Dog Can’t Stand Or Walk – Dog Back Legs Suddenly Weak

Medical review by K9 Healthcare Council of America (K9HCA). Intended for educational purposes only. Always seek medical advice from your veterinarian.

My Dog Is Having Trouble Standing and Walking

Few sights are more distressing for a pet owner than when you see your beloved dog’s hind legs not work properly and your dog can’t stand or walk.

When your older dog’s weakened hind legs begin to wobble and they’re too unstable to stand due to serious injury, congenital defect or age-related health problems they are more vulnerable to accidents and further injury.

Fortunately, with a combination of modern medicine and alternative healing methods you can potentially help your struggling friend overcome the limitations of back leg weakness.

Why Can’t My Dog Stand Up?

Hind leg weakness issues can make walking, running, or climbing either extraordinarily painful or completely impossible for our four-legged companions.

The reasons behind a weakness in your dog’s back legs can vary.

While obvious trauma can weaken muscles and tissues, and age can contribute to the degeneration of muscles and joints, other conditions can wreak havoc on the spinal cord, nerves, and hormones.

Dogs share some basic physical similarities to humans. And a dog can sustain some of the same kinds of hip, knee, or neurological ailments and injuries as humans. But these problems are compounded when any or all of the animal’s four legs are afflicted.

Dog suddenly can't walk.
Canine anatomy shows that dogs share some of the basic similarities to humans and can sustain similar types of hips, knee & joint injuries.

Let’s take a look at some of the problems that can make a dog back legs suddenly weak, how those problems affect comfort and mobility, and how the right corrective measures can restore your dog’s quality of life.

Dog Back Legs Weakness

Witnessing your dog being unable to stand-up or move normally can be very alarming! Your dog’s condition can happen as they age, or it could be the result of a prior injury, illness or genetic abnormality.

In any case, instead of waiting to see if your dog’s condition gets better on its own with time, schedule an appointment with your vet immediately–time is of the essence–your dog could be experiencing unnecessary pain if you avoid the issue.

Causes Of Back Leg Weakness in Dogs:

Orthopedic Issues

There are a number of orthopedic problems that can affect your dog’s ability to walk. These include rupture of the anterior cruciate (AC) ligament or cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and bone fractures.

Arthritis / Osteoarthritis

Arthritis is a progressive inflammatory disease & the most common reason for pain in senior dogs (but can also affect younger dogs).

Arthritis afflicts dogs just as it does humans. In the most common form of this inflammatory disorder, Osteoarthritis, the joints lose their ability to lubricate their components even as the cartilage between bone ends starts to disintegrate. These changes result in painful joint friction whenever the dog tries to move his hip, knee, or ankle.

arthritis in dogs
Canine Arthritis can occur in the spine, front or back legs or individual limb joints.

Arthritis is a chronic condition; symptoms include lameness, stiffness (particularly after rest), a slow gait, trouble getting up from a resting position, lethargy, sleeping more than usual, the atrophy of muscles, swelling, urinating inside, pain, excessive licking of joints, increase or decrease in weight, depression, nervousness or aggression and being hesitant to jump or be active.

Spinal Cord Injuries (neck, back or head)

A serious injury to a dog’s spinal cord can interrupt the normal flow of electrical impulses from the spine to the hind legs. This may cause total paralysis, making it impossible for your pet to operate his hind legs at all.

dog can't get up
Neurological (spinal cord) injuries may cause ‘partial paralysis’, leaving the hind legs noticeably weak and wobbly but still functional.

A less severe spinal cord injury may cause ‘partial paralysis’, leaving the hind legs noticeably weak and wobbly but still functional. The instability progressively grows worse as muscles atrophy due to non-use.

Neurological Issues

Numerous neurological conditions can result in your dog having trouble standing and walking. These include Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD), Canine Degenerative Myelopathy, Myasthenia Gravis and Myositis. Your veterinarian will be able to examine your dog in order to determine which of these is causing your dog to have trouble standing & walking.

Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome

Geriatric vestibular syndrome (GVS) is more common in older dogs–which is why it’s known by the name ‘old dog inner ear disease’. GVS is an inner ear disorder that affects a dog’s balance, resulting in dizziness.

Potential causes of GVS are recurring ear infections, perforated eardrums (from trauma or excessive ear cleaning) or the use of certain antibiotics and drugs. It can also be present from birth as a congenital disease. Fortunately, there is a full recovery in almost all cases of GVS; with minor head tilts being a left-over effect.

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

In Degenerative Myelopathy the myelin sheaths that surround and protect the nerves in the spine degenerate to eventually expose the nerve fibers. This degradation of the myelin sheath disrupts the body’s communication between the spinal cord and brain, leading to a progressive weakness that can result in total paralysis.

Dog Can’t Stand Up – Lesser-Known Illnesses for Hind Leg Weakness

While you’re probably aware of all of the above reasons for why a dog suddenly can’t walk, there are some lesser-known illnesses that your dog could be suffering from.

Other conditions in dogs that can cause hind end weakness include:

Dog Hind Leg Weakness Treatment

Depending on the diagnosis, the course of treatment for dog hind leg weakness can vary considerably.

The degree of recovery for a dog can’t stand up depends on the cause of the weakness, the severity of the condition, and how soon treatment is begun.

Dog can't stand or walk
Various alternative therapies, such as massage, cold laser, acupuncture, hydrotherapy & natural CBD oil can help dogs with hind leg pain and weakness.

For toxic poisonings, timing of immediate treatment is essential, as some toxins can be fatal for dogs.

  • Acute injuries should be treated according to the severity of the trauma. Mild to moderate muscle strains & ligament sprains can recover with proper rest and immobilizing the joint.

Surgery might be recommended for more serious ‘joint compromised conditions’, but for other conditions such as Degenerative Myelopathy, Intervertebral Disc Disease, Cushing’s disease or Cancer, medical management along with supportive home care may be preferred.

  • Cushing’s disease can also be managed through the use of hormone drugs to balance levels in the body.

Many canine diseases, such as Diabetes, Arthritis, and Degenerative Myelopathy, can be managed through an appropriate diet and exercise plan that can keep your dog’s weight under control and aid full range muscle movement.

  • Diabetes will require lifelong management through special diets and exercise plans, blood glucose monitoring, and daily insulin injections.
diabetes home care
Many canine diseases, such as Diabetes, Arthritis, and Degenerative Myelopathy, can be managed through an appropriate diet and exercise plan that can keep your dog’s weight under control and aid full range muscle movement.
  • Osteoarthritis often responds well to a combination of medication, light exercise, and dietary modifications to promote weight loss or reduce inflammation.

Severe degeneration due to Arthritis and/or Hip dysplasia may require joint surgery or even joint replacement. A total hip replacement can restore both full hip function and full comfort in many canine patients.

For dogs with neurological dysfunction, your dog might benefit from herniated disc removal and spinal fusion surgery, plus the use of strong anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swollen tissues that pinch nerves.

If you have a dog having trouble walking all the sudden, check with your local veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and individualized treatment plan. With early intervention and appropriate care, you can share a long and active friendship with your dog.

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9 thoughts on “Dog Can’t Stand Or Walk – Dog Back Legs Suddenly Weak”

    • Hi Judy, older, senior dogs or canines with hip and joint problems can be helped with a daily regimen of CBD oil (I like Canine Support Formula for this problem). Plus, if you have access to a water-therapy facility, these are great for dogs who need exercise or physical therapy but cannot yet support their own body weight. In certain situations, a halter or support sling may be necessary to get your pup outside and back in safely. One final thought…an over-weight dog is probably the biggest factor in dogs having difficulty ‘getting around’.

    • Hi Patricia, our best formula for dogs with pain & mobility issues is Canine Support Formula. At 53 lbs I would recommend the more economical 2 oz size tincture bottle. Her starting daily CBD dose would be 6 mg’s (divide the total into 2 equal portions (3 mg’s and give 2x/day, 30 minutes before meals). If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly–

  1. My 15 year old Australian Shepherd isn’t able to stand long on his back legs, this occurred suddenly yesterday. He has a hard lump on his back right hip and when he does walk for a short distance he is walking somewhat sideways, then collapses. Bear has regular Vet visits and has been relatively healthy so this is really concerning.
    Could the lump be bone cancer? I know he had x-rays in May and nothing showed up. Thank you for the feedback. I’m taking him in as soon as the clinic opens on Tuesday morning.

    • Hi Mary, thank you for your inquiry. I’m sorry about the difficult condition of your pup. I’d like to have a discussion with you about your dog’s health once you’ve had a chance to have him assessed by the vet. Please contact me directly at after the clinic visit. Depending on the vet’s diagnosis I can recommend some holistic care methods. Please let me know how he does!!

  2. my blacklab is 13 and cant get up at all to use resteroom or anything i cant afford medicines and wheelchairs ect, is is wrong to put him to sleep, he has had a long great life, but now he just looks sad and miserable

    • Serena, first, I feelya…I’ve been in that emotion!!! It’s hard. Second, I can’t answer your question because it’s different for everyone. That may seem like a cop-out but I personally did everything I could to keep my dog around longer–he passed at 16, but I carried him to potty when he couldn’t walk (for many months, shame on me). However, your situation is so close to what I experienced and wanted something better for my dog’s ending. It was only months after his passing, still in that lost phase…that I found CBD. For no other reason, I knew that hemp cannabinoids were the answer to simply MAKE MY DOG FEEL BETTER. Too late for Parker Dog but now that’s what I get to do for other people’s dogs. If you read this Serena, send me a private email [ ] with your address to ship out a bottle of Canine Support Formula. Hopefully, we can give you guys a longer (much longer), more pleasant goodbye. Let me know how I can help you make your dog feel more comfortable.


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