We receive a lot of questions about German shepherds with weak back legs. So our resident vet has answered the most vital questions below.
Whether you’ve just started noticing some signs or researching in advance, this article has everything to know.
Not only can this help you spot these conditions as they develop, but you can also help to prevent complications through back-leg strengthening methods.
To make sure your German Shepherd is set up for success, let’s dive into the best ways to make your German Shepherd’s back legs stronger and why this is so important for them in the future.
Why Does My German Shepherd Have Weak Back Legs?
Before you work to strengthen your German Shepherd’s back legs, it’s important to understand why their legs could be weak in the first place.
5 Reasons why German Shepherds have weak back legs:
1. Young Age
If your German Shepherd puppy is under 8 weeks of age, their hind limb weakness may be due to their unsteady muscles.
Young puppies are still learning how to maneuver themselves throughout the world, and they are often unsteady on their feet because of it…
- This clumsiness may appear as if they have weak hind limbs when they are really just clumsy pups that still need to work on their balance and coordination.
However, if your puppy goes from having a normal gait to suddenly having weak back legs, this could be a sign of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
These puppies may also experience sudden lethargy, unsteady gait, muscle tremors, collapse, and even seizures.
If you think your puppy may be experiencing hypoglycemia, we suggest having them seen by a vet immediately.
Arthritis is a joint disease often seen in our German Shepherd friends.
It is one of the listed predispositions for this beautiful breed, so it is something you will always need to be on the lookout for.
Arthritis refers to the deterioration of the canine joint over time. Dogs with arthritis will develop damaging inflammation within the affected joint, which in turn breaks down the cartilage that supports the joint.
When this cartilage is broken down, this causes the joints to rub and grind each time the dog moves.
This will only increase the inflammation and subsequent tissue damage, causing a never-ending cycle of pain for the German Shepherd.
Some of the most common signs of arthritis in dogs include:
- Joint stiffness
- Difficulty getting up from a seated or lying position
- Being slower to rise in the morning
- Change in their normal gait
- Reluctance to jump on furniture or go upstairs
- Leg sensitivity
- Joint swelling
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, we suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance on caring for their joints moving forward.
3. Previous Injuries
If your German Shepherd has a previous injury to either of their back legs, this could lead to limb weakness moving forward.
Soft tissue or bone injuries can have a lasting impact on dogs, especially if the pup does not receive any necessary physical therapy or other treatment.
Even if you have done everything in your power to heal your dog’s injury, sometimes they will always have a bit of weakness.
Leg injuries also make your German Shepherd more prone to arthritis in the future, so this is something to be on the lookout for.
4. Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is one of the most common complications people think of when it comes to German Shepherds.
Hip dysplasia is quite common in Shepherds due to poor breeding over the years and improper screening of joint disease, as well as their unique stature.
Hip dysplasia is a condition that occurs due to the improper formation of the hip joint.
The abnormal formation of the joint will lead to laxity in the joint itself, which ultimately causes the hip joint to grind with each movement.
The constant grinding of the hip joint causes a cycle of painful inflammation, as well as secondary arthritis in the area.
These pups will develop inflammation, scar tissue, bony growths, and significant breakdown of the hip joint over time. If the condition is severe enough, it can ultimately lead to lameness.
Some of the most common signs of hip dysplasia in German Shepherds include:
- Stiffness in the back end
- A change in their normal gait
- Muscle wasting in their back end
- Sensitivity of their hips
- Difficulty getting up from a lying or seated position
- Reluctance to jump on furniture or go upstairs
- Weakness in the hind end
- Eventual lameness of the back end
Due to how painful this condition is for dogs, we suggest not only keeping an eye out for these symptoms but also having your German Shepherd screened for hip dysplasia at multiple points throughout their life.
5. Degenerative Myelopathy
Degenerative myelopathy is a disease that can impact the spinal cord of a German Shepherd.
DM causes degeneration of the white matter within the dog’s spinal cord, which ultimately causes severe weakness and hind limb paralysis in the affected dog.
The initial signs of the disease are similar to canine arthritis or hip dysplasia, so it is often written off as a joint disease at first.
However, the disease will eventually progress to knuckling of the back legs, severe lameness, and complete paralysis of the hind end.
There is no treatment available for dogs with degenerative myelopathy, but strengthening the muscles in the hind legs is proven to slow the progression of the disease over time.
This is why it is so important to keep your pup active over the years.
Benefits Of Strong Back Legs In German Shepherds
Having strong back legs can improve your German Shepherd’s quality of life in a variety of ways.
Benefits of strengthening your Shepherd’s back legs!
- Prevents joint stiffness in the future
- Keeps them fit into their senior years
- Maintains their agility and flexibility over time
- Decreases the risk of painful joint disease
- Decreases the impact of hip dysplasia, as stronger back legs can slow the disease progression and offer them more longevity
- Allows them to enjoy more physical activities as they age
Let’s explore some of the best ways to improve your German Shepherd’s back leg strength!
How To Strengthen Your German Shepherd’s Back Legs
As you can see from above, a German Shepherd with strong back legs can have a better quality of life as they age.
From daily walks to weight control, let’s discuss some of our favorite leg-strengthening tips below.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Keeping your German Shepherd at a healthy weight is likely the most effective way to promote strength in their back legs.
Excess weight is not only a threat to your Shepherd’s overall health, but it can make it extremely challenging to maintain their strength over the years.
Excess weight puts a large amount of stress on your dog’s joints. The extra pressure can lead to significant joint deterioration over time, especially if they are already experiencing the effects of arthritis or hip dysplasia.
Obesity can even exacerbate these issues in dogs that may not have developed joint disease otherwise.
With that being said, maintaining a healthy weight can help to keep your dog’s joints nice and strong. When their joints are healthy, their back legs will naturally be stronger and more agile.
Offer A High-Quality Diet
We can notice the difference in our energy levels when we eat nutritious foods versus when we do not, and our dogs are no different.
A high-quality diet will promote overall health for your pup in several ways, including our Shepherd’s strength and fitness levels.
The better your dog feels each day due to optimal nutrition, the easier it is for them to remain active.
With frequent activity often comes strength, so it all ties together when it comes to making your German Shepherd’s back legs stronger.
Keep Them Active
Keeping your dog active is a wonderful way to help them build strength in their back end.
Not only is a regular fitness routine essential in maintaining joint and muscle strength, but certain activities are known to improve back leg strength itself.
Some of the best physical activities to make your German Shepherd’s back legs stronger include daily walks of at least 15-20 minutes in length, easy-to-moderate hikes, walks at an incline, regular swimming, and even games of tug of war.
Start Joint Supplements At 1 Year
Due to how prone German Shepherds are to painful joint conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia, starting joint supplements at 1 year of age can be extremely beneficial.
Joint supplements are often most effective when they are used as a preventative measure rather than after joint disease has already developed, as they can help to promote joint strength as the years go by.
One of the many symptoms of joint disease is weakness in the hind limbs, so preventing these conditions can ultimately promote back leg strength in the future.
It’s still best to speak with your vet before starting your Shepherd on joint supplements, but it’s a major benefit to consider.
Monitor For Any Signs Of Joint Pain
If you want to ensure your German Shepherd’s back legs stay as strong as possible over time, it’s important to catch any developing joint disease as it sets in.
Joint disease can lead to significant deterioration of the joints when it is left untreated, so you will want to start a joint management plan from the moment they develop symptoms.
By monitoring your German Shepherd for any signs of discomfort, you can establish a joint care plan early in the disease process.
By doing so, you can hopefully prevent so much joint damage from coming.
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German Shepherds are prone to conditions that weaken their back legs, so it’s up to us to offer them as much protection as possible.
By implementing the practices we discussed above, you can make sure your dog’s back legs are ready for any challenges that come their way.