Why Is My Dog Dragging His Back Legs

Dogs are active creatures, so when you see your dog dragging his back legs, you feel alarmed and want to help.

Many issues can cause your dog to drag his back legs. The most common answer is usually spine trauma. Older dogs experience disc problems just like humans can. Even young dogs can have spine trouble depending on their breed and level of activity.

In addition to spine trauma, there are other common reasons your dog is dragging his back legs. Read on to learn more.

Common Reasons Your Dog Is Dragging His Back Legs

Dogs might temporarily drag their back legs after getting up or exercising, but there could be other reasons for this. Remain aware of these potential problems so you can take care of your beloved pet.

Spine Trauma

Any trauma to the spine can impact how your dog moves and cause him to drag his back legs. Spine trauma can include your dog getting hit by a car, falling from a significant height, or suffering abuse.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Just as people can have slipped discs, so can dogs. It’s called intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and applies pressure to the spinal cord and nearby nerves. IVDD is most common in American cocker spaniels, basset hounds, beagles, dachshunds, and Shih Tzus but can occur in any breed.

Although IVDD appears with age, your vet might not notice this progressive condition in annual checkups. There often are no symptoms until your dog’s discs calcify, slip out of alignment, or cause him so much pain he can’t move. Sometimes jumping on the couch or a hard landing is enough to make the discs shift and cause pain.

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Canine degenerative myelopathy is a disease that affects older dogs. It causes nerve damage in your dog’s spinal cord and worsens over time. Your dog’s legs will get weaker and eventually become paralyzed.

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There’s no known cause of canine degenerative myelopathy. Some research shows it’s common in larger breeds, such as:

  • Boxers
  • Chesapeake Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Pembroke Welsh Corgis also experience canine degenerative myelopathy and other back problems due to their skeletal structure. Dogs who experience canine degenerative myelopathy might also suffer from osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia.


Osteomyelitis is a bone inflammation that restricts your dog’s movement. It can happen in the spine and impact the dog’s entire body, but the back legs usually drag first. The cause of osteomyelitis is often a bacterial infection but may also result from fungal infections.

If your dog suffers an animal bite or an accident that exposes its tissues or bone, monitor them for osteomyelitis. It can also develop after surgery, so you should take good care of their wounds. A vet can help diagnose and treat osteomyelitis, and your dog can heal from it over time.


Botulism happens when your dog eats decomposing animals and ingests Clostridium botulinum, a toxic bacteria. It causes damage to the nervous system, which will usually present as weakness in the back legs. After a day, that weakness expands to the front legs, then continues up to paralyze your dog’s head.

Your dog is aware of the paralysis and poses no danger to your safety. However, take your dog to the vet quickly because they’ll eventually have trouble swallowing. They’ll get constipated, and their paralyzed diaphragm prevents their lungs from inflating as they try to breathe.


Discospondylitis is disc inflammation caused by an infection. Lower back discs are most commonly affected, impacting how your dog can move his back legs. The bacterial infection can flow through your dog’s bloodstream to reach other areas of the body. Discospondylitis occurs because of an infected wound, but foreign bodies can also be the cause.

Tick Bite Paralysis

Tick bite paralysis isn’t too common — only certain female ticks produce toxic saliva that harms dogs. The saliva contains a neurological toxin that paralyzes your dog’s back legs and then progresses throughout its body.

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You might not notice symptoms of tick bite paralysis until the tick stays attached for two or more days. Protect your dog by using home remedies to keep ticks away if you don’t want to use medication.

Find out more about your dog’s condition in this video!

What To Do if Your Dog Is Dragging His Back Legs

Take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice him dragging his back legs. Many conditions could make him act this way, so seeking immediate treatment is imperative. Your vet will be able to find the root of the pain and treat your dog for spinal trauma, if applicable. They can also search for a tick that may be poisoning your dog and other potential issues.

Any problem that develops from a bacterial infection will involve treatment with antibiotics. Fungal infections call for antifungal medication to help your dog get better. Botulism requires hospitalization, but dogs can recover from it. In case of tick bites, dogs usually recover soon after tick removal.

Unfortunately, there are not many treatment options for dogs with degenerative conditions. All you can do is ease their pain with medications or steroid injections, depending on your vet’s diagnosis. Vitamins and supplements can also slow the progression.

Final Notes

It’s scary to see your dog drag his back legs, but the vet will be able to discover the cause and treat your dog. In most cases, your dog can regain muscle strength and control within a few hours or days of treatment. Always act quickly to get your dog help if you see him dragging his back legs.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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