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How to Strengthen an Old Dog's Hind Legs

If your pet is experiencing weakness in their hind legs, we recommend reading this article. Our veterinarians at Riverside County can provide guidance on how to improve or maintain their leg strength.

What causes sudden hind leg weakness in dogs?

There are various factors that can lead to your dog's back legs slipping or giving out. Let's explore some of these causes.


Like people, dogs can experience arthritis as well. Particularly affecting their hind legs is osteoarthritis, a rare kind of arthritis. Their joints become painful to move in due to insufficient lubrication. You should take your pet to the vet right away if they display any of the following symptoms:

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

Hip Dysplasia

Your pet may have hip dysplasia if you notice that their hip joints are looser than usual. Osteoarthritis and balance problems can result from this condition in severe cases. Larger dog breeds are more likely to have it, including:

  • 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

It's possible that your pet has degenerative myelopathy, a disorder that causes abnormal nerve function due to the deterioration of the covering that protects the nerves. Keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • 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


You may be surprised to learn that diabetes can deteriorate your pet's hind leg joints. This can happen as a result of abnormal blood sugar levels caused by inadequate insulin production. Take into account warning signs like weight loss, incontinence, and increased thirst and appetite. In case your dog exhibits these symptoms, get in touch with a veterinarian and request a blood test to validate the diagnosis.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Dogs that suffer from fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) may develop spinal enlargement as a result of a tiny piece of cartilage obstructing their bloodstream. The result is pain and temporary restriction of movement in the hind legs, especially in larger dog breeds. FCE is a common diagnosis in a number of breeds, including Irish Wolfhounds and German Shepherds.

Limited Mobility

Surgery can help your pet regain leg mobility if they need it, such as a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO). But, your pet might need to restrict their physical activity during recovery, per the surgeon's instructions. Although this restriction might impair you temporarily, it is essential to a full and effective recovery.

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

It can be challenging to diagnose the underlying cause of the conditions listed below without medical assistance due to their similar symptoms. As such, it is imperative that you see a veterinarian right away. You must take immediate action if you see your dog exhibiting any of the following behaviors:

  • 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 distress and receiving treatment recommendations, there are non-medical steps you can take to aid in their recovery and restore their vitality.

  • 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.

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.

A wheelchair, rear lifting harness, or hip brace are a few mobility aids you might want to think about utilizing. With the help of these tools, your dog will have more independence and be able to lead an active summertime lifestyle. 

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 Riverside County veterinarians specialize in assisting senior pets to maintain optimal health. They identify and treat emerging health issues at an early stage, while they are still manageable and practical.

Learn More About Senior Care

Are you concerned that your dog's back legs may be weak? Schedule an appointment with the veterinarians at Banning Veterinary Hospital today.

New Patients Welcome

Banning Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients. Our experienced and compassionate vets care about the health of animals across Riverside County. Contact us today in order to book your first appointment.

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