Why Does my Dog’s Leg Give Out?

I have an 11-year-old dog, half Australian Shepherd/half German Short Haired Pointer. Sometimes when he walks one of his front legs will give out. It's...
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I have an 11-year-old dog, half Australian Shepherd/half
German Short Haired Pointer. Sometimes when he
walks one of his front legs will give out. It’s almost
like he’s tripping over himself or like he’s
kind of dragging one front paw. It happens maybe
a couple times a week that I notice. He weighs 55
pounds, is not overweight, and is in very good
health. Any thoughts on what could cause this?

Doreen
Bothell, WA

As everyone who is lucky enough to become elderly knows, getting older can be hard on the body.

An eleven-year-old dog who weighs 55 pounds is elderly. And even when they age gracefully, elderly dogs are prone to a number of syndromes that can interfere with walking.

Older animals have decreased muscle mass relative to younger pets. Their joints are not as flexible. This combination often contributes to incoordination when older pets have trouble properly moving their legs into position as they walk.

Also, older pets sometimes suffer from mild neurological deterioration. This can make it hard to place their feet properly while moving.

Arthritis is extremely common in older pets. Arthritis can lead to soreness and weakness in one or multiple legs.

Other, rare causes of trouble walking in older pets include slipped discs, degenerative diseases of the spinal cord or brain, metabolic problems, and certain tumors.

Doreen, based on your description I doubt that your dog is suffering from a serious illness. However, I’d recommend that you have your vet check your dog. The vet may be able to recommend exercises, dietary supplements, or medications that can help the problem. However, it would be unrealistic to expect your dog’s mobility issues to resolve completely. The march of time ultimately affects all of us.

Photo: Eshu is moving well!

11 thoughts on “Why Does my Dog’s Leg Give Out?”

  1. I just found this page. Today this has happened twice with my 3 year old chocolate lab. While walking across our wood floor, her legs just slid out from under her. Pretty scared right now.

  2. Dale A Ohler Sr

    We have a 9 year old female Yorkie that has started to have problems with her front legs giving out and falling head down; in addition, he will try and turnaround and she falls down on her rear; also, sometimes she has trouble rolling over to get up.
    This started last October 2019 when her front leg could not hold her weight and she would fall down. It went away and it came back about a week ago.
    We did start to administer prednisone 10mg/2x/day and she is able to stand but still stumbles. We live in Alaska and we do not have any Vet neurologist here to treat her properly; the Vets here try and guess what the problems could be. What are our options?

    1. I have a 12 year old Yorkie having this problem. We had xrays done and found that she has authorities in her elbow and shoulder. She is now on daily meds, sometime pain meds and a joint supplement. Unfortunately nothing else they can do due to age.

    2. i have a 15 year old pomeranian…she has the same problems, i started givingher cbd oil and she actually gets up and walks around, slowly, but shes moving around at least, instead of just laying in the bed…The dosage i give her might need to be up’d by a drop..I think this happens maybe because their little joints are so old?

  3. I have a 12 year old dog, may be older, and the other day she startedyelping and walking very slow panting like crazy, not sure if she hurt herself in the middle of the night, also at times she almost seems fine but today she is hurting and when she barked she started yelping in pain andher front legs gave out on her, so I picked her up and got her back pn her feet, she walks but very slow, any idea what it may be

  4. I have a 11 year old dog, may be older, and the other day she startedyelping and walking very slow panting like crazy, not sure if she hurt herself in the middle of the night, also at times she almost seems fine but today she is hurting and when she barked she started yelping in pain andher front legs gave out on her, so I picked her up and got her back pn her feet, she walks but very slow, any idea what it may be

  5. My 7 month old rottie/gsd/staffy x female has had this happen twice. It was almost like a spasm in her right front leg and it just wouldn’t work properly, and she was knuckling over. It only lasted about 30 seconds and then she was right again. Have never had this happen to any of my dogs before. We are going to her vet next week, but is this something i should consider more urgent?

  6. My almost 10 year old bull mastiffs front legs are giving out and his back legs seem to slip when he walks occasionally. He is having a hard time going down stairs. And seems to walk to the left. I’ve taken him to vet and blood work has come back normal.

  7. Hi Susan

    Sorry to hear your fur baby is having a problem.

    My now 13 year old border collie, chow, (plus a few other breeds) mix was diagnosed with hip dysplasia when she was 10 months old. She now has arthritis in hips, knees, wrists and elbows. She is still mobile but stiff and slow. Her front legs collapse often if she walks a little too long. She is on Glucosamine supplements since her diagnosis. Now on pain meds too.

    I would have your Vet examine your dogs joints and maybe x-ray that front leg. Dogs can also have dysplasia in their elbows and german shepards are well known for having hip dysplasia problems. The sooner you know the problem the sooner you can take preventive steps. If she’s jumping up and down a lot, she may be stressing that joint when she jumps down. It may be necessary to limit jumping. I know easier said than done. But it does help to limit damage to joints. Your vet can give you more information and suggestions once they know the problem. I would at least start her on a good joint supplement with Glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and hyaluronic acid. Also Omega 3 fish oil or krill oil supplements help too.

    There’s much information online, but I would start with the exam and go from there. Hope this information helps.

  8. I have an 11 month German Shepherd that’s has been tripping like this since we got her. Any ideas of what it might be? She is young and healthy. However every now and then we see her trip herself up always her front right leg. It’s too often to think she is just clumsy.
    Should we be worried?

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