Old Dog Back Legs Collapsing

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

Older Dogs Back Legs Giving Out

When dogs are in their later years, their bodies naturally tend to get weaker. But when your senior dog’s hind legs give out and they struggle to get back up this is an indication of a potentially more serious condition–especially if you see their back legs collapse & they fall unexpectedly!

Advanced age may be one explanation for an old dog back legs collapsing, but there are many other reasons for the loss of hind leg strength that can cause an older dog back legs to collapse.

Old Dog Back Legs Collapsing

The six most common causes for an older dog’s hind leg weakness are:

1. Arthritis / Osteoarthritis

Arthritis in senior dogs is a common cause of hind leg weakness, with the hip and knee joints being the most frequently affected.

Approximately one in five dogs over the age of eight has arthritis. Arthritis can develop when a normal joint has abnormal forces on it, for example from overuse, obesity or joint dysplasia from a prior injury.

When arthritis develops, the joint fluid, joint cartilage and underlying bone degenerates, leading to an inflamed joint that does not glide properly. Since the joints are uncomfortable, the leg is not exercised normally, and the muscles weaken. This can cause the back legs to slip out and collapse.

Large breed dogs tend to get osteoarthritis earlier in life than small breeds. There are certain breeds with a higher likelihood of inheriting orthopedic abnormalities like hip dysplasia. These breeds include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers and Mastiffs.

Arthritis is painful, which can be evident due to symptoms such as your dog panting, walking slower, reluctance to climb stairs or exercise and lying down more often.

2. Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

IVDD occurs when the disc “cushion” between the bones in the spine breaks down and puts pressure on the spinal nerves. The most common areas for IVDD in dogs are the neck region and mid-to-lower back (thoracolumbar area).

IVDD in dogs
Radiograph of a dog with varying degrees of Intervertebral disc diseases.

All breeds of dogs can get Intervertebral Disc Disease, but some breeds like Dachshunds, Dobermans and German Shepherd Dogs are at higher risk as they age.

In the most severe cases of IVDD, a dog can lose all mobility in the hind legs and not be able to stand or walk.

3. Lumbosacral Instability

Also known as Cauda Equina Syndrome, this condition affects the space between the last spinal vertebrae and the sacrum.

Lumbosacral instability leads to abnormal movement of the bones and ‘pinched nerves’.

lumbosaacral instability
Treatment for LS disease is often a matter of pain management and avoidance of activities like running and jumping. Surgery can stabilize the lumbosacral joint but is not usually recommended for older dogs with this chronic condition.

Symptoms can vary depending on which nerves are affected. Some dogs have weakness and shaking in their back legs from pain; while others will show limping and collapse due to lack of feeling and sensation in their tail end.

Dogs with LS tend to whine, whimper or flinch when touched on their low back, tail and hind legs.

4. Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is an inherited disease affecting the spinal cord that results in a slow, non-painful progression of hind leg weakness and paralysis.

Degenerative myelopathy tends to affect dogs over the age of eight years old. The exact cause is unknown although it is thought to be a genetic mutation. Puppies inherit a gene mutation from their parents that that puts them at risk for developing the disease.

Dog breeds most at risk include Pugs, Poodles, Collies and Cadigan Welsh corgis.

old dogs back legs collapsing
Inherited genetic mutation occurs more often in certain breeds like Collies and Golden Retrievers, but with a regimen of nutritional supplements, special diet, exercise & various alternative therapies (acupuncture, cold laser, physical rehab), may slow the process in Degenerative Myelopathy.

Symptoms of the disease include wobbling, stumbling, weakness (such as shaking) and collapse. These are the same symptoms as any other spinal condition, which makes it hard to diagnose.

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment, but providing pain relief and addressing concurrent conditions, such as obesity or arthritis, will help improve the severity of the disease.

5. Spinal Conditions (Spondylosis)

Spinal conditions, such as spondylosis, are common reasons for hind leg weakness, because the nerves that tell the legs to work are damaged. As a result, your dog might drag their toes or not pick up their feet properly, affecting their gate & balance, leading to muscle loss from lack of appropriate use of the legs, which in itself is a vicious cycle.

Hind leg weakness and collapse is usually a slowly progressive condition, where they gradually get worse over the course of many months.

However, some spinal conditions, such as a slipped disc, can suddenly happen and cause a considerable amount of pain. Therefore, hind legs collapse should always be considered potentially serious!

6. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a chronic condition caused by the hip joint ball and socket rubbing together due to a malformation.

Over time, the rubbing together causes significant cartilage loss and can develop into osteoarthritis. Older dogs with hip dysplasia may experience back leg collapse, but also look for joint stiffness (lack of range-of-motion), grating sounds in the joint, and obvious signs of pain.

CBD oil for dogs
Hip dysplasia is a chronic condition caused by the hip joint ball and socket rubbing together due to a malformation.

Can Cushing’s Disease Cause Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?

All the aforementioned problems can lead to older dog back legs collapsing–but there can be many other reasons that can cause older dog back legs collapsing.

These can include Cushing’s Disease where muscle weakness is a symptom from too much Cortisol being produced by the adrenal glands. Cushing’s disease in dogs might cause hind quarter collapse but is also associated with other symptoms of muscle weakness like a dog not wanting to move or exercise…preferring to lay down instead.

Cushing’s disease is not always simple to diagnose, as many of the symptoms are similar to other conditions. However, blood tests can lead to a diagnosis.

The sooner you look into why your dog has back-leg-weakness or is collapsing, the better the chances of quicker recovery–so a visit to your vet is imperative to find out the underlying cause.

Best Treatments for Older Dog Back Legs Collapsing

Every type of K9 problem requires a different treatment plan. Depending on your dog’s diagnosis, treatment options vary with the emphasis being on addressing the root cause and severity of the issue.

CBD is for dogs
CBD is fast becoming the natural choice for dog owners looking to help their pet with pain and limited mobility issues.

Particularly for older dogs, surgery is often not an option, so dog owners are opting for alternative ways to treat their older dogs back legs collapsing issue.


Caring for your aging dog with medications (OTC or prescription NSAIDS), or nutritional supplements like glucosamine for dogs can prevent any further joint deterioration and relieve unnecessary pain. Natural plant-based oils containing CBD from hemp oil have also been shown to be helpful in managing the underlying condition causing pain and inflammation.

Exercise / Water Therapy

There are many techniques you can use to make your dog’s golden years more bearable. Regular, gentle walks and swimming in controlled water tanks can provide necessary aerobic exercise, which is helpful when needing to strengthen weak legs in older dogs. Exercise also improves blood flow to the brain, improves memory and muscle performance, all of which are great for improving your senior dog’s health.

Massage / Physical Rehabilitation

Massages help ease pain and keep circulation up. And light physical ‘range-of-motion’ exercises help with stiffness, pain and prevent your dog’s muscles from atrophying. Daily scheduled massage time is also a great way to stay emotionally connected with your dog if other activities are now limited.

Joint Support Braces

Orthopedic braces can provide additional support for older dogs that may be experiencing collapsing in their hind legs. Braces designed specifically to help dogs with arthritis and hip dysplasia can provide support and stability that minimizes pressure on joints. Additionally, the hip brace may reduce pain during exercise and potentially save your dog from future injuries.

Maintain Ideal Weight

Dogs, like people, may experience weight gain as they get older. If weight gain is the cause of back leg collapse in your older dog, you’re in luck – it’s the easiest to remedy. Be sure your older dog has a healthy, balanced diet to maintain ideal weight. Older dogs do not require as much food as younger dogs. A diet with plenty of omega oils will improve joint health, mental health and naturally decrease any inflammatory processes.

How You Can Help an Old Dog with Hind Leg Weakness

One of the most basic things you can do to help a dog with hind leg collapsing is to make access & getting around easier for them. With your old dog’s back legs collapsing, even getting around in a limited space can be really painful and exhausting.

In these situations, you can make things easier for your dog by doing things like:

  • Placing dog ramps and special doggie stairs in ingress and egress pathways,
  • Add a dog-lifting-aid or other mobility carriers help support your dog’s abdominal and hip areas while moving around,
  • Install inexpensive carpet ‘runner’s (and use non-slick soft socks or doggie booties) to reduce the chances of slipping and sliding on the floor. Make sure to place them wherever your dog frequently walks inside as well as outdoor patios.
  • Try a special dog orthopedic bed to ease the stress & strain on joints while sitting or lying down,
  • In more severe cases, a dog wheelchair may be a necessary support for your dog’s back legs to keep them mobile and moving around easier.
old dogs back legs giving out
With love, compassion & proper lifestyle changes, you and your old dog can age gracefully to live a long and happy life together.

With these lifestyle changes, a healthy diet, regularly monitored exercise, support from orthopedic braces & the addition of natural herbal supplements to relieve pain and inflammation, your older dog may have many happy and healthy years ahead–free of back leg collapse.

Talk to your holistic vet and ask what other home therapies and natural treatment modalities are available to alleviate your older dog’s hind leg weakness.

FAQ’s About Old Dog Back Legs Collapsing

What could be the underlying causes of a dog’s hind leg weakness and collapse?

Some potential underlying causes of a dog’s hind leg weakness and collapse include arthritis, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), lumbosacral instability, degenerative myelopathy, spinal conditions like spondylosis, and hip dysplasia.

What are some normal signs of aging in dogs?

Normal signs of aging in dogs can include changes in behavior such as increased sleep and grumpiness, which may be caused by pain from arthritis or other physical discomfort.

What could be the underlying causes of a dog’s hind leg weakness and collapse?

Some potential underlying causes of a dog’s hind leg weakness and collapse include arthritis, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), lumbosacral instability, degenerative myelopathy, spinal conditions like spondylosis, and hip dysplasia.

How can weight changes in older dogs be indicative of health issues?

Weight gain in older dogs is often due to reduced activity, which may require adjustments in diet and exercise. However, weight loss in older dogs could be caused by reduced muscle mass, reduced appetite, poor nutrient absorption, or digestive illness. It is important to monitor weight changes in senior dogs and consult a vet if necessary.

What are the specific breeds at higher risk for certain conditions causing hind leg weakness?

Certain breeds have a higher likelihood of inheriting orthopedic abnormalities like hip dysplasia. These breeds include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs. Breeds like Dachshunds, Dobermans, and German Shepherd Dogs are at higher risk for intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). Pugs, Poodles, Collies, and Cadigan Welsh corgis are at higher risk for degenerative myelopathy.

What are some mobility issues that older dogs may experience?

Older dogs may experience mobility issues such as trouble with stairs, jumping into the car, or getting up after a nap. Weakness in the back legs is also common, which could be caused by arthritis or degenerative diseases.

What are the potential causes of slowing down or difficulty getting around in older dogs?

Slowing down or difficulty getting around in older dogs can be attributed to canine arthritis or other degenerative diseases. These conditions can cause weakness in the back legs, making it challenging for dogs to navigate stairs, jump into the car, or get up after resting. Adjustments in exercise routines, pain medication, and dietary supplements like CBD can help alleviate mobility issues.

Sharing is caring!

1 thought on “Old Dog Back Legs Collapsing”

  1. Just a little reminder Curtis, that you were the one that discovered Kandi Lea needing a chiropractor when her legs were wobbling. That was a big help with her.


Leave a Comment