Jump to section

What is Dragging Back Leg?

Your dog is having a difficult time moving around.  He is walking by using his front legs and dragging his back legs.  It is very upsetting and heart wrenching to see him trying to move around. The dragging of the back legs may be caused by:

  • Canine degenerative myelopathy
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Botulism
  • Trauma to the spine
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Diskospondylitis
  • Tick bite paralysis

If your dog is dragging his back legs he should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.  The dragging of his back legs may be a symptom of a very serious condition.

Why Dragging Back Leg Occurs in Dogs

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Canine degenerative myelopathy is also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy. Canine degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease, which causes nerve root damage in the spinal cord. The disease usually occurs in dogs over 7 years of age.  It is more common in German Shepherds, Boxers, Chesapeake Retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is also referred to as a herniated or slipped disk.  The intervertebral disks usually act as shock absorbers between the vertebra. If the disk deteriorates, slips or protrudes it can compress the nerves and spinal cord. IVDD can cause the dog to drag his back legs.

Botulism

Botulism is caused by the ingestion of the toxin produced by bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which causes damage to the nervous system. Your dog may have eaten a dead animal or plant that had the bacteria on it. Symptoms may appear 12 to 36 hours after ingesting the bacteria.

Trauma to the Spine

Trauma to the spine can cause a dog to drag his back legs. Injuries such as being hit by a car, a fall or physical abuse can cause damage to the spinal cord.

Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is the inflammation of the bone marrow. The inflammation is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection in the dog’s body. The infection may have occurred due to an animal bite, injury or bone fracture.  

Diskospondylitis

Diskospondylitis is the inflammation of the vertebrae disks between the vertebrae in the spine. The inflammation is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, Diskospondylitis is more common in large and giant dog breeds. There are more cases of diskospondylitis found in male German Shepherd dogs and Great Danes, between the age of 4 to 5 years of age.  

Tick Bite Paralysis

Tick bite paralysis is caused by a neurological toxin produced in the saliva of certain types of female ticks. The toxins are released into the dog’s bloodstream while the tick is attached. The toxin can also cause respiratory arrest. Ticks that can cause paralysis are deer tick, Rocky Mountain tick and the lone star tick.

arrow-up-icon

Top

What to do if your Dog is Dragging Back Leg

If your dog is dragging his back legs, he should be seen by a veterinarian. The veterinarian will determine the underlying cause of the leg dragging. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your dog and will assess the patient’s overall condition. The veterinarian may suggest a complete blood count, serum chemistry panel, urinalysis and fecal exam.  He may also suggest spinal x-rays and/or a myelogram. During a myelogram, the patient is injected with a contrast medium, which goes into the spinal canal. Once the contrast medium is injected, radiographs are then taken. This procedure allows the veterinarian to see if there is damage to the vertebral disks.  Your dog will need to have general anesthesia for the myelogram. 

Bacterial infections will be treated with antibiotic therapy. Fungal infections will be treated with antifungal medication. 

Most dogs who contract tick bite paralysis respond well after the tick is removed.  Muscle strength usually comes back within hours of the tick removal.  A full recovery may take days.

Dogs diagnosed with botulism may need to be hospitalized.  Once hospitalized he can receive 24/7 intensive supportive care.

There is no cure for degenerative myelopathy but physical therapy, vitamins and supplements may slow the progression of the disease.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Prevention of Dragging Back Leg

Some conditions can’t be prevented but some can be.  Dogs should not be left unsupervised when they are outside. Keeping an eye on your dog can prevent him from jumping the fence, eating dead animals or falling victim to trauma. Ticks can be prevented by having your dog on a monthly tick preventative.  Additionally, your yard should be treated for ticks.

Dogs that have an injury or a possible fractured should be seen by a veterinarian.  The early treatment of a fracture or wound can help prevent a bacterial or fungal infection from occurring.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Cost of Dragging Back Leg

A dog who is dragging his back legs may be in serious condition. For a condition such as botulism, the expense may be $2000. The treatment for tick paralysis can range from $1500 to $5000.

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Dragging Back Leg Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Blue Heeler

dog-age-icon

Five Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

My dog is acting like her back legs hurt maybe, she is starting to be lazy and just lay around all day, whining, and panting like she just ran a bunch of miles. She is still drinking and eating, and going outside to use the bathroom but not wanting to go out as much as usual, and when I lightly push on her legs or hips or belly it doesn't seem to bother her. She does still want attention.. No blue gums, no potty accidents inside, and not constant whining just occasional and random whining.

Dec. 23, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

recommendation-ribbon

1 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. There are many potential causes for this kind of behaviour including arthritis, heart disease, lung disease etc. It is best to have a general vet check and they may run some tests such as a blood test and xrays.

Dec. 23, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

Two Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My dog jumped off an edge and now her back legs are limp and she dragging them don’t know what to do

Nov. 21, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Hi there, you are through to Dr Linda. A jump from a height can cause serious injuries including fractures, spinal cord injuries and dislocations. More commonly, animals can experience bruising and muscle strains. Legs that are limp and dragging are a red flag and it may be that there is an issue with the spinal cord. Immediate vet care is needed and we may need to perform some imaging such as x-rays or an MRI.

Nov. 21, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

German shepperd puppy

dog-age-icon

6 months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Dragging Right Back Leg

My puppy is 6 months but since he was 3 months he started walking weird on his back legs He grow very fast and now his right back leg is acting weird and he is scratching his back nails

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. German Shepherd dogs are very prone to hip dysplasia and problems. If he is showing signs already of having problems, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian right away, as they will be able to assess his gait cover examine his joints and his muscles, and let you know if there are any treatments that he needs so that he is able to stay mobile through his life. I hope that all goes well for him.

Oct. 6, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Pit Bull

dog-age-icon

Ten Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Dragging Back Legs

I brought her to the local vet and she diagnosed her, saying it was a spinal cord issue, prescribed her some steroids and then told us to come back whenever we want an MRI done to see how bad of a spinal cord injury it is, right now we're gathering money to perform an MRI scan done, but in the mean time we carry her from bed to the backyard to use the bathroom and i was wondering what the best approach to doing this is and if it is alright if she drags her legs or if we should be stopping her from doing so (had to exclude some information prior to going to the vet because of the word limit?)

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this platform is not set up for urgent emails. Sadly, there is a point where spinal damage is not reversible. I am not sure that an MRI is needed at this point, as we try to have that done within 24 hours if possible. It might be better to focus your attention and money on physical therapy, as she might be able to get some strength back in those legs. It may be a good idea to get another opinion as to what the next best step is. Ihope that all goes well for her!

Oct. 10, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

Nine Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Dragging Back Left Leg

Why has my dog suddenly started to drag his back left leg

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your pet and see what might be causing this, and let you know what treatment might help.

Oct. 11, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Oscar

dog-breed-icon

Dachshund

dog-age-icon

13 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Laziness
Drag Back Legs

I have noticed that some this my dachshund drags his back legs. At first I was to worried about it because I thought it would go away. But it is persisting and I don’t really know what to do. So if anyone can tell me what to do let me know.

dog-name-icon

Jessie

dog-breed-icon

Alaskan Malamute

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

Jessie is a malamute / collie mix about a month and a half ago she started limping on one leg took her to vet couldn’t find anything.. then she started crying in pain all Night long they thought arthritis or sundowners has xrays done said she looked very healthy and hardly any arthritis at all couldn’t figure out what was going on fast forward a month and she lost use of both back legs and now cannot go to the bathroom took her to new vet he’s thinking herniated disk pinching spinal cord she is 12 years old and surgery is way expensive and don’t know if she will even survive 3 more months if I were to have it done or if it is even a good idea to have that kind of surgery on a dog that age please advice

dog-name-icon

Buddy

dog-breed-icon

German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Restless, Not Able To Lay Easily

Please try taking your pet to an animal chiropractor for help as after a long walk with my 10 yr old 130lb german shepherd, he may have turned wrongly getting in his travel cage & when we got home he could not relax or lay down & if he did it was for a very few minutes ... I also have a bad back for 50 yrs myself & when my own disc slips I noticed my shepherd to similarize myself when I slipped a disc .. after visiting my vet for pain meds which eventually let him lay for short spells, I consulted my own chiropactor that advised to definitely find a local chiropractor that also works on animals as he himself has treated his own dog successfully, he also mentioned in Canada a special licence was required by the chiropractor & it was to be treated at a animal hospital facility .. after the 1st visit my dog layed down easily in my vehicle all the way home & when we got home again without slowly trying several times as before... a second visit a week later cured his problem completely ... he is now 12 yrs old but has suddenly having trouble with his left rear leg dragging occasionally ... he has a badly calcified rear spine which may now be pinching a nerve or spinal cord ... his hips are very good & age is not on his side .. I now assist with towels under each rear leg to help him walk outside to relieve himself .. he is back on meds & might be improving but it just happened 2 days ago... he was a bit unsteady on his one hind leg off & on for about 6 months prior Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/symptom/why-is-my-dog-dragging-back-leg

dog-name-icon

Jaeger

dog-breed-icon

Mastiff

dog-age-icon

6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness

My 6 month old mastiff mix just came back from a dog boarding because I was moving now he’s gaveling trouble with his back end legs look weak had to help him up steps he doesn’t cry but looks like they are very weak no other issues

dog-name-icon

Sandy

dog-breed-icon

Pug

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Able To Walk For Longer Diatanc
Dragging His Rear Legs Not Active,

Hi I have a PUG aged 8years completed, he is not able to walk with his rare legs but some how managing for little distance by dragging .Peeing while walking itself not able to control he is not undergoing any pain.

How can we help your pet?