7 Causes of Back Leg Weakness in Dogs
There are many conditions that can impact a dog’s leg strength, here are seven of the more common causes of back leg weakness in dogs:
Sudden paralysis in dogs can often be attributed to IVDD. Most dogs are diagnosed with sudden mobility loss from IVDD following a period of exercise. It’s quite common for a dog’s hind legs to collapse and even become paralyzed after a disc herniation from IVDD. Intervertebral Disc Disease is a spinal cord condition that causes severe back pain and paralysis in dogs, often with little or no warning signs. This condition needs urgent veterinary treatment and surgery to correct the issue. IVDD is seen most commonly in Dachshunds, but other breeds affected include Beagles, Shih Tzu, and Bichon Frise.
An FCE is a spinal stroke that occurs when a small piece of cartilage blocks an artery. Dogs experiencing an FCE will have a sudden loss of hind leg function with little sign of pain. Dogs with FCE can become paralyzed on one hind leg and not the other. This is most commonly seen in larger breed dogs such as Labradors and German Shepherds.
Arthritis is a painful joint condition most often impacting dogs as they get older. Arthritis inflammation causes severe joint pain which can limit a dog’s movement, making each step they take painful.
Lumbosacral stenosis is a condition that slowly impacts a dog’s leg function due to spinal pressure caused by a narrowing of the spinal cord, often from pressures by tissues such as ruptured intervertebral disks, tumors, fractures, and severe osteoarthritis. Dogs with spinal stenosis struggle to stand and wobble when they walk. Some dogs may experience severe nerve pain in their hind legs as well. This condition is very painful and can result in urinary and fecal incontinence, and paralysis of the tail.
Also known as DM, degenerative myelopathy is a progressive spinal condition that results in hind leg weakness and paralysis in dogs. Degenerative myelopathy is most common in large dogs such as German Shepherds but can also impact many other dog breeds.
A knee condition that involves a dog’s knee slipping in and out of place. Clinical signs of patellar luxation include holding the limb up in the air and doing a bunny hop.
Neoplasia or cancer can form in the long bones in the hindlimbs, pelvis, or soft tissue structures such as nerves and cartilage. Cancerous growths can be slow-growing and gradually press against nerves or very rapid in onsets such as Osteosarcoma (seen most commonly in the tibia and fibula bone in larger dogs such as Rottweilers. Osteosarcoma can cause limping, reluctance to bear weight on the limb, and even cause spontaneous fractures of the leg if cancer becomes too advanced.
Why is my dog limping out of nowhere?
One reason for sudden limping in dogs could be a paw or leg injury. … Other paw injuries that can cause limping include bites or stings, infection, broken toenails, or burns. All of these cause pain which, as previously stated, is the main reason dogs limp. To relieve pain.
Cruciate Ligament Rupture TPLO after surgery
Probably the most common cause of a middle-aged dog who suddenly starts limping on a back leg is a ruptured cruciate ligament. The loss of the ligament causes the knee to become unstable and painful when the dog attempts to put weight on it. In nearly every case these dogs require surgery to return to full function.
Pictured is the TPLO procedure we perform on dogs over 15kg in weight. Read here about cruciate problems in dogs and the options for treatment.
Once common, the advent of good fencing and dog control has made fractures a rare event in adult dogs. I looked back through our files and found these are now the common fractures:
Warning: we do still see occasional dogs hit by cars and it’s now often caused by visitors or tradespeople leaving a gate open. I keep my dogs inside when workers are in our yard just for this reason.
Dislocations occur when the parts of a joint become separated. It’s important to realise this usually happens together with significant damage to the supporting ligaments.
Most dislocations are as a result of trauma, but some (especially of the shoulder) can happen due to congenital laxity (looseness) of the joint. The picture shows an elbow dislocation as a result of a high-speed collision between two dogs at a dog park. The second is the same joint after Claire ‘reduced’ (fixed) the luxation under general anaesthetic.
Tragically, not all limps are easily fixed. Bone cancer is especially common in large breed dogs from middle age and is often the main reason we will want to xray a gradually worsening lameness.
The picture shows the characteristic bone loss and new bone formation of an osteosarcoma in the humerus near the shoulder. Treatment of these dogs is primarily aimed at reducing pain levels, and improving quality of life, and occasionally chemotherapy for selected cases.
Limping Dog on a Rear Leg: Things to Consider
Why is my dog suddenly having trouble walking? A gradual onset limp and a dog’s sudden inability to stand up or walk on its own can be caused by many different factors. Although old age may play a part, there is likely another cause for a dog’s hind leg weakness. Sudden mobility changes in dogs are often caused by an underlying condition. Dogs experiencing hind leg weakness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately for proper assessment and treatment.