Old Dog Back Legs Collapsing: Causes, Treatment, and Care Tips

Old Dog Back Legs Collapsing

As your dog gets older, you might notice they start sleeping longer, eating more slowly, avoiding going up stairs, and showing less enthusiasm for activities they used to love.

It can be disheartening to see older dogs’ hind legs collapsing. They shake and tremble as they struggle to get up and walk from one spot to another. These are indications of hind leg weakness in dogs.

This post will discuss the underlying reasons for old dog back legs collapsing and appropriate treatment options.

Common Cause of Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs

Back leg weakness is prevalent among older dogs. However, there are reasons why your dog’s back legs collapse.


Arthritis is the most common underlying condition leading to hind leg weakness. The knee and hip joints are usually the most affected. The dog’s weight can put a lot of stress on them, especially for obese dogs. Thus, causing the joint cartilage and joint fluid to degenerate.

Often, it leads to the dog’s hind legs collapsing. Arthritis is a painful condition and can be exacerbated by previous health problems like torn ACL, hip dysplasia, and luxating patella.

Large breed dogs like golden retrievers and German shepherds are prone to arthritis.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)

IVDD is one of the frequent culprits of sudden hind leg weakness. It happens more often in small dog breeds like Dachshunds. However, this back leg weakness is caused due to displaced cartilage discs between each vertebra. Hence, stressing the spinal cord, which can lead to either dog’s legs collapsing or back pain.

Furthermore, this chronic condition is usually responsible for acute spinal cord compression that might lead to complete paralysis.

So, early treatment is essential to avoid risking your dog’s life. Immediately you notice your old dog’s back legs collapsing or dealing with mobility issues, seek medical treatment in your nearest pet hospital.

Degenerative myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a not common cause of a dog’s legs collapsing. However, it’s a serious medical condition that can affect senior dogs. It often starts out as your older dog dragging their back legs, muscle atrophy or losing their coordination.

Degenerative myelopathy is quite different from intervertebral disc disease. While both might lead to your old dog’s back legs collapsing, the formal involves no pain.

Endocrine diseases

Another common reason for hind leg weakness in older dogs is the state of their metabolism. When the dog’s adrenal glands produce excess cortisol, it leads to Cushing’s disease. It often causes muscle weakness in the dog’s back legs.

Apart from Cushing’s disease, older dogs suffering from diabetic mellitus are more prone to diabetic neuropathy. This condition is associated with abnormal nerve functioning causing weak back legs.


As your dog ages, they gain weight. Being overweight can be the reason your dog’s back legs collapse.

Luckily, there are several easy and effective treatment options if weight gain is the primary cause of weak back legs in your senior dog.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet are two effective ways to remedy your dog’s condition.

Symptoms of Weak Hing Legs

There are several reasons why your dog’s hind leg collapse suddenly, from spinal injury to degenerative myelopathy. Detecting and addressing the root cause of hind leg weakness in dogs is important to help your canine friend return to normal function quickly.

The key to early treatment is knowing symptoms that serve as a cue to hind leg weakness. While the common symptom is collapsed back legs, here are other signs to look out for:

  • exercise intolerance
  • excessive panting
  • sudden behavioral changes
  • limping and leg trembling
  • whimpering

Old Dog Back Legs Collapsing: Treatment Options

The best treatment option depends on the root cause of the hind leg weakness.

Older dogs with IVDD may require surgical treatment if it’s severe. However, there are no treatment options for degenerative myelopathy. Nonetheless, proper treatment may slow the progression of the disease.

In the case of arthritis, seek a vet’s advice on the suitable treatment method. It may include orthopedic braces, mobility aids, or physical therapy.

Also, pain medication can be administered for pain relief. In addition, dogs suffering from hind leg weakness may benefit from joint supplements for better joint health, which is a common cause of back leg collapse.

That’s not all: rehabilitation and physical therapy are excellent treatment options for improved mobility.

Can rear injuries cause my older dog to collapse?

Acute injury to the spinal cord or back can cause the dog’s hind legs to be weak. Bruise, inflammation, or damage to the spinal cord can disrupt the dog’s nervous system causing your canine friend to lose control of their hind legs.

How can I manage or treat my old dog’s health changes?

Hind leg collapse is prevalent in an aging dog. So it’s important to care for your older dog to prevent unnecessary pain and avoid further deterioration. This includes regular exercise, age-appropriate diet, and regular vet checkups. Overall, always keep an eye on your dog’s quality of life.

What are some dog breeds more prone to hind leg problems as they age?

Certain breeds, such as German Shepherds, may be more susceptible to hind leg issues due to genetic predispositions or their size.

What are some signs of old dog back legs collapsing?

Older dogs may exhibit symptoms such as muscle weakness, hind leg collapse, or a bunny hop-like movement when walking.


Seeing your older dog struggling to walk, especially when their hind legs collapse, can be heart wrecking. This is normal as your dog ages. However, it also indicates that your dog’s health might be deteriorating.

There are a couple of things you can do to keep your older dog healthy, like:

  • healthy diet based on age and weight
  • Supplement for better health
  • Regular exercise and rest
  • Prompt vet care

Most importantly, take your old dog to the vet; immediately, you notice the hind legs are no longer strong. It’s a medical emergency. The veterinarian will diagnose your canine friend and may include blood tests and a physical exam. Also, the proper treatment method will be suggested to improve your dog’s health.


  1. My 110 shepherd/rotti is 14 years old and his left leg and or hip collapsed and he can’t walk on the left side.He’s very bright and eats and drinks well with great attitude had a Mobile vet here who took X-rays said he can’t find anything wrong no breaks or arthritis I need help …He charged me $800 am on a fixed income and can’t afford anymore

    1. Hi Laurie, we’re not a vet, but if your dog’s mobility is affected, seeking a second opinion might be valuable. Consult another veterinarian or a specialist who could provide further insight into your dog’s condition. Exploring affordable options like local animal clinics or discussing payment plans could help address your financial concerns. Wishing your beloved pet a swift recovery. – Bulldogology Blog Team

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