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What Causes a Dog’s Hind Legs to Collapse?

Many mobility issues can cause a dog’s hind legs to give out and collapse underneath them suddenly. For example, a dog’s back legs can collapse due to an injury, leg weakness in an older dog, arthritis, or a more serious health condition such as Degenerative Myelopathy. 

As dogs age, it’s natural for them to lose some strength in their legs, but old age isn’t the only cause of hind leg weakness in dogs. Here are a few mobility conditions that can cause a dog’s hind legs to collapse:

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Reasons For A Dogs Back Legs Giving Out
Can A Dog Recover From Hind Leg Weakness?
How To Prevent A Dog’s Back Legs From Collapsing

Reasons for a Dogs Back Legs Giving Out

1. Canine Arthritis

Joint pain can make even the shortest walk impossible for a pet. Likewise, severe arthritis pain makes every step painful, which often causes a dog’s hind legs to give out underneath them. An arthritic dog may become reluctant to walk, stop climbing stairs, and avoid any activity that will cause joint pain.

Arthritis occurs when a dog’s joints cannot lubricate, leading to joint pain with every step. Although there are stages of arthritis, your dog should be seen by their veterinarian if they struggle on the stairs, have difficulty walking, or have noticeable weakness in the hind legs. 

2. Hip Dysplasia 

Hip Dysplasia is the most common orthopedic condition impacting pets.  In the United States, 1 in over 74.9K dogs has Hip Dysplasia. In addition, a secondary diagnosis of osteoarthritis is prevalent in dogs with hip dysplasia.

These two conditions cause a dog’s legs to weaken and buckle underneath them as they walk. Although not reversible, both dysplasia and arthritis symptoms are manageable with proper medical care. 

3. Injury

A traumatic injury can impact a dog’s ability to support itself, stand, and walk. CCL ruptures or cruciate tears are common knee injuries that affect a dog’s hind leg strength, but they are not the only injuries that impact a dog’s legs. Symptoms include sudden limping or a dog’s back legs giving out. Any pet that shows signs of injury, no matter how minor, needs to be examined by its veterinarian. 

4. Intervertebral Disc Disease

Most cases of IVDD occur suddenly, often with a loud yelp; after a lot of activity, a dog’s hind legs give out. When an IVDD dog’s spinal disc ruptures, it is painful and can paralyze a dog. The severity of the disc rupture, the location of the disc, and how quickly the pet receives treatment all factor into the dog’s prognosis. 

5. Degenerative Myelopathy

DM is a severe mobility condition; among its earliest signs is weakening back legs. Dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy will experience limb weakness and muscle atrophy along with their legs giving out. Although dogs with DM don’t experience pain, they will lose leg strength and can struggle to keep their legs underneath them as they move.

As the condition progresses, the dog’s symptoms worsen to paralysis of both the rear and front legs. DM progresses at varying speeds depending on the individual dog. Degenerative Myelopathy is a debilitating disease that impacts every facet of a dog’s life and mobility.

Can a dog recover from hind leg weakness?

Many factors go into a dog’s ability to recover strength in its back legs, including its diagnosis and treatment plan. However, recovery can be possible, and some dogs are able to regain their leg strength. With proper treatment and care, you can help a dog whose hind legs collapse underneath them.

A pet diagnosed with a mobility problem should work with a rehabilitation specialist to improve its strength, build muscle, and work to slow the condition’s progression.

How To prevent a Dog’s Back Legs From Collapsing

Provide Support and Assistance

Dog wheelchair for severe hip dysplasia

Dogs whose back legs collapse under them need hind leg support. Luckily, there are many mobility aids available to give your dog the back leg support they need to stay active.

Sometimes, your dog needs a helping hand to maintain its balance or even a little boost to climb the stairs. Lifting harnesses are a great way to give your dog the support they need. There are a wide variety of support harnesses available, and each one provides support in different ways. For pets needing temporary support, an affordable rear support leash is a great way to help your dog get up off the ground or outside to relieve itself. For pets with a chronic condition or one that will worsen, select a rugged lifting harness that can attach to a dog wheelchair in the future. 

large dog uses rear support harness for back legs
Warrior Rear Harness
Harness to help dog up stairs
Buddy Up Harness

A dog wheelchair is an ideal solution for a dog that needs more independence. Wheelchairs provide pets with the support they need to stand up, run, and play. A dog does not have to be paralyzed to benefit from using a dog wheelchair. A dog can still use their back legs when in a mobility cart. They are actively using their legs, which promotes leg strength and can help pets to rebuild muscle. While in a wheelchair, your dog can still go to the bathroom and get exercise.

Black schnauzer walks in small dog wheelchair
Walkin’ Wheels Small Dog Wheelchair
Walkin’ Wheels Medium Dog Wheelchair
A Doberman Pinscher in a wheelchair plays with brother
Walkin’ Wheels Large Dog Wheelchair

Strengthen the Hind Legs

Regular exercise is essential for everyone, even dogs! However, the amount of daily exercise a dog needs can vary by breed, activity level, and overall health. Always work with your pet professional to pick the proper exercise regimen for your best friend. Structured exercise is especially important for pets experiencing a loss of leg strength.

A pet diagnosed with a mobility problem should work with a rehabilitation specialist to improve its strength, build muscle, and work to slow the condition’s progression.

Regular Vet Visits

A dog’s annual exam and regular medical care is the best way to keep your dog healthy. During their annual veterinary visit, your vet will look for any changes in mobility, leg strength, and joint health. Catching these signs early is the best way to help your dog live a happy and active life!

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