Why are my Labrador back legs giving out?

Not all days are joy-filled when with your Lab. Their back legs giving out can be a reason for great sadness. Depending on the intensity, the dog can recover or get worse as days go by. Thankfully, when you visit a vet, they will tell you how to deal with it. 

Remember, labs are a breed that is susceptible to joint diseases as they grow older. They also are very likely to become overweight, which can blur your judgment. Don’t fret yet. In this article, you learn why your Lab’s legs are giving out what to look out or and possible treatment options. Some of the causes are:

  • Injuries
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Botulism Infection
  • Fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Tumor

Injuries/ Trauma

Labrador retrievers are very playful. Their cheerful nature will ensure they are always on their feet. You will find your Lab even jumping on things or people without tiring. They are thus exposed to many injuries. Believe it or not, your Labrador retriever can have an injury that could take you weeks to figure out. 

Such injuries can lead to bone fractures to the legs. If not treated, the dog will continue being active and strain the legs. Avulsions are another trauma cause by tending to occur in parts of the leg below the knee. Younger dogs are at a higher risk of this and toe fractures. For older and middle-aged Labs, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is common. It involves a partial or complete tear in the knee ligament. 

Injuries are treated in correlation with their intensity. Your pooch will be under pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs to aid his recovery. When the injury is severe, it may need your vet to recommend surgery as a way of correction. Splints and braces are also used to support the dog in walking.

Hip Dysplasia

The hip ball and socket joint of dogs with hip dysplasia are not formed normally. This disease affects puppies and older dogs, causing them pain from time to time. With such an abnormality, the movement of the Lab is irregular and can make the femur move out of place.

Once you spot this, it is important to take the dog to the vet. Your vet will recommend surgery in severe cases. The whole knee gets replacing, and the joint mended. From this, you can enjoy your dog walks without much interruption of a pain-filled dog.


You may have heard this term from old people’s support groups. The bad news is, it is also a hot topic in many doggy forums too. Arthritis affects older labs and is coupled with degenerative joint disease. A dog suffering from arthritis has weaker legs because it makes them too weak to use. You will spot it having difficulty in walking, let alone jumping.

Arthritis is a common extension of trauma or joint abnormalities. Common treatment procedures include acupuncture, hydrotherapy, painkillers, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Finally, an overweight lab will need a weight loss program to help it shed some excess weight weighing it down. You can check the ultimate weight loss guide for your dog here.


Your dog’s blood glucose level is a possible reason why its hind legs are not functioning as normal. It can be genetic, to mean you need to know the history of the Lab. If the lineage of the breed had other member dogs with diabetes, you could expect your puppies to have it. 

Diabetes needs a management plan for life. It involves blood glucose monitoring, daily insulin injections, special diets, and exercise plans.

Botulism Infection

When your Lab eats dead animals or contaminated raw meat, they can contract botulism. It causes paralysis and exhibits symptoms in six days. 

You can treat this killer disease by offering a whole circle of supportive care. Fluid and electrolyte therapy will keep the dog hydrated. You should also clean the wounds well. You will also have to keep the seizures that come with this disease at bay using medication. In 3 weeks, your pooch should recover. Also, be sure to read our blog on what to feed your Labrador to ensure you are feeding them right.

Fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy

In the advent of this, a piece of fibrous cartilage enters and blocks the vertebral blood vessel. It causes a ‘stroke’ to your dog where you find your dog yelping then suddenly paralyzed in the legs. There is no way of treating this as you should let your dog get through it over time. 

Degenerative myelopathy

This often painless disease is genetic and leads to your Lab’s hind leg weakness. Often, it does not demand the use of pain killers in treatment. You will need some slings to assist your dog in walking and support its weight.

Cushing’s disease

Your Lab’s cortisol levels help to adjust its weight, manage stress, and blood sugar levels. When in excess, the Cushing’s disease emerges. This may make your Lab’s behind legs give out over time. Surgery is the best way to treat this disease. 

Although hard to detect, your vet will need a lot of your dog history to diagnose it. Be sure to notice your trained Labrador forget its training as this is the number one symptom.


Larger breeds like Labrador retrievers are susceptible to tumors. The tumor can be in any place of the dog’s body. Many times, the dog’s back legs are unable to carry its weight longer. The back legs weakness due to a tumor happens over a long period of time. The more a tumor grows, the more it exposes the Lab to such. Correcting this is possible with surgery. As an owner, you can only hope that the tumor is not too big that it can cause severe side effects.

Other common symptoms to look out for

Your affected dog can exhibit physical and behavioral changes. You will notice these symptoms immediately while some occur over some time. Being observant towards your dog will help you notice so much that is correctible. Some of the tell-tale signs that your pooch is having a problem with their back legs include:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Loss of balance
  • Lameness
  • Staggering or wobbly feet when walking
  • Slow gait
  • Abnormal gait
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Swelling
  • Licking joints
  • Reluctance to move
  • Complete paralysis
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of ability to urinate
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Collapsing
  • No pain when you pinch paws

Other treatment options

Even with medication or surgery, offering support aids in healing. You need to take it slow with your dog during the times they are unwell. Straining it with exercise will do more harm than good. Be sure to make the sleeping area extra cozy with some cushions. This supports the legs and body. Offer lots of affection and encouragement. A sick dog does not need punishment or training. In some cases, you will realize it may even forget all the training you did. With recovery and therapy, you may get your dog back physically and socially.

Always ensure you check out your dog’s well being from time to time. Often, some of these issues are progressive. Even if you are a busy owner, keeping an eye onto your treasure will save you pain and bucks. When your pooch grows older, some of the symptoms become normal. Finally, understand that there comes a time when you have to choose between your dog’s pains over their quality of life. Hard as it seems, euthanasia is an option that should be at the back of your head. Read more about Labradors on our blog

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