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Dog Health Advice & Tips for Pet Owners

Avoiding Hind Leg Weakness in Senior Dogs

Having a senior dog can be a fulfilling experience, especially if you saw your pet grow up with you. Yet, it can also be challenging, especially for the family dog. Over time, older dogs will become more lethargic, moving and walking slower as their muscles grow weaker. As they age, their legs become more susceptible to injury.  The fact that they grew old while with you is a testament to why dogs are man's best friend. Helping them navigate their senior years is a joy and comes with a responsibility. Here, we will discuss how hind leg weakness can affect senior dogs and what measures you can take to help avoid or manage their effects on our pets. 5 Causes of Hind Leg Weakness in Senior Dogs Weakness in your dog's hind legs can be due to numerous factors all related to aging. We've listed down a few common reasons if you notice  their legs are starting to give out: Arthritis Canine arthritis is when inflammation sets into the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and discomfort. The cartilage in the affected joint becomes less smooth as it wears down. Eventually, the joints will rub against each other and cause different complications such as: Joint instability Permanent damage to the cartilage and nerves Physical trauma to the bone Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) DM, or chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM), affects the spinal cord of dogs. The effect on the back legs becomes more apparent as the white matter of the spinal cord weakens over time. While veterinarians have yet to discover the exact cause of DM, some physicians associate spinal injuries or conditions such as lumbosacral stenosis with this disorder. Diabetes Like humans, dogs also produce insulin to help their bodies store energy from food and move glucose (sugar from consumed carbohydrates) into their cells. If they make little to no insulin or trigger an unusual response to the hormone, your pet may have diabetes. Symptoms of canine diabetes can range from excessive thirst to vomiting. Left untreated, this condition can cause more severe problems like urinary tract infections and seizures. Miniature poodles, Bichon Frises, pugs, and beagles are some breeds with an increased risk for diabetes. Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE) FCE occurs when a piece of fibrous cartilage blocks blood flow to the spinal cord. The cartilage may come from the nucleus of an intervertebral disc. Your canine may experience FCE while jumping or running. In this case, your pet may bark aggressively or act as if it's in pain. They might also refrain from using their back legs and have one half of their body looking weaker than the other. Other Spinal Conditions Certain spinal-related conditions can also cause hind leg weakness in senior dogs. They include: Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) - IVDD can refer to a ruptured, slipped, bulging, or herniated disc in your dog's spinal cord. Beagles, Dachshunds, Pekingese dogs, basset hounds, and American cocker spaniels are some breeds more prone to getting this condition. Wobbler syndrome - Wobbler syndrome is a common neck condition of large dog breeds like Doberman pinschers and Great Danes. The pain in their neck will cause these canines typically have a "wobbly" stride in their back legs. Lumbosacral stenosis - This spine-related condition happens when the spinal canal connecting the lower back and tailbone narrows. This constricts the bundle of nerve roots that run down the canal and will end up weakening their hind legs. The Warning Signs of Weakening Back Legs Symptoms of hind leg weakness in senior dogs can vary, as they can show obvious signs right away or gradually develop over time. Some warning signs can help veterinarians determine whether your pet has unstable back legs. Therefore, looking out for any physical or behavioral changes is vital. Your pet may experience lameness, lose coordination, and go off-balance with weakening hind legs. Other symptoms can include instability, difficulty walking, pain, swelling, or even weight loss from losing muscle mass. 6 Ways to Strengthen Your Pet’s Back Legs If you want to ensure your elderly dog maintains strong hind legs despite their age, the tips below may help. Perform Low-Impact Activities Low-impact exercises require less effort to strengthen your canine's joints and muscles. You can start with multiple daily walks that are slow and short. Swimming is a great low-impact activity that can help your pet strengthen its hind legs. 15 to 30 minutes in the water will do for your furry friend. If your dog is one of those canines that love to spend time in the water, you can extend their swimming sessions up to 60 minutes. Your pet can also perform simple exercises such as: Sit to stand - Have your canine sit and stand 10 to 15 times per session. Try doing this exercise several times a day. Passive range of motion (PROM) exercises - Raise your pet's leg and hold it in the air for 30 seconds. Do three to five repetitions per leg to keep the legs even. Put Your Pet on a Healthier Diet A healthy diet is one of the best preventative steps to offset pelvic limb weakness in senior dogs. Make sure your pet consumes food rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants daily. Consider including foods containing Vitamins D, K, C, and E and magnesium in your canine's daily meals.  Additionally, your dog should still eat enough fat and protein. A protein-rich diet will help your dog increase muscle mass and keep its joints healthy. When shopping for dog food, look at the nutrients it provides. High-quality dog foods contain enough protein, calcium, and phosphorus for strong bones, fats, and other vital nutrients. Also, the food you're considering should meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) 's nutritional guidelines. Ensure Your Canine is at a Healthy Weight If a dog is overweight, its joints and muscles will be under extra pressure. This strain can cause pain and weaken the limbs. Because of this, senior dogs should maintain a stable, healthy weight to prevent their joints from wearing out faster. Sufficient exercise and a balanced diet are keys to maintaining your pet's ideal weight. More importantly, discuss how your canine should weigh with a veterinarian and plan its exercise routine and diet. Get Joint Supplements for Your Pet Canine joint supplements contain essential nutrients for maintaining healthy joints. They help reduce inflammation and pain and protect the joints from additional damage. You can get canine joint supplements in the form of chewable tablets, soft chews, or liquid supplements. The best joint supplements for dogs contain glucosamine, a naturally occurring compound in cartilage. Additionally, they're rich in chondroitin. Chondroitin, like glucosamine, is found in cartilage. It lowers inflammation in canine joints. Other ingredients in canine joint supplements include collagen and fish oils. Collagen ensures optimal joint health for your pet, while fish oils contain Omega-3 to control inflammation and improve mobility. Talk to a Veterinarian If you notice your canine's back legs becoming wobbly, take them to a veterinarian immediately. They'll help you know why your furry friend is experiencing hind leg weakness and how you can start to manage it. Some veterinarians may recommend canine physical therapy to help mitigate the weakening hind legs of your senior dog. Keep Your Furry Friend's Bones Healthy Canines can get wobbly hind legs as they age, causing pain and increasing their risk for accidents. Back leg weakness in senior dogs stems from various causes, with symptoms that can develop abruptly or gradually. But there is still a lot you can do to prevent these conditions. Consider now how you can strengthen your pet's hind legs and bones through methods like low-impact exercises, healthy dieting, and giving them joint supplements. Are you after optimal canine health? Find more helpful tips and resources on the Lick Sleeve blog today.

Five Common Orthopedic Injuries in Dogs

Orthopedic injuries in dogsrefer to injuries or conditions that affect the bones, joints, or muscles of the canine skeletal system. These types of injuries can range from minor sprains and strains to more serious fractures or dislocations, and they can occur as a result of various activities such as playing, running, or even just everyday wear and tear.  Five Common Orthopedic Injuries in Dogs While these leg injuries in dogsare common in canines of all shapes and sizes, some breeds are more prone to specific health problems, which we’ll discuss later. Cruciate ligament tear:  This is a common injury that occurs in the knee joint of dogs. Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) is often caused by a sudden twisting or turning motion, and it can result in pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. While it’s true that avoiding common dog injuries like CCL tears is challenging, you can do several things to prevent your dog’s cruciate tears from worsening.  For instance, regular exercise helps your canine’s muscles stay strong and flexible. A consistent exercise schedule with your pet allows you to go for strenuous runs without worrying about dog leg injuries. Another great solution to preventing cruciate tears is by maintaining a healthy weight.  When treating CCL tears, surgery is a common long-term solution most vets recommend. Unlike typical dog leg injuries, cruciate tears don’t heal independently. Procedures like Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization and Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) will help your dog regains mobility and recover fully. Fractures:  Dogs can suffer fractures in any bone in their body, but the most common fractures occur in the leg bones. Fractures can be caused by trauma, such as being hit by a car, or by osteoporosis, which is a condition that causes weak bones. Treatment for fractures usually involves rest and immobilization, either through the use of a cast or a splint. Dislocations:  Dislocations occur when a bone becomes displaced from its joint. This can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected limb. Dislocations are usually treated with rest and immobilization, followed by physical therapy to help the joint regain its range of motion. Sprains and strains:  Sprains and strains are injuries that occur when the muscles or ligaments are stretched or torn. They are often caused by overuse or improper use of a joint, and they can result in pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected limb. Treatment for sprains and strains usually involves rest, ice, and physical therapy. Hip dysplasia:  This is a genetic condition that affects the hip joint and can cause pain, lameness, and difficulty moving. It is more common in larger breeds of dogs, and it is usually treated with medications, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgery. Hip dysplasia is a genetically inherited ailment and is not exactly a dog leg injury. The most affected breeds are large to giant canines like golden retrievers, bulldogs, Rottweilers, and mastiffs. Despite being inherited, other factors can affect the development of a pup’s hip joints, like their weight, nutrition, and regular activities.  Preventing CHD can be difficult, but there are methods to reduce your dog's risk of developing the said condition. For one, you must keep your pet’s bones healthy early. While they’re still a puppy, feed them a nutritious diet so they can develop strong bones and joints. It also helps to have your canine maintain a healthy weight to prevent obesity.  Ensure A Long and Active Life for Your Pet It is important to seek veterinary care for any suspected orthopedic injury in your dog, as timely treatment can help speed up the recovery process and prevent further complications. By following your veterinarian's recommendations and taking proper care of your dog, you can help ensure that your furry friend remains happy and healthy. For more information on how to tell if your dog’s leg is broken, visit our blog here.

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