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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Dragging Back Leg Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Bruce
Blue Heeler
4 Months
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Cant Move Legs
Cant Get Up
little movement in hind legs
cant stand

i woke up one day and saw that my 4 month old blue heeler could not stand on his back legs. he can move them but does not have the strength to stand up or put any weight on them. i have checked for ticks and have found nothing. we are also unable to take him to a veterinarian for a few weeks as we live in papua new guinea. the dog does not seem to be in any pain however.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
There are various reasons why Bruce may be having difficulty with his back leg, however this would need to be seen by a Veterinarian as injury, spinal disorders, congenital disorders among other causes may be the underlying issue here. X-rays may need to be taken to help narrow in on a cause; without examining Bruce, I cannot give you a specific cause or a course of treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Keira
Labrador Retriever
9 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Dragging back legs.

My 9 year old female lab is usually very active and looks great for her age. Recently we had brought her on a walk to the beach and that night she has thrown up a great amount. We don't think that she had gotten into anything expect her toys (tennis balls). Then the last two days she hasn't been getting up or moving as much. Running on the beach sometimes makes her sore for a day or two but not this long. We have to pick her up to move now. She has no appetite but will drink water. She doesnt seem to be in pain but she will start to fall but than sit and lay there and not move. I am unsure if she is just very sore from the beach and jumping in and out of the car and that maybe she ate too much of a tennis ball. Or if this is much more serious.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
Running on a beach can be dangerous for a dog, especially if they change direction by 90º whilst running which may cause a variety of sprains and other injuries, not all the time but may occur. The beach may also have litter and dead animals, fish and other items which a dog may find appetising for some reason. Without a physical examination, I cannot tell you much; but keep her rested and at least encourage her to drink; if you see no improvement by Monday morning visit your Veterinarian for a once over. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Louis
Poodle - Toy
18 Weeks
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Loss of movement in back legs
Coughing
Loss of Appetite

Medication Used

loxicom

My 18 week old toy poodle is dragging his back legs, he can use them although doesn’t seem to have complete control, falls quite abit aswell.
We’ve been to the vet and he is on anti- inflammatory medication at the moment, with 4 days to go but no results..
What could this be?
He hasn’t had any major falls etc

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
There are a few possible causes for the hindlimb issues you’re seeing with Louis including spinal defects, hip disorders, trauma among other issues; the next step would be an x-ray with your Veterinarian to check the integrity of the spine and the hips to determine if there is an injury or congenital issue. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Silvio
Shih-Tzu
Around 4-5 years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

My shihtzu has a very sudden onset of hind legs/lower spine pain. He looks like he’s in pain and he’s trembling. We left home for work and when we returned he was like this. He wouldn’t stand up for us so we took out his leash and this encouraged him to wag his tail but even then he didn’t stand. After a while he stood and we took him for a short walk but when we got home he went back to same behavior. I’m worried. He’s a young dog and this occurred from one day to the next.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
Any sudden changes like this should be seen by your Veterinarian immediately as there are many different conditions which may be causing this level of weakness; without an examination and x-rays only rest and pain relief can be offered. Intervertebral disk disease, trauma, hip disorders among other issues may be the cause here. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Puggles
Pug
16 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Not walking properly
No Pain
Dragging back leg

Medication Used

Cosequin
dasuquin

My pug is 16 years old and is fairly healthy for his age. Suddenly today he began to drag one of his legs as if it were paralyzed. It doesn't seem to be hurting him as I have moved both back legs around and he didn't seem bothered by it. I palpated around his hips and nothing seems broken or out of place. He has also had treatment for tick and fleas last week.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
Sudden leg paralysis should be seen by your Veterinarian as a physical examination and x-ray would be needed to help rule out skeletal issues; slipped discs, subluxations, masses in the spinal column among other causes may lead to a unilateral hindlimb paralysis. Without examining Puggles, I cannot give you much indication to a possible cause or a course of treatment; until you see your Veterinarian you should keep Puggles rested as much as possible. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Baby
Husky
12 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Braggig his rigbt back leg and cannot stand up

Hello i have a husky who is 106 lbs and is 12 years old. He been dragging his back right leg when walking and now when he stands it shakes a lot. I had him since he was 6 weeks old so his is very upsetting for me to see him go through all this pain. If he's lying down we have to help him up by lifting his back legs to help him. He doesn't have Any health issue only that he is dragging this leg and it's basically paralysed. Can you please let me help him. I am not ready for him to go and I know he's not a puppy but he is not old either. Please help me by letting me know what to give him for the pain and what I can do.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
It is important to determine what the underlying cause for Baby’s leg dragging is; this may be caused by spinal issues (intervertebral disk disease for example), hip disorders, nerve damage or other trauma. Pain management, I cannot tell you anything valuable as I cannot tell you any prescription medications as I haven’t examined him; it is important to have him examined by your Veterinarian so they can determine the underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Ruby Rose
Pit
3 1/2
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Ruby is a 3 1/2yr.old pit, we rescued each other. She was abused, someone beat her in the head when I got her it was healed but she is scared and has missing patches if hair,her right bk leg,l looks a lil different from other one,she tries,not to put plot of pressure on it,three legs it if she can uses it sometimeslast nite she was acting a lil strangei thought,today when we came home(she went for a car ride didn't get out anywhere)we live on second floorso she went to go up got front legs going when she pushes off with bk almost made it n slid bk down onto her butt, never had this problem before , carried her up and here n there drags legs n gives up n lays down .my dog is energetic,loveable kissable,"very clingy" cuddle bug,i am on disability, I struggle she rescued me,i have depression, anxiety,adhd,have been suicidal in the past , this dog is the reason I get out of bed and give life another chance! God if anything happened to her I'd jut die I don't think another dog would be the same,i need help I don't know how I could pay to fix her or to even see a vet, I've been crying all dayi don't know what's wrong and how I would afford to fix it, Im,lost please help me

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
There are many issues which may be affecting Ruby, but without a physical examination and x-rays I couldn’t tell you the extent of any problem; spinal issues, hip issues, nerve damage, other trauma, arthritis etc… are all possible culprits to her problem. A Veterinary visit is advised, whilst I understand you situation regarding cost, I’ve added a few links below which may help you to receive cheaper or free Veterinary care. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.cbsnews.com/media/9-ways-to-get-cheap-or-free-vet-care-for-your-pet/ www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/trouble_affording_pet.html?credit=web_id91754962 www.avmf.org/programs/veterinary-care-charitable-fund/?back=programs www.thepetfund.com

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Nugget
Spoodle
5 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Dragging legs

I have a 5year old cross shitsu/poodle. Who is very active normally. Loves to run and eat. Tuesday a week ago my husband noticed he was not walking correctly, actually dragging hind legs. He took him to local vet and given pain killers. He improved and back to normal then the following Tuesday again but much worse. Can you help. He has exrays and show not spinal damage. Bloods all within normal range. Still eating and going to toilet normal. What now?

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations

There are various causes for dragging of the hind limbs and if there has been some improvement after the administration of antiinflammatories I would return to your Veterinarian for another course of medication to see if the improvement is noted again; if so we can determine that there is an inflammatory process causing these symptoms. X-rays are useful, but myelography (where contrast media is injected into the spinal canal before an x-ray is taken) will show any soft tissue bulges inside the canal. Without performing a physical examination, I cannot give much more information; other causes may be due to myelopathies, vertebral instability, poisoning among other causes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Tucker
Labrador Retriever
4 Years 4 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Whining
Limping
Panting
Abnormal breathing

Medication Used

Carprofen
Tramadol 50 mg.

His leg is swollen and it hard like it has something to do with his muscle, will not put weight on it, whines all day, he hops around because he can't straighten his leg. He doesn't stop panting all day, barely eats his food. It swells up so big it just stays hard. It swelled up and the relieved and then returned and hasn't gone away. It's been like this for a couple of months, the vet just keeps shoving pills down his throat.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations

There are many reasons why a limb may be swollen from infections, bone tumours, reduced circulation leading to pooling of blood or lymph and well as other causes; an x-ray may be useful to detect if there are any bone anomalies or other problems which may cause the swelling to occur. Feel the paw on the affected leg and compare the temperature with the paw on the opposite side; if the affected leg is colder then there may be a circulatory issue leading to the pooling of fluids leading to the swelling. It may also be worth visiting another Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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