Why Do Dogs Drag Their Back Legs

Why Do Dogs Drag Their Back Legs – Should You Worry?

Humans can sometimes act weird, right? Animals are no exception to that as well, as you might have come across hilarious videos on YouTube about weird animal behaviors that are not considered normal to their own species. One such common type of behavior we often see is that of dogs peculiarly dragging their hind legs, but why do dogs drag their back legs?

The reason a dog might drag its’ back legs could be because your dog is suffering from a number of health concerns, particularly a type of paralysis which affects the nerves, causing him to have difficulty moving around.

Dogs’ age similar to us humans. They have a particular lifespan, and as they age, they also encounter a number of health complications that might affect the nervous system, the spinal system, or the muscular system. So if your dog is suffering from any such impediment, make sure to take him to the vet as soon as possible.

Why Do Dogs Drag Their Back Legs

So seeing as it might be quite a serious problem if your dogs drag their back legs, let’s try and take a better look at what the issues might be.

Causes of Back Leg Paralysis in Dogs

Causes of Back Leg Paralysis in Dogs

For hind leg paralysis in dogs, which isn’t considered common dog behavior, there might be a number of causes that might be affecting the well-being of your canine. This could range from nerve damage to the spinal cord, bacterial infection, inflammation, trauma, or severe tick bites.

In order to diagnose the problems through a certified health specialist, it is necessary to highlight and discuss some of these problems in detail for you.

  • Intervertebral Disc Disease

IVDD, in short, is a declinatory form of disease which affects the dog’s spinal cord and gives rise to painful mobility concerns. It is most commonly found in breeds such as beagles, Shih Tzus, American cocker, dachshunds, Pekingese, basset hounds, or spaniels, but can be found in any other type of breed as well.

This is commonly an age-related illness that affects the intervertebral disc (commonly acts as a shock-absorbing disc in the vertebrae). Intervertebral disc disease occurs when the shock-absorbing discs harden in place and are unable to provide a type of cushion for the vertebrae properly.

If not treated beforehand or if the discs deteriorate, it can crush the nerves and spinal cord, which could lead to painful nerve damage or even permanent paralysis of the back legs.

  • Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

It is also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy, a genetic abnormality that causes paralysis of your dog’s legs by affecting the spinal cord.

Since it is a genetically mutated disease, it is found in a variety of breeds such as Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Rhodesian ridgeback, Wire Fox Terrier, Great Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Bernese Mountain Dogs Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, among many others.

This disease affects dogs’ general mobility and leads to the loss of bladder and bowel control. It affects dogs over the age of 4-8 years, and sadly, their symptoms become more severe as time goes by.

  • Osteomyelitis Bone Infection

This type of inflammatory disease is a form of bacterial or in some rare cases, fungal infection, which affects your dog’s bones or bone marrow. They are usually categorized into four types- acute, chronic, bacterial, and fungal.

Dogs that usually are infected with this disease show a number of symptoms such as extreme weakness, fever, loss of appetite, pain and swelling in the affected limbs, whimpering and whining, depression and loss of playful nature, and ulcers.

Some of the common ways through which dogs are infected with Osteomyelitis is from systemic infection through over wounds caused by bite marks, gunshots, and physical abuse. Also wound on other parts of the body that extend towards the bone marrow through the bloodstream. Injuries and accidents that might cause infection of the soft tissues and the bones.

Discospondylitis inflammation of the vertebral discs. It is an infection of the intervertebral disc and the adjacent vertebral endplates. Although most bacterial in origin, in rare cases it can be caused due to fungal infections. They are most common among large dog breeds but can occur in other breeds as well.

Breeds such as Boxers, English Bulldogs, German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and Great Danes are highly prone to this disease.

  • Trauma or injuries caused to the spine

Dogs that suffer a spinal injury caused by external bodily harm from humans or being hit by a car, gunshots, IVDD, and old age usually have difficulty moving about.

  • Botulism caused due to toxin ingestion

This condition causes paralysis in dogs through the ingestion of Botulinum toxin, formed by a bacteria known as Clostridium botulinum, which is found in dead animals and other foul rotten meat.

Once ingested by the dog, the bacteria release the botulinum toxins into the bloodstream. The toxins are carried all through the body, which inevitably attacks the nerves causing paralysis.

The symptoms can show within a day or two, although it could be delayed by up to 6-7 days max. Botulism can cause severe pain to the dog while also giving rise to constipation, inflammation, and difficulty in swallowing, along with other problems. The severity of the condition usually depends on the level of toxins which has been ingested by the dog.

  • Tick paralysis

It is a rapid motor paralysis sickness caused by toxins present in the saliva of ticks that attacks the nervous system of dogs. However, this deadly disease is not strictly restricted to dogs alone but can also be found among children if not carefully treated. It has been reported to be found in North America, Europe, Africa, and Australia.

It can lead to shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, or weakness in the legs.

What To Do If Your Dogs Drag Their Back Legs

What To Do If Your Dogs Drag Their Back Legs

The only method towards diagnosing this condition if your dog starts dragging its hind legs is to consult a veterinarian immediately. Through a careful and thorough examination, the vet will underline the causes attributed to the behavior and make recommendations accordingly. This can be in the form of conducting blood tests, fecal examination, spinal x-rays, standard MRI scans, and taking urine samples.

For Intervertebral Disc Disease or IVDD treatment, it can range from medication, surgery, or physical therapy:

  • Medications can include the intake of steroid and anti-inflammatory drugs which helps in relieving the pain brought by the disease.
  • If the dog is suffering from a severe form of Intervertebral Disc Disease, wherein conventional means of medication might not be sufficient; then surgery will be required to remove the hardened disc material causing the pain.
  • Physical therapy is recommended post-surgery in order to regain the strength and mobility of the muscles over a period of time.

As for Canine degenerative myelopathy, there is no form of treatment or medication available, unfortunately for dogs diagnosed with this illness. But, it does not mean all hope is lost, however. Several pets do well even in this form of condition for many years through the help of a doggie wheelchair or mobility cart that can assist in their movement.

In case of trauma due to physical harm or accidents, a thorough examination of the dog’s body is required, which may include:

  • Studying its posture and gait, the condition of the muscles, spinal reflexes, and pain agitation.
  • After which, an evaluation is done on the affected limbs so as to identify and locate where the injury has occurred.
  • A thorough massage treatment and stretching of the tendons to help in the post-recovery period can go a long way in regenerating paralyzed limbs.

Regarding tick bite paralysis, take your pet to the nearest veterinary clinic or hospital where the specialists can keep them under close observation. If the pet is in a severe condition, then they might recommend providing oxygen and breathing support under anesthesia.

  • Another alternative method to consider is that of chemical products for tick restriction.
  • Constantly grooming and routine check-ups for any presence of ticks post-treatment and trimming their hairs as short as possible until the problem subsides.
  • After a full tick-removal procedure, it is necessary to clean your surrounding areas occasionally so as to prevent the return of ticks in the future.

Other Proactive and Preventive Measures for Dragging Legs

While it isn’t for sure that all conditions of this type can be prevented, it is important that your dog is looked after at all times. This could help in averting physical injuries to your dog as they roam about outside.

Cars are one of the significant factors in killing pets in most parts of the world. So it is better to always keep an eye out for your dog at all times.

Dead animals and spoiled meat should also never come near your dog’s presence and, if found, need to be quickly disposed of, else they attempt at consuming it.

Why Do Dogs Drag Their Back Legs


Whatever reason it might be, that is causing your dog to drag its hind legs, it is best to take professional help at the earliest. It could either be a common behavior found among some dogs out there or, it could lead to other severe consequences in the long run. Therefore, an in-depth diagnosis could be the best way to help your dog in this regard.

Keep a close eye on their activities and never let them stray afar for an extended period of time.

Hopefully, this has helped you answer why do dogs drag their back legs, and you are ready to take action and find a solution asap.

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