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Tips on How to Strengthen Old Dog's Hind Legs

As dogs age, they often face mobility challenges, especially with their hind legs. Strengthening an old dog's hind legs can significantly improve their quality of life. In this post, our vets will discuss weak hind leg symptoms, causes, ways to keep your pet’s legs strong, and preventative care tips. Understanding these aspects can help ensure your furry friend remains happy and mobile.

What are the symptoms of weak hind legs?

Recognizing the symptoms of weak hind legs in dogs is crucial for early intervention. Common signs include:

  • Difficulty Rising: Your dog may struggle to get up from a lying position.
  • Dogs' Leg Giving Out: Occasional collapsing or stumbling while walking.
  • Dogs' Back Legs Not Working: Noticeable dragging or inability to move the hind legs.
  • Dog Back Legs Weak: Reduced muscle mass and visible trembling.
  • Dog Back Legs Slipping Out: Frequent slipping, especially on smooth surfaces.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult your veterinarian for a comprehensive evaluation.

What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?

Sudden hind leg weakness in dogs can be alarming. Several conditions can lead to this issue, including:


Just like humans, dogs can develop arthritis, especially in their hind legs. Osteoarthritis is a type that particularly affects dogs. It happens when their joints lack sufficient lubrication, leading to painful movement. If your dog shows any of the following symptoms, it's best to take them to the vet for a check-up:

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

Hip Dysplasia

This condition can cause problems with balance and, in more serious cases, osteoarthritis. Hip dysplasia is more common in larger dog breeds, including:

  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Saint Bernards
  • Great Danes

Hip dysplasia is primarily caused by genetics, but other factors, such as size, weight, and overuse, can also contribute to this condition.

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Keep an eye on your pet for signs of degenerative myelopathy, which is a condition in which the nerve coverings wear out, causing nerve problems and leading to improper nerve function. This condition can make it hard for your dog to get around due to their back legs slipping out from under them. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Quivering hind legs
  • Hind legs coming together while standing
  • Feet positioned at unusual angles

Many dog breeds are susceptible to developing a spinal condition, but certain breeds are more susceptible to developing canine degenerative myelopathy, such as:

  • Boxer
  • German Shepherd
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks


Diabetes can cause weakness in your pet's hind legs. This happens when their body produces insufficient insulin, leading to unusual blood sugar levels. Look for signs like increased thirst and hunger, incontinence, and weight loss. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, it's best to seek advice from a veterinarian and have a blood test done to confirm the diagnosis.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is when a small piece of cartilage blocks the bloodstream, leading to spinal swelling. The result is temporary hind leg movement restriction and pain. This 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) surgery, they might have to take it easy. This might make them temporarily less active, but it's important for their complete and successful recovery. 

Signs a Dog Is Having Difficulties With Their Hind Legs

Due to the similarity of symptoms among the conditions listed above, it can be difficult to identify the cause of sudden hind leg weakness in dogs. Therefore, it is crucial to seek advice from a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you notice your dog's leg giving out, or any of the following behaviors in your dog, taking prompt action is important:

  • 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

How can you keep your pet’s bones & legs strong?

Once you have pinpointed the reason for your pet's distress and have received treatment options, you can also take some non-medical actions to assist in their recovery and help them regain their vitality.

  • You should take your furry companion for brief yet consistent walks daily. This will help gradually restore 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 cause strain, weakening their 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 to give them supplements containing 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.

Alleviating Pain & Discomfort

If your dog's back legs are too weak to perform strengthening exercises, there are other options to help them feel better. Consider using mobility aids such as a wheelchair, a rear-lifting harness, or a hip brace.

These aids will give your dog more freedom and help them stay active, especially during the longer, warmer summer months.

As pets age, they need regular check-ups with the vet to catch any health problems early and keep them feeling good. Our veterinarians at Woburn specialize in helping older pets maintain optimal health and quality of life. We can identify and treat emerging health problems early and provide proactive treatment while the condition is still manageable.

Preventative Care Tips

Preventative care is essential to avoid the progression of hind leg weakness. Here are some tips:

  • Regular Vet Check-ups: Frequent veterinary visits can help catch early signs of degenerative conditions.
  • Joint Supplements: As mentioned, supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can be beneficial.
  • Home Modifications: Install ramps or non-slip mats to help your dog navigate the house safely.
  • Cold Laser Therapy: Swimming or water exercises can be an excellent way to strengthen muscles without putting stress on the joints.

By implementing these strategies and staying vigilant about your dog's health, you can help strengthen their hind legs and enhance their overall well-being. Remember, early intervention and consistent care are key to keeping your furry friend happy and mobile in their golden years.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Do you have an older dog that has been experiencing some issues with their hind legs? Contact our Woburn vets to book an exam for your pup.

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