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Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs: Tips To Build Strength

May 27, 2015

Leg weakness is a sign that your dog has either an injury, physical stress caused by obesity, a skeletal disorder, or an anatomical condition causing pain (such as bow-leggedness). Taking active steps to keep your dog’s skeletal system strong is the key to mobility and comfort. In this blog, you will learn common signs of hind leg weakness in dogs, some possible causes, and some tips to strengthen your dog’s skeletal system.

SIGNS OF LEG WEAKNESS IN DOGS

Weakness can affect a dog’s front legs and back legs, but is more common in the back legs. This is because certain spinal cord/vertebral related conditions can present themselves as weakness in a dog’s back legs. When a dog has a hip related issue, this also shows up as weakness in a dog’s back legs. If you see any of these signs, it’s possible that your dog’s is experiencing leg weakness:

Dog Hind Leg Weakness

  1. Dog is limping
  2. Dog’s back legs shaking or trembling
  3. Dog’s back legs are collapsing or giving out
  4. Dog unwilling to walk or run for extended periods of time
  5. Dog hesitates to walk up stairs or hills
  6. Dog unable to jump on or off furniture

Why Your Dog is Limping

MY DOG HAS WEAK LEGS. IS THIS NORMAL?

If leg weakness is brought on by natural aging, then it can be normal in senior dogs (dogs over 7 years of age). When dogs age, their bodies become less able to replenish and rebuild themselves. This can result in weaker legs, slowing down, and less endurance (just like people when they age). While age-related slowing down is normal, collapsing legs, shaking legs, and extreme pain are NOT normal and require veterinary attention. You can read more about senior dog hind leg weakness on our blog.

Even if your dog is healthy and doing well in terms of mobility, other factors like activity level, nutrition, and obesity can still play a role in determining whether your dog continues to maintain strong bones and joints.The best way to determine whether your dog has strong bones and joints to be vigilant and meet with your vet for wellness visits. Wellness visits and preventive annual checkups are important because they can also  help address treatment before a problem develops. 

The unfortunate reality is that not all dogs have strong bones; some dogs, due to genetics, breed, minuscule or large size, or even age, are susceptible to weak or fragile skeletal systems. For example, Labradors are often susceptible to canine hip dysplasia (a genetic condition that results from abnormal joint structure). You can read about this condition and some treatment options in our post on hip dysplasia in dogs

Similarly, teacup breed puppies, in all their adorableness, can very easily fall off a couch or a taller height and be susceptible to fractured limbs.

Even if your dog is healthy and doing well in terms of mobility, other factors like age, activity level, nutrition, and obesity can still play a role in determining whether your dog continues to maintain strong bones. 

The best way to determine whether your dog has strong bones is to be vigilant and meet with your vet for wellness visits. Wellness visits and preventive annual checkups can are important because they can also address treatment before a problem develops. 

MY DOG’S BACK LEGS ARE GIVING OUT. WHAT COULD BE THE CAUSE?

The unfortunate reality is that not all dogs have strong bones and joints; some dogs, due to genetics, breed, minuscule or large size, or even age, are susceptible to weak or fragile skeletal systems. For example, Labradors are prone to developing canine hip dysplasia (a genetic condition that results from abnormal joint structure). Learn about this condition and some treatment options in our post on hip dysplasia in dogs. Teacup breed puppies, in all their adorableness, are bred to be so tiny that their frames often do not have the strength that more rugged breeds do. 

 When it comes to hind leg weakness in dogs in particular, the more serious concern is either Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) or Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).  

  • Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) in Dogs: DM is a disease affecting the spinal cord of dogs. Poodles, corgis, boxers, and german shepards are susceptible to DM, also known as Spinal Cord Disease. Onset is usually in adult years (after a dog is 7) but can also show up earlier. DM begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag their feet. Dog breeds that are susceptible are boxers, german shepherds. You can learn more about DM on PETMD.

  • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dogs: This condition affects the discs between the vertebra of the spine. IVDD can cause pain, nerve damage, and paralysis. Learn more about IVDD on PETMD.

In some cases, especially if the weakness seems sudden or your dog starts limping out of nowhere, the leg weakness could also be an injury. Check out our blog on 15 Causes of Limping in Dogs, to learn about what could possibly be causing your dog’s leg weakness. Then line up a visit with your veterinarian for further examination.

HOW DO I KEEP MY DOGS BONES STRONG AND HEALTHY?

Just as a healthy lifestyle program (e.g. exercise and good nutrition) can be beneficial to humans, taking measures to maintain the bone and joint health of your dog helps. Most bone and joint disorders do not have a cure, so you should follow the instructions of your veterinarian regarding treatment options. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t wellness steps you can also take at home to ensure you are providing good bone and joint support to your dog. Check out our video below on 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Dog’s Bone and Joints. 

Exercise:

Dogs need exercise to keep their spirits up, their hearts strong, and their bones and joints lubricated and in motion.  If you are a busy professional or live in a yard-less home, try scheduling your dog for a doggy day camp 2-3 times a week. This will give them the opportunity to socialize with other furry friends and get some playful activity. During the hot summer months, you can also take your dog to the dog beach (check out our post on the Best Dog Beaches), have fun playing fetch in the backyard (check out our post on Backyard Safety for Dogs),  or take them to the dog park after work. Playing, walking and running are the typical exercises for a dog, and they need it just like we need visits to the gym.   

 Nutrition:

The bone is a mineral bank and guess where those minerals come from? Your dog’s diet. A high quality dog food, that is complete in vitamins, minerals, proteins, and lipids, is key to ensuring that your dog stays healthy. Particularly when it comes to nutrition for senior dogs, making sure that the bones and joints are receiving adequate nutritional support will make all the difference. The internet is full of blogs that will help you determine the right food for your dog, many of which are reviewed on the impartial site Dog Food Advisor.  You can also look into cooking at home for your dog or finding a semi-cooked food delivery option for your dog, but this should be done in conjunction with your veterinarian to make sure all nutritional requirements are satisfied. Certain nutritional imbalances, such as inadequate or excess calcium, can cause bone problems and weakness in dogs.

Monitor Weight:

Bones provide structure and allow for movement, but they also bear weight. As a result, the comfort and condition of your dog’s skeletal system is often dependent on the stress put on your dog’s bones and joints. Dog obesity is a serious problem in the US. Even though your chubby little pal might look cute, the extra weight can negatively impact his or her skeletal frame. Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding obesity is one of the best ways you can keep your dog’s bones strong and avoid development of bone and joint issues or aggravating pre-existing conditions. Your veterinarian and simple internet research (check out the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention for interactive weight loss tools) can help you determine whether your dog is at a healthy weight.

 Wellness Checkups:

It’s more cost effective and efficient to prevent something from developing or getting worse than to have a reactive approach to bone and joint issues. Surgeries and fracture healing can cost thousands of dollars and put your dog in a miserable cone-head recovery scenario. Many bone-related problems can be monitored or avoided through wellness check-ups. Schedule annual check-ups for young healthy dogs and schedule more frequent check-ups for senior dogs or dogs that have existing conditions. Many reputable veterinarians offer wellness plans, where one annual fee will cover comprehensive healthcare, from unlimited office visits, routinely recommended vaccines, comprehensive physical exams, and early screening for serious illnesses.

Add a High Quality Bone and Joint Supplement for Dogs:

While a supplement is not a treatment or cure for any bone and joint disorders, supplementation can be helpful in providing nutrients that support a dog’s bone and joints. As far as bone health options go, Boneo Canine is definitely a good option to consider for your dog. Boneo Canine is the only supplement on the market that helps strengthen the bones by promoting healthy bone turnover. In contrast, traditional glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM supplements only address the joints.  Boneo Canine is all natural and based on the power of lactoferrin. 

Boneo Canine Benefits

To learn more about lactoferrin, check out our health section on the benefits of lactoferrin and watch the video below: