Several years ago I met a veteran Newfie owner. He had shared his life with Newfie’s for several years and he was one of the most knowledgable people that I’ve met in the Newfie community.
He gave me a lot of advice about raising Newfs and one piece of advice that has always stuck with me is, “Keep them moving when they get older.”
I repeat this advice over to myself daily so I don’t forget the importance of it and when I got the boys I swore to them and myself that I would not lose another Newfie due to mobility issues.
That I would do everything that I possibly could to keep them moving for as long as their bodies and mind would allow them to.
At almost 11 and 13, their back ends are growing weaker as the days pass and I can see it with my eyes.
Sherman, who doesn’t have any other major health concerns, does have bad knees. He can still walk, but not far and he takes breaks as needed.
He can get from a lying position faster than Leroy but Leroy would definitely beat him in a foot race.
While Sherman’s anxieties have slowly increased over the years, his mind and senses are all still there. He barks, he wags, he eats, he drinks, he plays and he’s still enjoying life.
Leroy, who does have his fair share of medical issues and who has always lacked a little coordination, is struggling with some minor coordination of his rear legs and has the occasional bout with Newfie Neck.
He’s 11 going on 3 in his mind and you have to remind him often that he’s no spring chicken. His attitude is full, his tail works overtime, and his senses are all still very much there, especially the Newfie selective hearing sense.
It’s hard to watch their bodies struggle knowing that their minds are in good working condition but this year I’ve learned and tested quite a few products that are helping to keep them on their paws but first, here are a few signs that many dogs have when their back legs get weak.
Signs of back leg weakness in dogs
- Difficulty rising, jumping and climbing stairs
- Loss of muscle mass in the back legs
- Slipping on floors
- Paw knuckling
- Legs crossing while walking
- Unsteady gate
- Shaky legs when standing
Common Conditions that can cause rear leg weakness in dogs
Canine arthritis is an inflammatory disease which affects the joints of dogs.
Arthritis cannot be cured but it can be managed with treatment from a veterinarian. Arthritis in dogs is mostly seen in the spine, knee, hips, elbows, shoulder, and neck.
Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs.
It begins with a loss of coordination in the hind limbs and leads to paw knuckling and eventually total paralysis of the hind end.
This condition can be seen in any breed of dog but it is most often seen in German Shepherds.
Cranial Cruciate Rupture.
The cruciate ligament connects the back of the femur with the front of the tibia.
This ligament is responsible for keeping the tibia in place beneath the femur and stabilizing the knee joint. When the cruciate ruptures it means that it tears leaving the stifle unstable.
A cruciate tear is one of the most popular orthopedic injury seen in dogs.
Hip Dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket. In dogs with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket of the hip do not fit or develop properly. The will rub and grind together instead of moving smoothly when a walks.
This rubbing of the socket will result in deterioration over time and an eventual loss of function of the joint itself.
This is a common condition seen in large and giant breed dogs such as the Newfoundland
Heart issues such as DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) and congestive heart failure can cause weakness in the back legs of dogs. I learned this late last year when Leroy was struggling with his back legs and then was diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia. Thankfully, after further testing, DCM was ruled out.
Other conditions that can cause back leg weakness in dogs include; Wobbler’s Syndrome, IVDD, toxic poisoning, tick bites, bacterial infections and tumors.
Treatment of back leg weakness in dogs
Treatment for back leg weakness will depend on the cause of the weakness. A complete physical exam will be done by a veterinarian and tests such as x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scan, bloodwork and sometimes the aspiration of fluid from the affected joint may be performed.
Products that can help with back leg weakness in dogs
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While some dogs may not like napping on beds, certain beds made for orthopedic issues can be beneficial for dogs with aching joints or back leg injuries. They can provide extra support to dogs with back leg weakness and they can make getting up a little easier.
These beds are ideal for dogs of all ages.
Provides extra relief to dogs suffering from joint pain, recovering from surgery, or living with conditions like arthritis, hip dysplasia, or other joint, bone, or muscle disorders.
The thick memory foam base supports your dog’s joints and pressure points; great for all dogs, but especially those with arthritis, recovering from surgery, or other mobility issues. I recently got this bed and I was impressed with the quality.
These beds are great for dogs that like to step up onto things to take a nap. The cot style beds elevate your dog off the ground, allowing the air to flow around them.
A breathable mesh center allows warm body heat to escape from beneath the pet thus contributing to keeping them cool while they lounge around. Raising your pet off the ground offers joint-relief for your pets that struggle with lying on a hard ground as well.
These mats provide dogs relief from heat, muscle and joint pain, making it an ideal treatment for senior animals or for pets with health conditions.
Dog boots can be of great benefit to dogs that have a hard time getting up on laminate or ceramic tile. They can give a dog just enough traction to get up without their back legs splaying.
Designed and proudly made in Canada, the original Muttluks have superior performance offering “pawsitiverelief”. Flexible soles are comfortable and adaptive to paw shape and movement. We love our Muttluks!
Pawz is the most natural-feeling boot your dog can wear because without padding your dog feels the ground, providing a needed sense of security. Like a sock, Pawz moves with your dog, allowing full paw motion and maximum comfort.
These dog boots provide everyday traction and paw protection from extreme temperatures, abrasive surfaces, and salt or other snowmelt chemicals. What’s nice about Ruffwear boots is that you can buy a pair or all 4.
Toe Grips are like little plastic rings that wrap around your dog’s nail and helps him gain traction without slipping and sliding when he gets up and walks around.
Dog socks offer the same type of purpose as dog boots but they are solely for indoor use. They are easier to get on and off and they come in a range of sizes and styles.
Non-slip dog socks have worked great for Leroy who struggles sometimes getting up on our laminate floors. They definitely offer him more stability in both the front and back legs.
Depending on what condition is causing back leg weakness for a dog, some may benefit from the added support of braces.
A knee brace can help stabilize a dog’s cruciate tear so that a dog can sit, stand, walk and be active safely.
Hock braces provide support to dog rear leg from injuries with torn cruciate ligaments and sprains and can offer stability and mobility caused by arthritis.
I recently bought hock braces for Sherman and after using them a few times I didn’t see much of a difference but I’m revisiting them with a different regimen for him.
The No-Knuckling Rear Training Sock is a temporary training tool designed to enhance proprioception in pets with neurological deficits.
The sensory stimulation acts as a reminder for pets to lift their limb higher. It can be utilized as a gait retraining tool.
The lightweight nature of the neoprene is designed to target pets with hind limb weakness. This has been a product that’s been very helpful with Leroy’s back leg weakness.
Lift harnesses can be a huge help to both a dog and owner when back legs aren’t in good working order. They put less strain on the dog and less strain on the human’s back
The Help ‘Em Up Harness comes highly recommended by most Newfie owners. It’s a great harness for big dogs recovering from surgery or for senior dogs suffering from orthopedic problems.
The Gingerlead harness is easy to put on and take off. It offers support for the back end and is good for senior or disabled dogs.
This lift harness is similar to the Help ‘Em Harness and it can be used for rear only support, front only support or full body support
A DIY lift harness can easily be made in an emergency situation when a lift harness is not available. It can offer rear end support for a short amount of time, such as getting an injured dog to the car or down the steps. It should only be used until a lift harness can be purchased
The original dog wheelchair, the K9 Cart is designed for dogs that suffer from hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and spinal injuries. It keeps disabled dogs active and happy.
Walkin’ Wheels is an adjustable dog wheelchair that is available overnight and can be set up in minutes. It’s another great wheelchair that keeps disabled dogs and dog with back leg weakness active and happy.
Wagons are great for big dogs with limited mobility. They’re good for dogs who still have use of their back legs but can’t walk as far as the used to. They make including your dog in everyday activities a little easier.
Ramps and Steps
Ramps and steps can be a great help to senior dogs with back leg weakness that still love to go for rides in cars. They make it much easier to load and unload the dog from the dog without causing injury.
High-traction walking surface gives pets a sure footing. The ultra-stiff design utilizes four rubber feet to keep the ramp stable while in use.
Pet Loader makes a variety of dog steps that fold down.
The multiple steps make for a low angle of entry which may help skittish dogs feel more comfortable.
Additional steps to help back leg weakness in dogs may be adding in supplements, pain medication, therapy, massage exercises and diet change recommended by a veterinarian.
Back leg weakness in senior dogs doesn’t mean that the end is near. With new products hitting the pet market every day, senior dogs have more options than ever to help keep them moving!
p.s. I did not include strollers in this list because I have not seen a stroller big enough for a Newf. Strollers are a great way for small to medium sized dogs to get around and our friends at Go Pet-Friendly wrote a great article on them!