Any number of ailments might result in a dog’s hind-legs losing strength. The following hints will help your veterinarian identify the problem’s root cause.
Regardless of the source, a dog’s weakness normally manifests itself first in the hind limbs. This seems obvious given how much work the dog’s hind-legs perform. They are in charge of pushing the body upward from a seated or lying position as well as driving the body forward when moving. You will be made aware of a weakness-related issue if you experience difficulty with these routine daily tasks.
What does a weak set of back legs on your dog look like? Hind-limb weakness is indicated by a variety of behaviors, including slow rising, sinking on the back limbs, dragging the tops of the toes, swaying of the hind end, occasionally crossing of the limbs, intolerance to physical exertion, slipping, sliding, and collapse of the hind end. The ability to stand on its hind-legs may also suddenly disappear in your dog.
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, you should pay attention to a few details that can aid your vet in identifying the problem:
Some problems are more likely than others depending on your dog’s age and size. This is applied to the diagnostic procedure as well.
The four primary categories of causes of hind-leg weakness are orthopedic, neurologic, metabolic, and cardiac.
Chronic joint inflammation/pain is the primary orthopedic cause of canine hind-leg paralysis (osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease). Although arthritis is obviously painful, it is frequently accompanied by compensatory pains, which are muscle aches and pains. The dog finds it difficult to stand up and move as a result. He might become more sedentary as a result, which would worsen the condition by causing him to lose muscle mass and fitness.
Due to the wear and tear on the joints over time, arthritis most frequently affects older dogs; overweight dogs endure an additional burden because of the increased tension those extra pounds place on the joints. Hip arthritis may appear in puppies of dogs with hip dysplasia, which results in improperly shaped hip joints. These arthritic disorders typically present with a delayed, sneaky onset of hind-leg weakening. It won’t appear to have occurred overnight.
Immune-mediated arthritis and Lyme arthritis are two acute types of arthritis that can cause a dog’s hind end to suddenly weaken. In addition to fractures and intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), overweight dogs frequently suffer from bilateral anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, which are additional orthopedic reasons of hind-leg paralysis. Your veterinarian will be able to identify these diseases and recommend the proper treatment with the use of blood tests and x-rays.
IVDD: When an unhealthy disc (or discs) puts strain on the spinal cord and causes neurologic weakness, IVDD transitions from an orthopedic problem to a neurologic one. The majority of these instances are treatable medically, but surgery is necessary if paralysis develops or medical treatment is ineffective.
Spinal tumors: Similar symptoms are brought on by neurologic disorders such as spinal tumors. For a diagnosis, sophisticated imaging techniques like computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as well as occasionally cerebrospinal fluid examination, are needed.
Diskospondylitis: An infection of the intervertebral disc and the ends of the surrounding vertebrae is known as diskospondylitis. It can be challenging to diagnose, produces hind-limb paralysis regularly, and is excruciatingly painful. Long-term antibiotic use is the course of treatment (six to 12 months). Your dog may need more x-rays and/or more sophisticated testing, such as CT or MRI, to make a certain diagnosis because this ailment can be challenging to diagnose in its early stages. These canines can fully recover if they are diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Lumbosacral stenosis: Cauda equina syndrome, or lumbrosacral stenosis, is a degenerative disorder that affects only the lumbosacral joint and is related to IVDD. This joint joins the last vertebra to the pelvic region. It differs from the other intervertebral joints in that the spinal cord sends all of the peripheral nerves that travel to the hind end to this joint. In addition to being extremely painful, this type of disease typically results in neurologic impairments and weak hind limbs.
Degenerative myelopathy: Weakness in the hind-legs is a symptom of degenerative myelopathy (DM), a slow but progressive deterioration of the spinal cord. Although it affects various breeds, the German Shepherd Dog serves as the disease’s mascot. Typically, older and middle-aged canines are affected. There is just supportive care available as a treatment for DM right now.
Myasthenia gravis: An autoimmune neuromuscular condition called myasthenia gravis (MG) causes muscle weakness that worsens with exertion. It may begin with weakness in the back limbs but quickly progresses to total body weakness and collapse.
Here’s a situation that is typical of Myasthenia gravis: Your dog wakes up after a nap and acts normally. As soon as you start walking, he begins to sink, slip, and stumble until he is unable to stand or walk. He can resume short-term function after a period of rest that enables the replacement of damaged neuromuscular transmitters. A blood test is required for diagnosis. Long-term therapy is required (six months or longer). Some canines will have remission and resume their regular lives. Others will require care and support throughout their lives.
Exercise-induced collapse: Labrador Retrievers and a few other breeds are susceptible to the genetic illness known as exercise-induced collapse (EIC). It usually manifests itself between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. It takes place following several minutes of intense exercise. The dog quickly starts to weaken and lose coordination in his hind limbs, eventually collapsing. For this, there is no cure. Avoiding vigorous exercise is one method of prevention. It is crucial that you get your puppy from a breeder who has tested the parents for this gene for the aforementioned reasons. Have your adoptive dog’s EIC gene checked if he exhibits these symptoms.
Idiopathic vestibular syndrome: In elderly dogs, idiopathic vestibular dysfunction is a frequent cause of weakness in the rear limbs and lack of coordination. It appears abruptly and may give you the impression that your dog is having a stroke. This disorder’s origin is uncertain. It typically comes with a head tilt and balance problems. With supportive care, the majority of dogs will recover in time.
Numerous illnesses transmitted by ticks can result in generalized neuromuscular weakness, which may first show in the rear limbs. If you notice ticks on your dog, let your vet know.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), anemia (few red blood cells), and hypokalemia (low potassium) are a few examples of metabolic conditions that might weaken the hind-legs. Blood testing can quickly diagnose this. For these problems to be solved, identifying their underlying causes, which necessitates more diagnostic testing, is crucial.
Weakness can result from endocrine conditions such as insufficient thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) and underactive adrenal glands (Addison’s disease). Blood tests are used to diagnose both conditions, and there is no cure.
Hepatic encephalopathy, a metabolic disorder that causes sporadic weakness and confusion and is most noticeable after eating, can be brought on by certain liver disorders.
All of the body’s tissues must receive sufficient blood flow and oxygen, which depends on healthy heart function. Weakness happens when heart function is compromised, regardless of the underlying cause. Again, for the reasons already mentioned, weakness in dogs typically manifests itself in the hind-legs first.
Heart illnesses that affect dogs include heartworm disease, congestive heart failure, heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac or pericardial tumors, and fluid in the sac surrounding the heart (pericardial effusion).
Your veterinarian will discover a cardiac explanation for the hind-leg weakness you’ve noticed during your dog’s physical examination, and treatment and diagnosis will proceed from there.
As you can see, there are many different possible reasons why dogs’ hind limbs get weak. Because of this, it’s crucial to have your dog inspected if you notice this problem; never just brush it off as a “old dog” problem. Many of the underlying causes can be ruled out by your veterinarian, who can then hopefully provide a conclusive diagnosis. Even if your dog is quite old, diagnosing and treating some of these disorders can completely transform his life!
There is no cure for some chronic illnesses, such as osteoarthritis. However, there is a lot you can do to enhance and preserve your dog’s quality of life for a very, very long period. Your sensitive loving care and dedication to supportive measures are the first step.
Support for Mobility Issues Caused by Arthritis
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