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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dragging Back Leg Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Jack Russell chichauau

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Dragging Back Leg

He was fine this morning and I come home from work and he is dragging one of his back legs

Aug. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. He may have a pinched nerve in his back from a bulging disc. Many times these dogs will need pain medication and cage rest. It would be best for your vet to look at him as some times these dogs will also need back surgery to walk normal again. Good luck and I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

Aug. 25, 2020

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German Shepherd

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Dragging Her Back Legs

My dog is dragging her back legs more often than normal, and her legs have seemed to given up on her two times now.

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

German Shepherds are very prone to hip problems, and if she is showing these signs at such an early age, it would be best to have her examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. There may be things that can be done now so that she doesn't continue to have problems later, or there may be medications that she needs to be on. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 9, 2020

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Coby

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Chihuahua

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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3 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Tremors
Back Leg Weakness
Falling Over
Not Able To Walk

About 2 hours ago my chihuahua is starting to have issues walking around on his back legs and using his back legs it's to the point that he can't even stand on his back legs not sure what to do don't really have the money for the vet right this minute just kind of stuck with having for about 5 years and we're not sure how old he was then but he's family.

Sept. 6, 2018

Coby's Owner

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Bella

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Maltese

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11 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Pain

Our Maltese had surgery for cruciate repair in both hind legs, first surgery in 2015 and the second in 2016. She didn't cooperate very well with therapy. She would limp on one leg, then eventually would only stand when necessary to go potty. About a month ago, she stopped standing up and started going potty on herself. I made a vet appointment, but before I could get her there, she took a turn for the worse. Total loss of using hind legs, panting, wimpering, crying out in pain. Took her to the vet who said it was either cancer, tumor or blood clot. He sedated her heavily, but still pain within hours. He suggested she be euthanized. She was 11 1/2 years old. He said there was little to no chance of recovery no matter what we did. Could this have been caused from not using the back legs all the time?

Aug. 10, 2018

Bella's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Bella, I cannot say for certain what occurred or what caused the lack of movement; however some muscle atrophy and weakness may occur when a dog is less active. In this case I cannot determine whether there was another injury, tumour, issues from the surgeries or another cause which contributed to these symptoms and downturn. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 11, 2018

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Enzo

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Presa Canario

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Weakness
Drag Back Legs
Stiffening

My 9.5 year old presa canario has been dragging his right hind leg more and more over the last couple weeks. It used to just be his pads sliding across the floor but now you can see he’s completely worn down one of his nails until it bleeds. He’s started holding his right leg up in the air and trying to limp with his left leg as of today and his left leg seems to give up on him sometimes. I’m really concerned it’s DM but I know they can’t test for that. Im told DM is not painful but I do not want my dog uncomfortable at all, and legs giving out doesn’t seem comfortable to me :(

July 9, 2018

Enzo's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Firstly you should visit your Veterinarian to determine whether the leg dragging is due to another cause or not, also it may be useful to place a boot on the paw so that the paw or nails don’t get further damage. Your Veterinarian will take some x-rays to check the integrity of the spine and will rule out certain conditions. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 9, 2018

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Oscar

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Dachshund

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13 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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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.

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Jessie

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Alaskan Malamute

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12 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

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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

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Buddy

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German Shepherd

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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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

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Jaeger

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Mastiff

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6 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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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

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Sandy

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Pug

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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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.