanding exercise. You might notice your dog suddenly loses its coordination, and his back legs are weak. 

There’s no treatment plan for EIC. However, it’s best only to engage your dog in light exercise. Also, it’s crucial that you purchase your puppy from a reputable breeder to avoid one with the EIC gene.

Addison’s Disease

Dogs develop Addison’s disease because of the low amount of hormones the adrenal glands produce. Common symptoms include muscular weakness, exercise intolerance, hind leg weakness, diarrhea, increased urination, and thirst. Other signs include vomiting and weight loss. Treating this condition involves injecting the dog with veterinary medicine once every 3 – 4 weeks to replace the missing hormones for normal function.

Treatment of Hind Legs Weakness in Dogs

There’s no one treatment solution for hind leg weakness. So, let your vet diagnose and understand the cause of hind limb weakness before prescribing a treatment plan. In cases of an acute injury such as a spinal injury, your vet will have to treat it depending on the severity of the condition, which might require surgery. 

For causes like cancer, IVDD, etc., medical management might be the best course of action. Also, you might have to administer some pain medications to help your dog manage the painful condition. Dogs with arthritis can benefit from glycosaminoglycan supplementation and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. 

In addition, daily exercise can also help strengthen your dog’s back legs. Similarly, including joint supplements in your dog’s food prevents and treats hind leg weakness. These small practices promote healthy weight and strengthen your dog’s hind legs, especially in senior dogs.

FAQs about Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs

How can I help my dog with hind leg weakness at home?

First, create a safe and comfortable environment for breeds like German shepherds prone to hind limb weakness. Slippery floors can cause your dog to struggle with getting up from his laying position or injure his hind legs due to poor traction. Also, exercise them regularly to build your dog’s muscles, which ensures their four legs are strong. 

What are some signs to watch for that may indicate hind leg weakness in a senior dog?

The most apparent sign of hind limb weakness is dragging one hind leg while walking, wobbliness, bunny hop, and inability to stand up. In rare cases, old age dogs might lose muscle mass. The best way to know is through a physical exam like a bunny hop.

What to do if my dog’s hind legs are weak?

It’s important to let a veterinarian examine your dog’s back legs and develop the right treatment plan. Usually, pain relief, joint supplements, and other necessary medication will be provided to help improve your dog’s hind legs mobility. Also, you should feed breeds like German shepherds a well-balanced diet to boost nerve function and develop strong back legs. 


There are several causes of weak hind ends in dogs, meaning the right treatment option would differ. Regardless of why your dog has weak legs, letting your vet examine your pet and suggest the best treatment plan is essential.

While the cause of the weak legs might not be life-threatening, it’s usually painful. So, you must address the issue immediately.

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