If your pet is experiencing weakness in their hind legs, we recommend reading this article. Today, our Apple Valley vets share some advice on improving or maintaining your old dog's hind leg strength.
Causes of Hind Leg Weakness in Older Dogs
Various factors can lead to the weakening of your pet's hind legs. Some reasons can be spontaneous and require immediate care, while others may just tend to occur in senior dogs. Below, our Apple Valley veterinary team shares some possible causes.
Just like humans, dogs can also be affected by arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that particularly affects the hind legs. This happens when their joints lack sufficient lubrication, resulting in painful movements. If your furry friend experiences 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
If you observe that your pet's hip joints are looser than usual, this could be a sign of hip dysplasia. This condition can cause problems with balance and, in more serious cases, osteoarthritis. It is more common in larger dog breeds, 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
Your pet may be experiencing degenerative myelopathy, a condition in which the protective covering of their nerves deteriorates, resulting in improper nerve function. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Quivering hind legs
- Hind legs coming together while standing
- Feet positioned at unusual angles
- German Shepherd
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Did you know that diabetes can cause weakness in your pet's hind leg joints? Insufficient insulin production leads to abnormal blood sugar levels, which can have this effect. 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 (FCE) is a condition that can affect dogs, where a small piece of cartilage blocks their bloodstream, leading to spinal swelling. The result is temporary hind leg movement restriction and pain, which is especially common in larger dog breeds. Breeds such as German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds often receive a diagnosis of FCE.
If your pet needs surgical intervention such as tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), it can help restore leg movement. However, as advised by the surgeon, your pet may need to limit their physical activities during post-surgery recovery. While this restriction may cause temporary disability, it is necessary for a full and successful recovery.
Signs & Symptoms of Hind Leg Issues
Identifying the underlying problem without medical assistance can be challenging due to the similarity of symptoms among the conditions listed below. Therefore, it is crucial to seek advice from a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you notice any of the following behaviors in your dog, taking action promptly is important:
- 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
Strengthening an Old Dog's Hind Legs
Once you have pinpointed the reason for your pet's distress and have received treatment suggestions, there are non-medical actions you can take to assist in their recovery and assist them in regaining 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.
Managing Pain & 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.
You can consider using mobility aids like a wheelchair, rear lifting harness, or hip brace. These aids will give your dog a certain level of freedom, enabling them to enjoy an active lifestyle during the longer, warmer summer months.
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 veterinarians in Apple Valley 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.