Why Is My Dogs Back Legs Giving Out

A dog may have trouble supporting his or her weight at the hind end for a variety of reasons. Some of them progress really slowly. Others can take hours or minutes to happen. Here are six circumstances that could be to blame for an elderly dog’s back legs collapsing.


Although there are numerous health conditions that can compromise the health and strength of dogs’ hind legs, arthritis is by far the most prevalent problem I encounter. Bony joints in good health typically have layers of cartilage that aid in lubricating, cushioning, and protecting the joint while it is moving. Unfortunately, cartilage has a poor ability to mend and over time may deteriorate. Osteoarthritis is brought on by the inflammation brought on by cartilage degradation. The regular operation of the joints may be impacted by this painful disorder.

An old injury or conformational problems may make arthritis worse. Dogs with luxating patellas, hip dysplasia, damaged ACLs, and other orthopedic issues are more susceptible to developing arthritis. However, even without any risk factors, many elderly dogs will develop indications of arthritis as they age.

Arthritis is very prevalent in large breed dogs, including:

  • Labs
  • Retrievers’ Goldens
  • Shepherds of Germany
  • Numerous other older dogs

Weakness in the back leg could eventually result from hip and knee osteoarthritis. You might notice your dog’s hind legs collapsing and that he or she is having trouble getting up or walking as a result. Additionally, the back, front legs, and other joints may be impacted by arthritis. This may increase your dog’s overall level of pain and limit their mobility. The pain and weakness related to arthritis typically develop over time.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

In contrast, several other disorders can result in a collapse or very abrupt weakening of the hind limbs. Intervertebral disc disease, often known as IVDD in dogs, is one of the common causes. However, it can also occur in larger dogs. This is particularly typical in smaller breed dogs, such Dachshunds.

Dogs’ backbone is padded as they move by cartilage discs located between each vertebra. These discs herniate or are displaced in IVDD. Since the spinal cord is directly above the discs, this puts pressure on it. Dogs with moderate IVDD may just experience limb weakness or back pain. The sick dog may occasionally appear unsteady and off balance. But severe spinal cord compression brought on by IVDD can result in total, and occasionally irreversible, paralysis.

For dogs with IVDD, time is of the essential since the sooner the vet can begin therapy, the better the prognosis. Plan an urgent veterinary appointment to your normal veterinarian’s office or a nearby pet emergency hospital if your dog’s back legs suddenly collapse. In certain cases, dogs with IVDD can recover without surgery, but in other situations, dogs with IVDD must have surgery.

Degenerative myelopathy

There are a few less frequent reasons why dogs may collapse or exhibit weakness in their hind legs. An inherited neuromuscular condition known as degenerative myelopathy (DM) in dogs affects some elderly canines. DM is comparable to human ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. German Shepherds, Huskies, Retrievers, and Corgis are the breeds most prone to it.

Dogs with DM often proceed slowly, beginning with weakness, loss of coordination, dragging of one or both hind legs, or knuckling. It will eventually result in total paralysis of the hind limbs. Your veterinarian can suggest a genetic test that searches for mutant copies of the SOD-1 gene if you have symptoms of DM. Two copies of the defective gene, according to researchers, may increase a dog’s risk of having DM. But there is still a lot we don’t know about this terrible disease.

Endocrine diseases

Additionally, several metabolic disorders might cause weakness in the back legs. The overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands causes Cushing’s disease in canines. In dogs, this can result in generalized muscle weakness that is frequently more pronounced in the back legs.

Dogs with diabetes mellitus may also, very rarely, develop diabetic neuropathy. In this disorder, nerve function changes and causes weakness in the back legs.

Muscle weakness and nerve damage are occasionally reported side effects of canine hypothyroidism. Dogs’ laryngeal paralysis, megaesophagus, or weakness and collapse could result from this (more commonly in all four legs).

Acute injury

Of course, injuries like cruciate ligament tears (particularly if both hind legs have ACL tears), spinal stroke in dogs, or trauma to the hips, spine, or pelvis can also cause hind leg collapse. These are frequently less mysterious because you may have witnessed your dog being hit by a car, falling from a height, taking an incorrect step, howling in pain, etc.


This one is a little different from the others on the list, but I think it is important to note because being aware of it can help save your dog’s life. When a dog is in shock, which is characterized by low blood pressure and poor blood circulation, the animal may occasionally become extremely weak or collapse. The dog may appear to be weak and collapsing at the back, but in reality, the dog is feeble all over. Shock can occur for a variety of reasons, such as:

What triggers a dog’s rear legs to collapse unexpectedly?

There are several factors that can affect how strong a dog’s legs are. The following are seven of the more frequent reasons why dogs’ back legs become weak:

Intervertebral Disc Disease

IVDD is frequently to blame for dogs’ sudden paralysis. Following a period of exercise, abrupt mobility loss from IVDD is typically identified in dogs. After an IVDD-related disc herniation, it’s very uncommon for a dog’s hind legs to collapse and even become paralyzed. Dogs with intervertebral disc disease have excruciating back pain and paralysis, frequently with few or no symptoms. Surgery and immediate veterinary care are required to address this illness. The breeds of Beagle, Shih Tzu, and Bichon Frise are among those also afflicted by IVDD, which is most frequently found in Dachshunds.

Fibrocartilaginous Stenosis or FCE

A little piece of cartilage blocking an artery causes a spinal stroke known as an FCE. When a dog has an FCE, their hind legs will suddenly stop working and they won’t show any pain. FCE can cause a dog’s hind leg to paralysis but not the other. Larger breed dogs like German shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are the most frequently affected by this.

Canine Arthritis

Dogs are most frequently affected by the painful joint ailment known as arthritis as they age. A dog’s mobility may be restricted by severe joint discomfort brought on by arthritis inflammation, making even the smallest step uncomfortable.

Lumbosacral Stenosis

Lumbosacral stenosis is a condition that gradually impairs a dog’s ability to move its legs due to spinal pressure brought on by a narrowing of the spinal cord, frequently as a result of pressures placed on tissues by conditions like severe osteoarthritis, tumors, fractures, and ruptured intervertebral disks. Dogs who have spinal stenosis sway and have trouble standing. Additionally, some dogs may endure excruciating nerve pain in their hind legs. This unpleasant ailment can cause fecal and urine incontinence as well as tail paralysis.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy, also referred to as DM, is a progressive spinal disorder that causes paralysis and hind leg weakness in dogs. Large dogs like German Shepherds are more likely to develop degenerative myelopathy than other dog breeds, although it can affect many others as well.

Patellar Luxation

a knee problem where the dog’s knee moves in and out of position. Holding the limb in the air and performing a bunny hop are two clinical indications of patellar luxation.


The long bones of the hind limbs, the pelvis, or soft tissue components like nerves and cartilage might develop neoplasia or cancer. Cancerous growths can develop very quickly, like osteosarcoma, which is typically found in the tibia and fibula of larger canines like Rottweilers, or they can grow slowly and progressively press against nerves. If osteosarcoma spreads too far, it may result in leg spontaneous fractures, limping, and aversion to bearing weight on the affected limb.

What should you do if a dog’s back leg fails?

Your senior dog may have many more happy and healthy years ahead of him, free from rear leg collapse, with assistance from orthopedic braces, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and homeopathic support. Ask your veterinarian if a hip brace could help your elderly dog’s weak hind legs.

What could make a dog unbalance his back legs?

A dog may become paralyzed for a variety of reasons; the following are some of the most prevalent disorders affecting canine mobility:

  • neurological disorders
  • muscle-skeletal disorders
  • Deficiency Myelopathy
  • melanoma tumors
  • Embolism with Fibrocartilage (FCE)
  • viral illness (Distemper or Rabies)
  • Ticks
  • Trauma or harm
  • the use of insecticides
  • Disease of the Intervertebral Disc
  • spinal harm

Dogs’ paralysis is typically brought on by a spine or brain issue. The communication between a dog’s spine and brain can be interfered with by spinal compression, ruptured discs, and nerve issues. Dogs lose their capacity to walk, stand, and control their legs when the nerves can’t work regularly.

Why is my dog tumbling over on his back legs?

Like humans, dogs tend to become less active as they get older. Dogs and people have a lot in common, from gray hair to age-related health problems. Even though it’s terrifying to see your elderly dog’s legs give way, it happens to a lot of senior dogs, especially large breeds. Some of the most frequent causes for it to be happening to your furry friend are listed below:


A number of layers of cartilage assist to protect and lubricate joints in healthy joints. Over time, cartilage erodes, resulting in discomfort and irritation. In addition to age-related wear and tear, osteoarthritis can also result from a past injury or a hereditary disorder like hip dysplasia.

Degenerative myelopathy (DM)

Even though degenerative myelopathy, often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in dogs, is less frequent than arthritis as a cause of hind leg collapse, it is important to keep in mind that corgis, German shepherds, and golden retrievers may be affected. Your dog will continue to have the same quality of life he did before his diagnosis despite his movement limitations because this neuromuscular condition is fortunately thought to be painless.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)

The symptoms of degenerative myelopathy and limping grow over time; in contrast, intervertebral disc disease frequently results in a sudden onset of weakness and collapse. IVDD can occur in large breeds, despite the fact that it is more frequently identified in small breeds. The herniation or movement of discs brought on by IVDD puts pressure on the spinal cord. It can induce paralysis or, less frequently, the collapse of your dog’s back legs. Typically, surgery is needed to treat the disease.

Symptoms to look for

Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s illness, shock, injury, and diabetic neuropathy brought on by diabetes mellitus are additional reasons of hind leg collapse. Whatever the cause of your senior dog’s collapsed hind leg, early treatment typically yields a better outcome. Here are some warning signs to watch out for:

  • Having trouble standing
  • shaking of the legs
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Whimpering, limping, panting, losing food, hiding, and behavioral changes are all indications of pain.

You should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible for a checkup if he exhibits any of these signs.

Why is my dog now finding it difficult to walk?

Do not overlook your dog if it suddenly develops problems standing or walking. You must address any lameness issues your dog may have as a responsible dog owner. It might only be a small issue, like a torn muscle or a pair of blisters on your dog’s paw.

What are the initial symptoms of canine degenerative myelopathy?

Degenerative myelopathy typically begins to show symptoms at the age of eight, though in some dogs, it may take longer. The first symptom is frequently weakness and loss of coordination in one or both of the rear limbs (back legs), which is followed by dragging and scuffing of the fingers (toes). Affected dogs appear inebriated and frequently fall when turning, especially on slick surfaces. The hind limb weakness and loss of coordination worsen over several months as the condition slowly worsens. Dogs with severe cases may lose the ability to walk and even suffer incontinence since the forelimbs (front legs) are also compromised. Dogs with degenerative myelopathy are often healthy and eager to exercise despite their impairment because the condition is not uncomfortable.

Degenerative myelopathy in a German Shepherd Dog

The right hind paw’s toes are being dragged, and the hindlimbs are uncoordinated and feeble.

How long does a dog with degenerative myelopathy typically live?

How long does Degenerative Myelopathy last in dogs? Dogs with DM often coexist for anything from six months to three years. For dogs with DM, rehabilitation therapy and regular exercise can assist to enhance their quality of life. Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment for Degenerative Myelopathy.

Should a dog that is unable to walk be put down?

This type of death is a little easier to deal with when our extremely old pet passes away peacefully or “naturally” We were prepared for it, it happened peacefully as we slept, and we were not required to choose.

The decision may be simple if our elderly pet is found to have an illness for which there is no cure. The animal is in pretty horrible shape. They have no appetite and are really ill and depressed. We may perform euthanasia with a fair amount of assurance that we are doing morally since we can see and hear the evidence. The animal lived a long, happy life. We needed to address their blatant misery.

When our pet is really old and weak yet is still eating well, things might get confused. If they are actually in such much pain that they are considering euthanasia, we expect them to cease eating. Frequently, this is not the case. Animals are built to tolerate and conceal suffering. Even when their eyes are still brilliant and sparkly, we need to watch out for hints of sorrow. even though they always wag their tails and say hello to us. Take a look at how difficult it is for them to move around. They walk limpingly, have a short stride, and are rigid. Even with little effort, they pant heavily for a very long period. They can have trouble getting up and lying down and urinate and defecate within the home. They drop. They dislike having slick flooring.

This pet actually experiences everyday discomfort from advanced, crippling arthritis. Our pets desire to be useful, mobile, and cozy. As our pets age, their muscle deteriorates to nothing. Extreme discomfort from arthritis might result from a lack of muscle. Their mobility and function deteriorate dramatically as they are unable to withstand the discomfort any longer. This pet doesn’t want to live like this and wants to be free of it.

There is never a good time to put down a pet. Just a period of time during which this pet would genuinely enjoy relief from the nagging, constant, and excruciating lack of function and mobility. Daily painkillers for arthritis can improve mobility temporarily, but eventually old age takes over and becomes too severe for any medication to be helpful.

Another circumstance to talk about is whether or not to spend money on bloodwork, x-rays, ultrasounds, and biopsies when you have an elderly pet who has significant weight loss, is sluggish, and is eating less. Some people must genuinely try to discover solutions in order to avoid feeling guilty. They proceed with the examination because, absent more specific information, it would appear hard to decide whether to put a patient to death. (Remember that there are limitations to our medical advancements. There are innumerable unanswered questions.) Some individuals choose not to proceed with a stressful examination of an elderly pet because they don’t see the need in subjecting them to invasive procedures like surgery or chemotherapy. They try straightforward therapies such daily pain medications and antibiotics up till the quality of life is low.

The conversation and availability of materials about quality of life, indicators of suffering, and when to euthanize ought to be much more widespread, in my opinion. We can care for our dogs better the more we know.