Hind end weakness in dogs isn’t something many owners have to deal with, fortunately!
But the thing is, however rare the condition may be, it’s always wise to be alert to the possibility, isn’t it? Even if the condition mainly manifests in older dogs.
That doesn’t necessarily mean puppies are immune to it though. If a dog’s back legs are giving out, it could really be symptomatic of a variety of possible conditions.
And yes, some of them can happen to puppies too.
So before we talk about what it is you can and should do if your dog is losing control of their back legs, let’s try to understand what could happen.
Hind End Weakness in Dogs – What Could Cause It?
The odd moment of weakness or lack of motion may be fairly normal in dogs. Think about it…Has your puppy been tearing around the place all day?
In that sense, a sense of fatigue or soreness of the legs can be natural. Or they could have hit their legs sometime during their shenanigans…a minor knock they need to shake off.
On the other hand, this kind of thing is always gradual. And temporary.
If you see your dog suddenly go weak in their hind legs, or you can see it progressively getting worse and your pup getting distressed, it could be much more serious.
A serious injury to the back or spine can affect the nervous system, and thereby muscle function.
If your dog has been hurt and consequently lost mobility in their hind legs, do have your vet check for such trauma.
Intervertebral Disc Disease is another condition that can cause discs in the spine to cause your dog’s hind leg weakness.
This may require medication and surgery for actual recovery.
Another such condition, which causes a disorder in the spine to impact the nerves – and thus leads to your dog losing control of their back legs.
So you see…
It may not be all about trouble in the legs.
2. Degenerative Myelopathy
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) can be a possible reason behind hind leg weakness in dogs – particularly older ones.
It’s another condition that affects the legs via a problem in the spine. Yes.
The spine, as you can see, is a precious, precious part of one’s body. And something that disturbs it can, well, make life hell. And that goes for your dog, too.
DM is essentially a condition that causes damage to the nerves that make up the spinal cord, progressing to a point that it causes weakness, loss of mobility, and instability – also known as ataxia – in dogs.
The severity of the effect on your dog’s legs may increase or decrease at times. And although it isn’t known to cause pain, generally dogs that are affected to lose mobility within 6-24 months. That would naturally cause the pain of another sort. And it can occur in dogs as young as four years old.
Unfortunately, diagnosing DM is difficult. And worse, there’s no known cure–not yet. However, getting your dog checked up early can lead to early detection.
And physical therapy, dietary changes are known to really help ease and manage the condition.
3. Diabetes, Arthritis and Other Common Conditions Afflicting Older Dogs
Older dogs can develop a variety of health issues that can indirectly cause hind end weakness. Diabetes is known to cause the condition.
And, of course, pain from arthritis can get severe enough to really restrict movement and function.
So taking your older dogs for regular check-ups to detect the problem, and taking the recommended steps early and consistently can help with quicker recovery.
4. Cushing’s Disease
This is a condition that affects your dog’s adrenal glands, causing it to release too much of a hormone called cortisol.
That leads to a variety of symptoms which include hair loss, a notable increase in appetite and thirst, a potbelly, and…
You guessed it…
Hind-end weakness in dogs.
Your vet can treat the condition with medication, though unfortunately, it may last your dog’s lifetime.
5. Neurological Disorders that Cause Ataxia
There are a number of disorders that affect the brain which can cause hind end weakness in dogs.
This includes conditions like cerebellar, vestibular, and sensory ataxia and can cause symptoms like swaying, a general lack of coordination and weakness.
Again, diagnosis is hard, and can take your vet a number of different procedures to pin it down.
And if you and your dog are lucky enough that the cause isn’t something hereditary or congenital, surgery or medication may even lead to a cure.
It’s always hard, though.
And it’s important to remember to be patient and do as much as you can to make your dog comfortable.
Hind end weakness in dogs can also be caused because of botulism – a bacterial infection that can also affect dogs.
Fortunately, once detected there’s a chance for a cure through anti-toxin medication.
And, of course, consistent therapy and support!
How You Can Help Your Elderly Dog Deal with the Condition
1. Massaging, Exercise and Other Therapy Recommended by Your Vet
Massages help ease pain and keep circulation up. And light exercises help with stiffness, pain and prevent your dog’s muscles from atrophying.
That’s not all, though…
There are other tried and tested physical therapy techniques you can try at home to help your dog recover or get more comfortable, such as water therapy.
However, you must ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND that anything you try, even the simplest and easiest of exercises need to be recommended by your vet.
You could easily make things worse…and more painful for your dog!
2. Adjusting Their Diet
Helping a dog recover from a physical condition usually involves some adjustment to their diet, apart from medication.
These could include specific supplements that improve bone mass and health, joint strength, etc.
Remember, though, that self-prescribing supplements can be a really bad idea!
3. Making Access and Getting Around Easier
This is possibly the most basic thing you can do to make life easier for older dogs.
With your old dog’s back legs collapsing, even getting around a limited space can be really painful and exhausting.
In these situations, you can make things easier for your dog by doing things like:
- Using dog ramps and special dog stairs
- A dog lifting aid or other mobility carriers help support your dog’s abdominal and hip areas while moving around.
- You can reduce the chances of slipping and sliding on the floor by using carpets or gripping socks
- There are special “orthopedic beds” available that can ease the stress on joints while sitting or lying down.
- A dog wheelchair is also a good idea. It supports your dog’s back leg and helps your dog move around easier.
We hope you found this post on dealing with hind end weakness in dogs helpful.
If you have some more insight, or any tips or suggestions of your own do leave a comment in the section below!