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Why Can't My Dog Stand on His Back Legs?

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

There are many possible reasons a dog might suddenly lose the ability to stand. Unfortunately, it is rarely possible to tell what is going on with a physical exam alone.

There are many possible reasons a dog might suddenly lose the ability to stand. Unfortunately, it is rarely possible to tell what is going on with a physical exam alone.

What Kind of Tests Should I Do for a Dog That Can't Stand Up?

"I have a pug who's 8 years old. Right now, he can't stand on his hind legs. The vet tested him for Addison's and the blood test was good. He will drink water but will not eat. What else do you think they should check for? They are getting ready to check his thyroid...do you think that could be it?" —Wesley

Possible Causes of Sudden Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs

The problem with not being able to stand is that there are many possible causes and it is not possible to tell what is going on with a physical exam. (1) That is why there are so many tests being done.

If they are testing your Pug for Addison's and thyroid disease, it is because he is too weak to stand (rather than being unable to stand because of an injury or a herniated disc). Diseases that can cause a dog to be that weak are:

  • Pug myelopathy
  • Addison's disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Systemic lupus
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Anemia (numerous causes)
  • Circulation problems (heart or lung disease)
  • Arthritis and muscle wasting
  • Lyme disease

The veterinarians you are seeing have already done a physical exam, a neurological test, and basic bloodwork (to rule out infection and check electrolytes). Since they tested for Addison's, I am assuming they found electrolyte abnormalities but no anemia.

If the thyroid test also comes back normal, the next step would be to test for Lyme disease and then check for lupus. The only reason these tests are not done immediately is financial; if the test for Addison's had confirmed that diagnosis, you would not need to pay for the other tests. If those tests are also normal, your veterinarian might suggest an ultrasound.

How to Encourage Your Dog to Eat

I was also concerned when you said your dog was not eating. Is he eating less or has he stopped eating entirely? Not eating much can be because of depression secondary to pain, but this article will give you some tips on getting your dog to eat. If he has completely stopped eating, he may need to be hospitalized and tube fed.

Source

(1) Shelton GD. Routine and specialized laboratory testing for the diagnosis of neuromuscular diseases in dogs and cats. Vet Clin Pathol. 2010 Sep;39(3):278-95. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20726955/

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Mark dos Anjos DVM