This is a common distressed phone call vets and canine therapists often get, and people are worried the time to euthanise is approaching. This is usually not so.

It of course depends on WHY your dog is showing weakness in his back and hind limbs. An acupuncture colleague says this increasing weakness in the hind limbs is because the life force/energy/chi is starting to fade, and the back via the kidney/bladder meridians is the first place that it shows.

This can be true for some older animals but there can be many other causes.

We have a lot of knowledge and therapies available now to treat injuries, and age-related conditions and prolong life.

I wish I had this knowledge years ago, when Kobi, our 11-year-old German shepherd x, dragged herself into the house by her forelimbs, hind legs dragging behind, looking for her lunchtime treat… so distressing, parents assumed it was all over and euthanasia was the only option.

So the first thing would be to get a diagnosis from your vet… is there something obvious, a disc issue, ruptured ligaments, acute back pain, tic, spider or snake bite? Is it weakness or arthritis, aggravated by walking on slippery floors? A neurological condition?

Treating what’s appropriate:

  • It may be drugs, rest, or surgery.
  • It may be hands-on physio for back pain, joint problems, or assessment of surroundings e.g. old dogs cannot function well on slippery floors, have lots of corners to navigate, stairs, long hair between their pads (this is like walking on silk or ice for them, imagine that as well as having weak muscles and old arthritic joints).
  • Acupuncture

Younger dogs do not function well with the above conditions either, especially if they have an injury, recovering from surgery etc

  • Acupuncture may be a choice of treatment, it’s wonderful for so many problems.
  • Specific exercises to strengthen the back legs
  • It may be learning how to give your friend a regular gentle massage
  • Changing their exercise routine eg shorter more frequent walks rather than one long hike, maybe more wading or swimming if possible
  • Perhaps raising their food and water bowls to chest level
  • Perhaps balance and coordination exercises
  • Slings, towel support, harnesses, dog prams or wheelchairs are amazingly useful, depending on what the cause is, if it is temporary, permanent, or degenerative….

So, if your dog is “going in the back legs’ – there will certainly be a reason for it and most likely something you can do to help her quality of life. Don’t panic, seek help, and find some options.