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Written by Megan McCorkle LVT

As our dog's get older, they are more prone to develop disease in general. Diseases like orthopedic conditions, neurologic conditions and even metabolic conditions can cause problems with their back legs.


A common concern that many pet parents have as their older dog ages is that the legs specifically the hind legs seem to give out on them.

What is the cause of your old dog's legs giving out from under them? Well, there can be a variety of causes. As our dog's get older, they are more prone to develop disease in general. Diseases like muscle and joint pain, neurologic conditions and even metabolic conditions that can cause weakness can lead to problems with their back legs.

One common cause that we see can be a progression of joint, muscle and bone disorders. Statistically, most senior dogs develop some amount of arthritis as they age. This discomfort causes them to move less even contributing to a decrease in muscle mass over time.

The loss of muscle leads to loss of their ability to 'control' their legs and so they appear to have weakness in the hind legs and the legs fall beneath them when they are getting around. There can also be neurologic causes especially if it seems like they can't use their legs right (and if you notice those, call the vet right away as those can be more of an emergency).

3 Tips When Your Old Dog's Legs Give Out

The best place to figure out what is causing this change in your dog's back leg strength is at the vet. So we recommend always starting there.

However, here are a few helpful tips for things you can do around your home to help your dog with their back leg use as they age.

No. 1: Prepare Non-Slip Areas Throughout Home:

First, have some non-slip areas for them to access. You can use area rugs on a hardwood floor, or other carpeted areas they can get to as they get around. These should be nonslip rugs and should be placed strategically around the house for good access.

No. 2: Consider a lifting harness:

We also recommend assisting them using a towel or lifting harness to get them moving a bit before leaving them standing alone. A simple towel can be rolled up and placed around the abdomen, using the ends to pull them up and support them as they get moving.

Some harnesses are nice because they wear them around the house, and many have handles you can grab and pull up from to assist them.

No. 3: Get examined by your vet and discuss if pain meds, supplements or diagnostics could be helpful:

Discussing pain control and causes of your old dog's back leg issues with your vet can be a very important part of helping your dog. Some dog's can experience chronic pain in their joints and the only real sign that you see is slipping or back legs giving out on occasion.

In our senior dog care course, senior dog focused veterinarians Dr. Monica Tarantino and Dr. Lisa Lippman also discuss specific supplements and they recommend more tips on mobility to help older dogs no matter where they are in their journey.


These simple tips can make a world of difference in your pets’ confidence and overall happiness. Doing these things can help your combat the most common concern of senior pet parents.


Hi Friends,

Let's help our best friends be here with us for longer.

Join us in our FREE webinar:

5 Ways to Extend Your Dog's Life

In this webinar, Dr. Tarantino and Dr. Lippman teach you 5 key methods backed by research to help you give your dog a happier and longer life. Learn the simple yet effective blueprint they teach and become the best dog mom or dad for your pet in the process.


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