One of the first telltale signs of weakness in dogs can be noticed in their hind limbs or back legs, regardless of what is causing it. After all, they use their back legs quite a lot in their daily lives. Their back legs lift them from sitting or lying down and propel their bodies forward in movement. When you notice your dog having difficulty in these simple daily activities, this indicates a weakness issue.

Let us delve deeper into why a dog may have weak back legs and what we can do about it.

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  1. What Does Back-Leg Weakness in Dogs Look Like
  2. Causes of Back Leg Weakness in Dogs
  3. Treatment of Back Leg Weakness in Dogs
  4. How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment
  5. FAQs
  6. Conclusion

What Does Back Leg Weakness in Dogs Look Like

There are several symptoms of weakness in a dog’s back legs, and these may give you a clue as to what is possibly causing it. Scenarios of back leg weakness include:

  • When a dog rises slowly;
  • When a dog’s back legs are given out;
  • When a dog has back legs that are shaking;
  • If a dog can’t move their back legs and is shaking;
  • An old dog with back legs collapsing;
  • A young dog with back legs collapsing;
  • When a dog is dragging their back legs;
  • When a dog can’t move their back legs;
  • If it seems that a dog has paralyzed their back legs;
  • Muscle spasms in a dog’s back legs;
  • When their back legs sink;
  • When they drag the tops of their toes;
  • When their hind legs are swaying;
  • When they slip and slide;
  • When they have exercise intolerance.

If you notice your dog exhibiting the signs above, it may be of help to observe the following to help your veterinarian diagnose the cause:

  • Do they have episodes of weakness, or is it constant?
  • Does it happen during exercise or not?
  • Was it gradual or sudden?

Some factors, such as age, size, and weight, may also play a part in certain conditions.

A Petcube Cam may help you monitor your dog for symptoms of back leg weakness as well as other symptoms of health issues. Detecting them early may help you address the issue before it becomes a serious problem. Apart from its camera feature, you also get access to an online vet service, so you can ask certified vets any questions you may have about your pet’s health and behavior.

Causes of Back Leg Weakness in Dogs

If you notice back leg weakness in your dog, you may ask questions such as: “What causes sudden hind leg weakness in dogs?” “Why are my dog’s back legs shaking?” Or “Why are my dog’s back legs weak?”. Such symptoms cannot just be automatically associated with old age. There are several possible causes, which can be categorized into four classifications: orthopedic, neurologic, cardiac, or metabolic.

Orthopedic Causes

These may include osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, and hip arthritis, according to Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences study.

  • Acute arthritis

There are also acute forms of arthritis that cause sudden back and leg weakness, such as lyme arthritis (immune-mediated arthritis). Back-leg weakness caused by these conditions often has a slow onset of symptoms.

Meanwhile, other orthopedic causes may be brought about by injuries or as a result of being overweight. These may include:

  • Fractures
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IDD)
  • Bilateral Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears

Neurologic Causes

  • IVDD

An orthopedic condition becomes a neurological one when the affected disc(s) take a toll on the spinal cord, resulting in neurologic weakness as well. In some cases, it may result in paralysis.

  • Diskospondylitis

This condition can be described as an infection in the intervertebral disc as well as the tips of the adjoining vertebrae, which can cause much pain and often cause weakness in the back legs.

  • Spinal Tumors

  • Lumbosacral stenosis

Another name for this condition is “cauda equina syndrome." Like IVDD, it is a degenerative condition that specifically affects the lumbosacral joint. This is very painful and often causes neurological issues that also cause back and leg weakness.

  • Degenerative myelopathy

This spinal cord degenerative condition has a slow onset but is progressive. While any breed may be susceptible, it is most common in German Shepherds.

  • Myasthenia gravis (MG)

This is an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that causes muscle weakness during exercise. It may often be first felt in the back legs, but soon progresses to whole-body weakness and collapse.

  • Exercise-induced collapse (EIC)

This disorder is inherited and usually affects Labrador Retrievers, among other breeds. Symptoms may appear between 6 months and 2 years old. Symptoms occur after strenuous exercise. It comes on suddenly in the back limbs and quickly progresses until the dog collapses.

  • Idiopathic vestibular syndrome

This often causes geriatric dogs to have problems with incoordination and experience back-leg weakness. This condition also comes on suddenly and may appear like a stroke.

Apart from these, several tick-borne diseases may lead to generalized neuromuscular weakness that may show in a dog’s back legs.

Metabolic Causes

These may include:

Cardiac Causes

Cardiac function is important for the blood flow and delivery of oxygen to the tissues of the body. When there is an impairment in cardiac function, this causes weakness, which may first become apparent in the back legs.

Among the conditions that impair cardiac function are congestive heart failure, heartworm disease, and cardiomyopathy, among others.

Because there are many possible causes of back leg weakness in dogs, monitoring your dog is essential to help determine the cause and be able to address it accordingly. The Petcube Cam 360 is a great gadget to make monitoring your pet a breeze, anywhere you may be. With it, it’s as if you’re there in the room with them even if you’re away. Its features, such as 1080p Full HD video, 360-degree panoramic view, night vision, and 8x zoom for details, among other features, will be very helpful in keeping an eye on your pet.

Treatment of Back Leg Weakness in Dogs

Ways to treat a dog with back leg weakness may vary greatly depending on what is causing it. For injuries, the treatment would depend on how severe they are. In many cases, surgery may be recommended. On the other hand, for disorders such as degenerative myelopathy, intervertebral disc disease, and cancer, management of the symptoms may be advised.

For those with arthritis, pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, supplements, and environmental changes for better movement and rest may be beneficial. Those with cancer are often given options for treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. Management of Cushing’s disease may include hormone medications to help balance hormone levels.

If your dog has back and leg weakness, it is best to talk to your vet to determine the treatment option that would be best for your dog.

How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment

Because some cases of back-leg weakness may be severe, pet emergencies are possible. While we hope such emergencies don’t occur, it’s best to be prepared. Having a financial net, among various forms of support, really helps in times of emergencies. Petcube’s Pet Emergency Fund understands this. Upon having a Pet Emergency Fund subscription, you get up to $3000 for up to six pets.

Also, paying for the vet expenses need not be a hassle since the vet clinic is paid directly without you having to worry about it. This helps you focus on your pet’s treatment. In doing so, you also get access to an online vet, allowing you to consult with certified veterinarians anytime and anywhere without the need to set an appointment. Indeed, getting support and professional advice in a more personal manner may go a long way during such unexpected emergencies.

If you are ready to make a good investment, we are offering an exclusive 27% off on subscriptions for you, one of our blog readers, if you follow this link.


What are some ways to strengthen a dog’s back legs?

One way is to regularly walk with your dog to strengthen their hind legs. Swimming also provides a gentle way for them to exercise their muscles. Providing your dog with a healthy and nutritious diet may also help prevent them from getting overweight, which can cause back weakness down the line.

My dog has diarrhea, and his back legs are weak. What does this mean?

Diarrhea with back-leg weakness may be a sign of degenerative myelopathy. This disorder may impair nerves in the lower spine, which may result in a progressive form of back leg paralysis and diarrhea or bowel incontinence.


Back-leg weakness may be uncomfortable and painful for your dog. Causes range from minor injuries to progressive ones like degenerative myelopathy. Monitoring your dog for symptoms is essential to help determine the cause and be able to address them early on.

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