A dog’s hind limbs play a crucial role in its active lifestyle, allowing it to move freely and maintain running balance. But this part of their body is also prone to injuries and issues, such as hind leg weakness.
Weakness in dogs’ hind legs is one of the most common health issues you’ll have to deal with as a pet owner. The condition has various origins, and it can be challenging to find the proper treatment, depending on the cause. Still, it helps to know what causes it.
If your pet is limping or just at risk for leg and hip issues, the first step is to understand the possible causes and prevent them from progressing.
Symptoms of canine hind leg weakness
One of the most significant symptoms of rear leg weakness is difficulty standing up. When your dog starts taking its time to get up from a resting position, it might mean that its back limbs have become weaker.
Another common symptom is instability. Dogs need their hind limbs to maintain balance, and without it, their gait will noticeably change. They will shift their weight from one foot to the other more than usual.
At worst, dogs may develop lethargy and lack energy for physical activities, slowly losing interest in playing or running around. Your pets could also start excessively licking their hind legs in hopes of healing the affected area.
If you notice that your dogs exhibit some of the symptoms mentioned above, it might be a good time to visit your local vet.
Four causes of rear leg weakness in dogs
Veterinarians typically group the causes of hind leg weakness into four groups:
- Orthopedic (issues concerning the bones)
- Neurological (issues steming from the spine and nervous system)
- Metabolic, and (how dogs react to their food)
- Cardiovascular (specific to the heart).
The kind of treatment your dog needs depends on its diagnosis.
Chronic joint inflammation from osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is a common orthopedic cause of sudden hind leg weakness in dogs. As dogs grow old, they become increasingly at risk of arthritis due to the regular wear and tear of their joints.
Another possible cause of arthritis is excess weight—if a dog becomes heavier than they’re supposed to be, it puts extra strain on its limbs.
If your dog suffers from arthritis and other orthopedic diseases, hind leg weakness won’t happen overnight. In these cases, it happens gradually, and you’ll only start seeing changes in your dog’s daily activity over time.
X-rays and blood tests will help your vet determine whether the cause of their progressive hind limb weakness is orthopedic.
Neurological diseases, such as spinal tumors and discospondylitis (inflammatory disease of the spine), are other causes of rear leg weakness.
These neurological issues can be challenging to diagnose and uncomfortable for your pet. Your vet will likely require advanced imaging to determine if this is the case.
Medical therapy or surgery might be required depending on the severity of your dog’s neurological condition.
Certain liver conditions can cause hind limb weakness in dogs alongside endocrine disorders that might require treatment for life. Suppose your vet believes your dog is suffering from low blood sugar or low potassium. In that case, they can confirm this diagnosis through blood tests.
A healthy heart is crucial for dogs to stay active since it promotes good blood flow and ample oxygen delivered to their muscles. Otherwise, when a heart isn’t pumping enough blood to adequately provide oxygen to the muscles, it may result in leg weakness, among other issues.
Common cardiovascular problems in dogs include congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and pericardial tumors. Vets can diagnose diseases like these with the help of a thorough physical exam and additional tests, if necessary.
Treating sudden hind leg weakness in dogs
Treatment for this condition depends on its primary cause. Taking your pup to the vet is vitally important. Getting a professional doctor to inspect your dog, while not fun, will give you a thorough understanding of the cause. Depending on the diagnosis, these are the most likely things your vet might recommend to ease your dog’s troubles.
Some dogs may have big appetites, but feeding them more than needed will lead to obesity. Depending on your dog’s breed, there is an ideal weight that you need to make sure they maintain.
You can do so in various ways. Firstly, you could change their diet and control their portions. Start by looking up the recommended number of meals per day for your dog’s breed.
If you want to ensure that their hind limbs stay strong, you can also create a regular exercise schedule. Take them out for walks or runs during your free time to give them the exercise they need to stay healthy.
Vitamins and other supplements
Your dog’s joints get weaker as they get older. One of the easiest ways to prevent any sudden hind leg weakness in dogs is by regularly providing your pet with vitamins and other joint supplements that strengthen their bones.
Fish-oil supplements have great antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects, and even ease your dog's pain when its joints swell. Vitamins D and K can also strengthen their bones as they grow older.
Leg sleeves for support
Some vets recommend leg sleeves to pet owners whose dogs need physical therapy.
As your pet rehabilitates its weak hind legs, they need all the support it can get during this process. Leg sleeves like LickSleeve can help them stabilize their hind limbs for walks and other light activities. Plus, it prevents your dog from excessively licking its legs, leading to further infections.
With leg sleeves, you can speed up your dog’s recovery process while giving them enough freedom to move around.
Ensure a healthy and active life for your pet
While you can’t always protect your pets from injuries and other ailments, there are preventative measures that you can take to ensure a healthy and active life for them.