Tips on How To Strengthen Old Dogs Hind Legs

It can worry you and your furry friend if they have weak hind legs. Seeing your pet struggle to walk can be distressing. Our vets in O’Fallon will explain the reasons behind hind leg weakness and advise how to improve or maintain your pet's leg strength.

What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?

There are numerous reasons why your pet's hind legs may become weak. Let us examine some of these potential causes.


Just like humans, dogs can also suffer from arthritis. One specific type of arthritis that affects their hind legs is called osteoarthritis. This condition occurs when their joints lack lubrication, resulting in pain when they move. It's important to take your pet to the veterinarian if you notice 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

If you observe that your pet's hip joints are looser than normal, it could indicate hip dysplasia. This instability can cause difficulties with balance and, in severe cases, osteoarthritis. Some larger dog breeds, such as those listed below, are more prone to this condition:

  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Saint Bernard
  • Great Dane

The main cause of hip dysplasia is genetics, although factors like size, weight, and overuse can also contribute to its development.

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


Did you know that diabetes can affect your pet's hind leg joints by reducing insulin production and causing abnormal blood sugar levels? Keep an eye out for signs such as increased thirst and hunger, incontinence, and weight loss. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, it's recommended that you seek advice from a veterinarian and get a blood test done to confirm the diagnosis.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is a condition that can impact dogs, wherein a tiny piece of cartilage obstructs their bloodstream. This obstruction leads to swelling in the spinal cord, which in turn results in temporary hind leg movement restriction and pain. FCE is commonly observed in larger dog breeds, especially German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds.

Limited Mobility

If your pet requires surgery, such as tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), it can aid in restoring their leg mobility. However, the surgeon may recommend that your pet restrict their physical activities during their post-surgery recovery period. Although this may result in temporary disability, it is essential for a complete 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 

Once you have determined why your pet is feeling uncomfortable and have received suggestions for treatment, you may also want to explore non-medical activities that can assist with their healing and assist them in regaining their energy.

  • 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 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 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 furry friend no longer benefits from strengthening exercises, it may be time to consider other options to improve their comfort and overall well-being.

Mobility aids like wheelchairs, rear lifting harnesses, or hip braces can give your pet a certain level of independence, allowing them to enjoy an active lifestyle 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 good quality of life.

At O’Fallon, our veterinarians 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

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from weakness in its hind legs, don't hesitate to book an appointment with our veterinarians in O’Fallon to get your furry friend the care it needs.