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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

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Boxer

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Eight Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Drag Back Legs

He was fine yesterday and last night noticed he was dragging his back legs. He doesn’t want to eat much. I took him to the bet and they referred us to a neurologist. But what could it possibly be?

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. Dogs can develop paralysis from problems with their spine, or discs, or trauma. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 23, 2020

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Jack Russell chichauau

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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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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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

Has Symptoms

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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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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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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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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Ozzy

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Mutt

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

My 4.5 year old dachshund mix all of sudden started dragging his back legs this morning. We took him to a vet who did a reflex and pain test and prescribed a couple meds due to financial issues. He had started to shake a bit and won't drink water since getting home or eat his food. Is this normal with dogs when pain meds are administered. Should I get a second opinion and or more tests? I'm very very worried for him

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Axle

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Boxer

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Dragging Back Leg

My 10year old boxer has been dragging his back leg. The vet says its nerve issues & put him on prednisone. After reading up on this condition, I believe its DM. My question is: is there a more effective medicine to try out? It breaks my heart seeing him, I feel like its a struggle for him to walk, almost like he might trip himself. I understand there is no cure, but isnt there something that could help slow down. He runs, stands up, but when walking its apparent something is wrong.

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Molly

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Shih Tzu

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14 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Dragging Legs
Dragging Legs, Trying To Jump Down
Dragging Legs Falling Down

My Shit Tzu is 141/2 years old and within the last 3 weeks or so has completely lost the use of her hind legs. I know she's old but she never had this problem before...has anyone experienced this with a dog her size or breed that could give me some helpful advice? Thank you

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Motley

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Pit bull

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Drag Back Legs

Motley has been dragging her back legs for a couple months. She has little to no control when going to the bathroom. She must have gotten bit by something a while back cause she lost a lot of her hair on her back and it was all nasty, scabby and moist. Few months after that is when her rear legs started not working. She just drags them. Her quality of life has dropped significantly.

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Honey

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Pit bull

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hind Leg Weakness, Cough

Honey lost feeling in her hind legs after minor surgery. Vet suggested that while on pain killers she moved in a way that she knew better than to do while pain was not suppressed and damaged her spine. After a couple months of zero use of her back legs I bought her a wheelchair. The wheelchair seems to be rehabbing as she can now walk short distances, altho she does still knuckle. I'm excited about her progress, but one new symptom concerns me. After walking from one room to another, she coughs and gags. She also does this after I use a sling to take her out to relieve herself. She does not cough/gag after a 1 mile walk in the wheelchair or if she drags herself from one room to the next. The coughing seems to be getting worse as she walks more. Any ideas on what is causing the cough and how to treat it?

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