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How to Strengthen an Old Dog's Hind Legs

If your pet has weak hind legs, our vets in North Providence are here to discuss and guide you on improving or maintaining their leg strength.

What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?

Your dog's back legs can slip or give out due to various factors. Let's delve into some of these causes.


Like humans, dogs can experience arthritis, with osteoarthritis specifically impacting their hind legs. This condition arises when their joints lack proper lubrication, causing discomfort during movement. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your furry friend, promptly consult a veterinarian:

  • 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 looser-than-usual hip joints in your pet, it may indicate hip dysplasia. This condition can result in balance issues and, in severe cases, lead to osteoarthritis. Larger dog breeds, such as: are more prone to this condition.

  • 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 experience degenerative myelopathy, a condition where the protective covering of the nerves deteriorates, causing abnormal nerve function. Watch 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? Abnormal blood sugar levels, stemming from insufficient insulin production, can lead to this consequence. Watch for signs like increased thirst and appetite, incontinence, and weight loss. If you observe these symptoms in your dog, consult a veterinarian and get a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) can impact dogs when a small piece of cartilage obstructs their bloodstream, leading to spinal enlargement. This condition temporarily restricts hind leg movement and causes pain, especially in larger dog breeds. German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds are among the breeds commonly diagnosed with FCE.

Limited Mobility

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

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

Because symptoms overlap among the conditions listed below, diagnosing the underlying cause without medical assistance can be challenging. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian promptly. Take swift action if you observe any of the following behaviors in your dog:

  • 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's time to explore alternative options to enhance their comfort and overall well-being.

Consider incorporating mobility aids such as a wheelchair, rear lifting harness, or hip brace. These aids empower your dog to embrace an active lifestyle, especially during the longer, warmer summer months.

As pets age, they require regular preventive veterinary care and early detection of any health issues to ensure a high quality of life.

At North Providence, our veterinarians specialize in assisting senior pets in maintaining optimal health. They proactively identify and address emerging health issues early when they are still manageable and practical.

Are you concerned that your dog may have weak back legs? Schedule an appointment with the veterinarians at Ferguson Animal Hospital today.

New Patients Welcome

Ferguson Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of North Providence companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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