While it can be sad to watch your dog slow down as they reach their senior life stage, there are plenty of ways to ensure that they age gracefully.
Supporting your older dog is incredibly important, as many age-related issues can be very debilitating. One of the most common issues in senior dogs is weak hind legs.
To help you keep your dog’s hind legs strong and mobile, we are offering 10 tips that will help you strengthen the muscles and lubricate the joints. If you would like to know more, read on!
Table of Contents
- Top 10 Tips for Strengthening an Older Dog’s Hind Legs
- 1. Make Sure Your Dog Is Receiving a Healthy Diet that Is Breed- and Age-Appropriate
- 2. Get Your Dog Down to a Healthy Body Weight
- 3. Take Your Dog on Multiple Walks Per Day
- 4. Consider Other Low Impact Activities
- 5. Practice Sit and Stand Commands
- 6. Stretch Your Dog’s Hips and Legs
- 7. Speak with Your Veterinarian About Anti-Inflammation and Pain Medication
- 8. Consider Offering Your Dog Supplements that Ease Pain and Inflammation
- 9. Consider Therapeutic Strategies that Target Inflammation
- 10. Visit the Veterinarian Regularly for Checkup and Recommendations
- More Information About Strengthening Your Dog’s Hind Legs
Top 10 Tips for Strengthening an Older Dog’s Hind Legs
Professional dog trainers and veterinarians use the following tips, so they are tried and trusted techniques.
Each tip offers unique benefits for older dogs, so it is worth trying to incorporate as many of them as you can into your efforts to support your elderly dog.
1. Make Sure Your Dog Is Receiving a Healthy Diet that Is Breed- and Age-Appropriate
The quality of your dog’s diet will greatly influence its overall health. Not only can a nutritious diet of high-quality ingredients help your dog maintain muscles in their hind legs, but it will also help them in all other areas.
If you are unsure what diet your dog should be eating, we encourage you to speak with a veterinarian. Your dog’s veterinarian can go over an exact diet plan for your dog that will factor in their current age and weight as well as their breed.
As dogs reach their senior life stage, they need a specialized diet. Their bodies cannot cope with the same caloric volume as they could during their younger years. They also need less salt.
If your old dog’s weakened legs are due to joint pain, a diet rich in omega-3, omega-6, glucosamine, and chondroitin can be incredibly beneficial. Again, your veterinarian will be able to discuss this with you.
2. Get Your Dog Down to a Healthy Body Weight
Another important thing you can do to help your dog strengthen its weak back legs is get your pooch to a healthy body weight.
While a healthy weight is important for dogs of all ages, it is of critical importance during a dog’s senior years. Overweight dogs have increased pressure on the hip joint and elbow joint.
Since hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are two of the main reasons dogs lose mobility as they age, ensuring your dog is not overweight or obese can help keep their hind legs strong.
Once the joints become damaged due to excess weight, most dogs become less mobile. This causes them to lose muscle mass in their weak hind legs and other areas.
3. Take Your Dog on Multiple Walks Per Day
While your aging dog may struggle to keep up on lengthy walks, you can help keep their muscles strong and toned by taking multiple shorter walks throughout the day.
This will reduce the impact on the joints but help keep up the dog’s cardiovascular health and muscle mass. It will also help maintain mobility in all four legs without causing pain or excess strain.
4. Consider Other Low Impact Activities
In addition to regular walks, you can help your dog strengthen its hind legs with other age-appropriate activities.
Swimming is an incredibly useful activity considered to be low impact. It can help your dog maintain strong muscles without putting nearly as much strain on the joints.
Underwater treadmills can be an outstanding low-impact option for senior dogs that suffer from chronic arthritis pain.
5. Practice Sit and Stand Commands
Sitting and standing involve heavy use of the muscles in a dog’s hind legs. As your dog gets older, sitting and standing just a few extra times per day can make a big difference.
You can spread this activity out throughout the day. This will prevent your senior dog from growing bored, and it helps build the muscles without wearing away at the joints.
6. Stretch Your Dog’s Hips and Legs
One of the main reasons why dogs lose strength in their hind legs as they age is a lack of mobility. A few simple stretches can help your aging dog maintain the same range of motion they possessed during their younger years.
Speak with your veterinarian about Passive Range of Motion (PROM) exercises. These exercise options can increase mobility by decreasing inflammation. They also help promote the production of joint fluid and stretch out the muscles in the legs.
You can help stretch the legs by having the dog lie down on the ground. Once they are down, lift one leg upwards and hold it for 20 to 30 seconds. Do not push the leg too hard, but make sure you are helping to gradually stretch it out.
Just by doing this to each of the hind legs a few times per week, you can help improve the dog’s flexibility, lengthen the muscles in the hind legs, and improve range of motion.
7. Speak with Your Veterinarian About Anti-Inflammation and Pain Medication
If your dog has lost mobility due to inflammation and joint pain, you can help them strengthen their hind legs by helping get these conditions under control.
There are plenty of options for dogs that suffer from pain and inflammation in the hind legs. Once these conditions are managed with the appropriate medications, your dog can enjoy a more active lifestyle.
This will help the dog recover muscle mass in the hind legs. Over time, the strength in your dog’s hind legs will be restored. Just make sure you consult with a veterinarian before you give your dog any sort of medication.
8. Consider Offering Your Dog Supplements that Ease Pain and Inflammation
While prescription medications are useful in severe cases, there are dietary supplements that can help improve your dog’s mobility and muscle strength.
Given that joint pain is debilitating for many elderly dogs, supplements that help reduce inflammation and joint-related pain can be very useful for recovering leg strength.
Some of the best supplements for joint health include omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin. These supplements are available in a variety of forms at most pet stores. They are also very easy to offer to a dog, as most can be mixed right into their food.
While dogs can take many joint health supplements made for humans, you should always speak with a veterinarian about proper dose control. When supplementing vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, too much of a good thing can be bad.
Once you speak with your veterinarian, you can try out a combination of supplements that can help your pooch recover mobility and hind leg strength!
9. Consider Therapeutic Strategies that Target Inflammation
While it may sound strange for a family pet, acupuncture for canines is becoming increasingly popular. This traditional therapy helps increase blood circulation, which can be useful for targeting specific areas of inflammation.
There are also laser therapies designed to help reduce inflammation and pain. By helping your dog manage pain and inflammation, they may recover some of their mobility.
Just by being able to walk without limping or experiencing sharp pain, your dog will be able to recover much of the strength they have lost in their hind legs. While these modern therapies can be expensive, many people see encouraging results in their elderly dogs.
Just make sure you speak with your veterinarian beforehand, as they will be able to recommend qualified and professional practitioners.
10. Visit the Veterinarian Regularly for Checkup and Recommendations
Each dog is different. As the dog ages, countless health issues could impact their mobility and reduce the strength they have in their legs.
Your veterinarian will be able to inspect your dog and run the appropriate tests to determine the exact cause of hind leg weakness. From there, they will be able to recommend tailored advice that can help your dog build strength back up in those legs.
A veterinarian might show you exercise options that work with your dog’s exact stamina and pain tolerance. Some veterinarians even recommend massages and other forms of simple therapy that can help your dog grow stronger.
None of the strategies listed above will help if your dog is suffering from an undiagnosed condition like Intervertebral Disc Disease, Cushing’s Disease, or Canine Degenerative Myelopathy.
Having a veterinarian explain whether your dog is having trouble with hind leg weakness due to obesity or life-threatening disease can make all the difference in coming up with a recovery strategy that will work!
More Information About Strengthening Your Dog’s Hind Legs
If you are looking for other ways to help your older dog recover strength in its hind legs, we recommend reviewing these Dog Stretching Exercises outlined in this useful post by the Coxwell Animal Clinic.
Stretching routines are really useful for helping your dog improve mobility. Mobility is the key to maintaining strong and healthy leg muscles.
The American Kennel Club also offers a useful breakdown of supplements that can help older dogs – How Joint Supplements Help Dogs with Arthritis.
The CARE Organization (Canine Arthritis Resources and Education) has a thorough guide that can teach you how to support your arthritic dog and help them maintain muscle mass in their legs – Activity Modifications for Dogs with Arthritis.