What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness In Dogs?

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No one wants to see their beloved pet in pain, and the last thing you want to see is your four-legged friend’s battle to walk.

Imagine waking up one day and seeing your dog have weakness in its hind legs. There are many reasons why your dog might exhibit this problem, and it’s natural to be stressed about it.

In this guide we’re going to address what causes sudden hind leg weakness in dogs. And how it can be treated.

There are many reasons why a dog might get back leg weakness. Some of the most common reasons include a leg injury, a disease such as cancer, Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), Intervertebral Disc Disease, Fibrocartilaginous Stenosis or FCE, Canine Arthritis, and Patellar Luxation, to name a few.

Sudden hind leg weakness is more prevalent in larger dogs like German Shepherds, but it can affect most dog breeds. Let’s take a look at the possible triggers:

What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Weakness In Dogs?

What causes sudden hind leg weakness in dogs?

When thinking about why dogs get sudden leg weakness, most people think it only happens to certain dog breeds, but this is inaccurate.

Sudden hind leg weakness can be most common in small dogs but can also affect larger dogs. In this section, we will look at what causes sudden hind leg weakness in dogs.

A Leg Injury

If a dog has had a traumatic injury to its hind legs, the obvious trauma can cause the tissue and muscles to weaken over time. As the dog ages, the muscles can degenerate further and lead to sudden hind leg weakness.

A sudden onset of hind leg weakness could be as simple as a pulled muscle.


Nobody wants to hear the dreaded C-word, but it has to be ruled out.

Cancer or Neoplasia can form in the pelvis, long bones of the hindlimbs, or soft tissue structures such as the cartilage and nerves. Cancerous growths can grow slowly and press against the nerves over time, or, in the case of Osteosarcoma, cancer can grow and spread rapidly.

Osteosarcoma is usually seen in the tibia or fibula of larger dogs such as Rottweilers. It can cause limping, and the dog will be reluctant to put weight on its hind legs, and in severe cases where cancer has spread too far, it can cause sudden hind leg fractures.

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

Degenerative Myelopathy or DM is a disease that progresses slowly over time and causes sudden hind leg weakness in dogs. It’s most commonly seen in larger dogs, but it can also affect other breeds.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

IVDD is a spinal cord condition that is usually seen in smaller dogs like Dachshunds, Shit-Zus, and Beagles. This condition causes a dog’s hind legs to collapse and even become paralyzed. It causes severe back pain and will often happen suddenly and with little to no warning.

Fibrocartilaginous Stenosis or FCE

FCE is a spinal stroke that happens when a tiny piece of cartilage blocks an artery. When dogs get FCE, they will suddenly lose hind leg function but with minimal pain. Some dogs only get paralyzed in one leg and not the other. FCE is most common in dogs like German Shepherds and Labradors.

Canine Arthritis

Canine Arthritis is a painful inflammatory condition that happens to dogs as they get older. Arthritis can severely impact the quality of life for dogs as they are in constant pain.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar Luxation is a condition where the knee cap keeps slipping in and out of place. So, if you see your dog holding its hind leg in the air and doing the bunny hop, it’s best to take it to a vet.

See also: Should you walk a dog with a luxating patella?

How To Treat Sudden Hind Leg Weakness In Dogs

When it comes to sudden hind leg weakness in dogs, the best course of action is to get your dog to a vet for a proper diagnosis. The vet will then be able to either treat the dog with certain medication, massage therapy or joint replacement surgery. 

As a short term fix, you may want to consider replacing stairs with ramps and reducing your dog’s activity until a long term solution can be found. He may have trouble getting upstairs on his own.

Consider support braces and harnesses to ensure your dog still gets good exercise without causing too much pain.

It would serve your dog best to try and prevent sudden hind leg weakness althogether. Below are a few ways that will help you do just that.

Dog hind legs are weak

How To Prevent Sudden Hind Leg Weakness In Dogs

If you want to prevent sudden hind leg weakness in your dogs, you need to take precautionary measures.

Here are a few helful tips to keep your dog’s bones healthy.

Give Your Dog Vitamins 

Adding the right vitamins and minerals to your dog’s diet is essential for stronger bones. Here are a few you can easily incorporate into their diet:

  • Vitamin K and Magnesium: These two vitamins help maintain your dog’s bone health. 
  • Vitamin D: Vitamine D helps your dog’s bones absorb calcium better, thus helping keep the bones strong.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps create collagen. Collagen helps keep the joints flexible and strong.
  • Vitamin E: This vitamin acts as a shield to keep the free radicals away from your dog’s cells. 

Give Your Dog More Protein

Adding more protein to your dog’s diet will increase calcium absorption and ensure your dog has strong and healthy bones. Some of the best protein sources are chicken, beef, tuna, pumpkin seeds, and oats.

Keep Your Dog At A Healthy Weight

Dogs need to stay at a healthy weight. If your dog has to carry too much weight, it will directly impact the health of its bones.

So ensure to take your best pal for regular walks, keep an eye on the amount of food your dog eats and limit the number of treats your dog gets if you see they are picking up too much weight.

You Can Give Your Dog Joint And Bone Supplements

One of the best ways to prevent sudden hind leg weakness is to give your dog joint and bone supplements. Here are some ingredients to look for in joint and bone supplements that can help give your dog the best bone health:

  • Fish Oils: Fish oils contain Omega 3, which helps control inflammation and promotes bone health.
  • Collagen: Keeps your dog’s joints and bones healthy and promotes flexibility in the joints.
  • Glucosamine: This nutrient helps relieve pain and joint damage.
  • Chondroitin: Chondroitin helps to reduce inflammation in the bones and joints of your dog. 

Give Your Dog Good Quality Dog Food

You should ensure the dog food you give your dog is of good quality. It should include enough calcium and phosphorus to keep your dog’s bones healthy. 

Final Thoughts on Sudden Hind Leg Weakness

Dogs can get sudden hind leg weakness for numerous reasons, including diseases, accidents, and congenital conditions.

That’s why it’s vital to take precautionary measures to keep the dog’s bones and joints strong. Some things you can do is to give your dog the right supplements, keep their weight stable, and ensure to add protein into their meals.

If it’s too late to take precautionary measures, the first plan of action is to have your dog examined by a vet and get to the root cause of the weakness.

Rest assured: treatment plans exist and there’s a lot that can be done for dogs who are suffering from weak hind legs.

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