Hind End Weakness in Dogs: Its Causes and Its Solutions | Herepup
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Hind End Weakness in Dogs: Its Causes and Its Solutions

One of the toughest things dog owner can experience is watching a beloved pooch’s hind legs grow weak. Indeed, seeing a once-proud gait devolve into a feeble scamper is enough to make you feel helpless. But don’t throw in the towel - you can give your buddy some help.

What Causes a Dog’s Hind Legs to Grow Weak?

There are several ailments that can cause a dog’s hind legs to lose its power and normal abilities. What makes the condition truly frightening is that the condition could manifest itself in a very sudden manner, seemingly without warning. As one may guess, several of these conditions relate to issues involving the spinal column, such as intervertebral disc disease or vertebral instability (which is also known as “wobbler syndrome”).

More often than not, the condition will be brought about by the effects of osteoarthritis. Another big culprit is a condition known as hip dysplasia; a gradually-inducing condition that occurs when the bones within a dog’s hip joint begin to separate, hindering the joint’s ability to operate properly. Over time, this separation will end up making tasks that used to be mundane for a pooch extremely difficult, such as climbing the stairs.

While conditions causing hind end weakness usually happen to older, larger breed dogs, these conditions can crop of in dogs of all ages and sizes. In the case of hip dysplasia, the condition could be brought about at a much early age, since it could settle in while the dog is in the midst of his developmental stage. In some cases, hind end weakness could be accompanied by other secondary symptoms, such as trouble urinating or lack of control while defecating.

Always a Good Option: Stairs & Ramps

If your pooch has weakness in her hind legs, one of most frustrating things about it (for you and for her) is that she probably won't be able to get around like she used to. 

Because these are also the times your dog probably needs to cuddle on the couch the most, I highly recommend looking into indoor dog ramps and/or dog stairs. 

I usually recommend the ones from RoyalRamps, since they're such high quality (this is not an affiliate link, by the way; I just know one of the owners, and they make fantastic products). They look like this.

Dog Steps

Degenerative Myelopathy: The Scariest Hind End Weakness-Related Condition

Hind End Weakness in Dogs 2

The most frightening disease associated with hind end weakness in dogs is a condition called Degenerative Myelopathy, otherwise known as DM. It is an extremely brutal disease, as the condition has no known cause, nor does it have a cure. It is most commonly seen in large breeds - in particularly German Shepherds - but it can present itself in smaller dogs.

When a dog has DM, the protective sheath that surrounds the nerves in a dog’s spinal cord starts to be destroyed. When this happens, the messages that would normally run to the dog’s muscles get disrupted. This lack of efficient communication makes movement in the leg muscles that would normally get the message impossible.

Over time, this lack of movement could cause atrophy in the dog’s hindquarters. The aggressiveness of the disease may fluctuate over time, but it will not fully let up. Eventually, the affected dog will get to the point where he can no longer walk.

Diagnosis and Prognosis of DM

Because of the severity of DM, the condition tends to get diagnosed by a vet only after all of the other diseases and conditions that could cause hind end weakness are ruled out. And if it is determined that the dog has the condition, the unfortunate reality is that there is no effective way for it to be treated. However, studies have shown that dogs that receive physical therapy can at least have a longer and an improved quality of life versus those that do not have therapy.

Generationally Attacking DM

Although a cure for DM has yet to be discovered, scientists have at least been able to determine that dogs with the condition carry a specific gene mutation. Furthermore, dogs that carry two copies of the gene are nearly all affected by the condition. This identification has been a vital tool to halt the condition in future generations, as being able to identify potential carriers of the condition enables them to be taken out of various breeding programs.

It’s Tough, But You Can Be Strong

It can be downright heartbreaking to watch your four-legged friend struggle to trot, walk, or eventually, even move. However, if you have a dog that develops hind end weakness, it’s up to you to be strong and love him as much as you possibly can. Your dog will be in a time of need from the onset of these conditions; the least you can do is to meet his needs as best you can.


Laura Harris

Dr. Laura Harris is our resident dog health expert. She started to fact-check dog health-related information for HerePup during her internship and contributes since then. Her expertise is in dog nutrition, senior dog care, especially critical care medicine and internal medicine.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Phil C - May 27, 2017

Both of my wiener dogs at different times were shaky and had weak hind legs.One of my dogs could not jump on the couch,could not climb stairs and would lay under the bed shaking.I thought maybe she had really bad arthritis or a bad back injury.I gave her calcium pills in wet cat food and she got better for a little while.so later I gave my dog a calcium pill in meat and my dog got worse as the days went by.Every day I gave my dog a calcium pills and she didn’t get better.It later dawned on me that maybe the wet cat food is what helped the first time.I gave my dog wet cat food every day for a few days and my dog improved immediately back to normal.Later when my other dog got the same type of condition,I gave her wet cat food and it worked for her and she went back to normal…Sharing this story because I believe it will help a lot of dogs.

    Guy - May 17, 2018

    My Labradoodle is loosing his muscle mass and coordination in his hind end, I think it’s DM, what kind of Cat Food did you geed your dogs? Thanks


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