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How to Strengthen an Old Dog's Hind Legs

If your pet is experiencing weakness in their hind legs, we recommend reading this article. Our veterinarians inAnkeny can guide how to improve or maintain their leg strength.

What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?

There are several reasons why a dog may experience slipping or falling on their hind legs. Let's explore some of these causes.


Dogs, like humans, can suffer from arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that particularly affects the hind legs. It happens when their joints don't have enough lubrication, which causes pain when they move. If your furry companion shows any of the following symptoms, you should take them to the veterinarian right away:

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

Hip Dysplasia

If your pet has looser hip joints than usual, it may indicate hip dysplasia. This can cause balance problems and, in severe cases, osteoarthritis. The condition is more common in larger dog breeds, such as:

  • 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

Your pet may be suffering from degenerative myelopathy, a condition in which the nerves' protective covering deteriorates, resulting in abnormal nerve function. Be vigilant 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 your pet's hind leg joints? This happens when there is inadequate insulin production, which results in abnormal blood sugar levels. It would be best if you kept an eye out for indicators such as increased thirst and appetite, incontinence, and weight loss. If you observe these symptoms in your dog, it is important to consult a veterinarian and obtain a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Fibrocartilaginous embolism, also known as FCE, is a medical condition that can affect dogs. It occurs when a small piece of cartilage blocks the bloodstream, enlarging the spinal cord. As a result, the dog may experience temporary hind leg movement restriction and pain. This condition is more commonly found in larger breeds of dogs, such as German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds.

Limited Mobility

If your pet needs to undergo surgery, such as tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), it can help to restore leg mobility. However, the surgeon may instruct you to limit your pet's physical activity during their recovery period. Although this restriction may temporarily affect their movements, it's crucial for their complete and successful recovery.

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

Due to the similarity of symptoms between the conditions listed below, diagnosing the underlying cause without medical assistance can be difficult. Consequently, it is essential to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you observe any of the following behaviors in your dog, it is imperative that you 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 is unable to benefit from strengthening exercises any longer, it may be time to explore other options to improve their comfort and overall well-being. You can consider using mobility aids like a wheelchair, rear lifting harness, or hip brace to give your furry friend a certain level of freedom, enabling them to enjoy an active lifestyle during the longer and warmer summer months. 

As pets grow older, they require regular preventive veterinary care and early detection of any health issues to ensure a good quality of life. Our veterinarians at Ankeny 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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Are you concerned about your dog's weak back legs? Schedule an appointment with our veterinarians in Ankeny today..

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