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Tips on How To Strengthen Old Dogs Hind Legs

Tips on How To Strengthen Old Dogs Hind Legs

Weak legs can be a source of concern for both you and your furry companion. Witnessing your pet struggle to walk can be heart-wrenching. In this blog, our vets in New York will discuss the causes of hind leg weakness and offer tips on improving or maintaining your pet's leg strength.

What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?

There are several reasons why your pet's hind legs may weaken. Let's take a look at some of these causes.


Dogs can suffer from arthritis, similar to humans. One type of arthritis that affects their hind legs is osteoarthritis. It occurs when their joints don't have enough lubrication, causing pain when they move. You should take your pet to the vet if they experience:

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

Hip Dysplasia

If you notice your pet's hip joints being more lax than usual, they might be experiencing hip dysplasia. This instability can lead to balance difficulties, and in severe cases, osteoarthritis. Larger dog breeds, such as the following:

  • 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 the development of this condition.

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a condition in which the protective covering of your pet's nerves deteriorates, leading to improper nerve function. Look out for the following signs of degenerative myelopathy:

  • 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


Are you aware that diabetes can weaken your pet's hind leg joints? This is caused by a lack of insulin production, leading to abnormal blood sugar levels. Look out for symptoms like increased thirst and hunger, incontinence, and weight loss. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, it's advisable to consult with a veterinarian and conduct a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is a condition that can affect dogs, where a small piece of cartilage blocks their bloodstream, leading to spinal swelling. The result is temporary hind leg movement restriction and pain, which is especially common in larger dog breeds. Breeds such as German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds often receive a diagnosis of FCE.

Limited Mobility

If your pet needs surgical intervention such as tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), it can help restore their leg movement. However, as advised by the surgeon, your pet may need to limit their physical activities during post-surgery recovery. While this restriction may cause temporary disability, it is necessary for a full and successful recovery.

What are the main signs and symptoms dog's back legs not working?

Many conditions listed above have similar symptoms, making it challenging to identify the underlying problem without medical assistance. That's why it's crucial to seek advice from a veterinarian as soon as possible. If your dog starts exhibiting any of the following behaviors, it's important to take action:

  • 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 discomfort and receiving treatment recommendations, you may also consider non-medical activities that can aid in their recovery and help them regain their strength:

  • 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 is beneficial for 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 cold laser therapy can greatly address limited mobility and reduce pain.

Alternative ways to alleviate discomfort

If your dog can no longer benefit from strengthening exercises, it might be time to explore other options that can improve their comfort and overall well-being.

You can consider using mobility aids like a wheelchair, rear lifting harness, or hip brace. These aids will give your dog a certain level of freedom, enabling them to enjoy an active lifestyle during the longer, warmer summer months. 

As pets get older, they need regular preventive veterinary care and early detection of any health issues to ensure a good quality of life. 

Our veterinarians in New York  specialize in helping older pets maintain optimal health. They identify and treat emerging health problems at an early stage and provide proactive treatment while it's still manageable and convenient.

Learn more about Geratric Care

Are you concerned that your dog may be experiencing weakness in their hind legs? Schedule an appointment with the veterinarians at Rivergate Veterinary Clinic today.

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Rivergate Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of New York companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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