Why Are my Dog's Legs Giving Out?

 |  Jun 11th 2008  |   11 Contributions

Hello, I have a Yellow Lab that is 13 years old.
In the past year his back legs have been acting
goofy. They will just give out on him once in a
while. He doesn't go up stairs anymore either but
he can go down them. I understand that he is a
rather old dog but is there any way to boost his
legs back to normal? He has the heart of a puppy
and we would like him around for as long as


Weak rear legs are common in older large dogs such as Labrador Retrievers. Dogs with weak rear legs may have trouble standing up. Their hind legs may suddenly give out, causing the hindquarters to collapse. Because the rear legs do most of the work when climbing stairs (the front legs exert more effort when descending), dogs with weak rear legs may have difficulty going up stairs but no problems going down.

In my experience, two factors play a role in causing the symptoms you describe.

First, all individuals become weaker and less agile as they grow older. Joints become less flexible. Muscle strength deteriorates. Neurological control of the limbs becomes less precise. Most people who make it to 80 are familiar with these issues.

Second, arthritis is extremely common in older pets. I discussed treatment of arthritis relatively extensively in a previous post.

You may be able to help your dog by managing his weight (if he is overweight), performing physical therapy (such as gentle range of motion exercises), and feeding dietary supplements including glucosamine and omega-3s.

Regularly walking your dog will help to build strength, maintain flexibility, and keep his weight down. And it's fun! I recommend that he get as much mild or moderate exercise as possible. Avoid any activities that seem to make him sore the next day.

Finally, talk to your vet about trying a prescription arthritis medication. One of these medicines may make your dog feel dramatically better.


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