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How to Strengthen an Old Dog's Hind Legs

Is your pet experiencing weakness in their hind legs? If so, there may be a variety of potential reasons for this. Our West Chester vets offer guidance on how to improve or maintain your cat or dog's leg strength in this article. 

What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs? 

Many factors can lead to your dog's back legs slipping, or giving out altogether. We'll cover some of these potential causes below. 


Similar to humans, dogs can suffer from arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that mainly affects the hind legs.

Normally, a dog's joints are lubricated with a small amount of fluid and covered with a layer of cartilage, which allows for free and smooth movement. As dogs age, this layer of cartilage often thins, causing the surfaces of the bone to rub together. This can cause discomfort. 

Sometimes, the joints aren't well-lubricated, which can also make movement painful. If your pet shows any of these symptoms, you should take them to the vet right away:

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

Hip Dysplasia

If you notice your pet's hip joints are looser than usual, this could be a sign of hip dysplasia. This condition can cause balance problems as well as osteoarthritis in severe cases. It is more common in larger dog breeds, like:

  • 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 have degenerative myelopathy, a condition in which the protective covering of the nerves deteriorates, resulting in abnormal nerve function. Keep an eye out 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? Inadequate insulin production causes abnormal blood sugar levels, which can lead to this outcome. Consider increased thirst and appetite, incontinence, and weight loss as indicators. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, consult a veterinarian and obtain a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

FCE is a condition that can affect dogs in which a small piece of cartilage obstructs their bloodstream, causing spinal enlargement. The result is temporary hind leg movement restriction and pain, which is more common in larger dog breeds. FCE is common in German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds, among other breeds.

Limited Mobility

It can help restore leg mobility if your pet requires surgery, such as a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO). However, your pet may be required to limit physical activity during recovery if the surgeon orders. This restriction may cause temporary impairment, but it is required for a full and successful recovery.

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

Because the symptoms of the conditions listed below are so similar, determining the underlying cause without medical assistance can be difficult. As a result, it is critical to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you notice any of the following behaviors in your dog, you must act quickly:

  • Hind leg tremors
  • Swaying of the hind end
  • Trouble transitioning from lying or sitting to a standing position
  • Difficulty walking or a 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 An Old Dog's Hind Legs 

There are non-medical steps you can take to aid in your pet's recovery and restore their vitality after determining the cause of their distress and receiving treatment recommendations.

  • 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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned. your dog's back legs may be weak? Contact our West Chester vets to schedule an appointment today.

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