When you see your German Shepherd limping on his back leg it can be scary. German Shepherd back leg limping is not normal and is associated with health problems.
German Shepherd limping problems can affect both front and back legs. It is a sign that your dog is experiencing pain in its limbs.
A German Shepherd with back leg limping will lean forward to help take their body weight off the back end. When walking, you will notice the affected hips or the tail rise when the painful leg touches the ground.
So, what causes German Shepherd back leg limping?
Here’s what you need to know about a German Shepherd’s limping back leg and what you can do to help your dog.
Here’s Why German Shepherd limping back leg happens
German Shepherd back leg limping happens due to conditions that specifically affect the back legs which include hip dysplasia, torn ligaments, muscle tears, knee dislocations, lumbosacral disease, and hip flexor muscle strain.
Common problems that cause limping and also affect the back legs include bone fractures, muscle strains, joint dislocations, injury, broken nails, wounds, infections, and diseases such as wobblers syndrome, osteoarthritis, developmental disorders, and cancer of the bone joints and soft tissues.
Common Causes of German Shepherd Limping Back Leg
The common causes of mild or severe German Shepherd back leg limping include:
Hip dysplasia is a common hereditary condition in German Shepherds occurring during the growth stages.
The condition is characterized by loosening of the hip joint which causes pain and difficulty in movement.
As a German Shepherd grows the cartilage of the hip bone wears down and in time develops into muscle loss and arthritis.
Common symptoms of hip dysplasia in German Shepherds include weakness, difficulty in moving, stiffness, pain unusual gait, atrophy or loss of thigh muscles, and back leg numbness.
German Shepherd limping back leg is a strong indicator that a German Shepherd could have hip dysplasia. Lameness in the back leg often occurs in the later stages of the condition.
Ligaments are stretchy, tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two or more bones at the joint. They give a dog joint support and also limit their movement.
They are found around the elbows, hock (canine ankles), stifle joint (canine knee), carpal (wrist), and hip joint.
Torn or strained ligaments from injury happen when a German Shepherd’s joint becomes twisted or overstretched. The tears can be total tears or incomplete tears.
Signs of a torn ligament include bruising, pain, swelling of the limb that does not lessen, the inability to bear weight on the hind legs, limited ability to move the affected joint hence back leg limping, and symptoms that worsen.
Muscle tears in German Shepherds can be caused by an injury that includes direct injury such as broken bones or fractures, indirect injury involving strains from over-stretching during activities, or deep cuts to the muscles.
Signs of muscle tears include pain when the affected leg is touched, back leg limping, bruising muscle swelling, and immediate hind leg numbness.
The common causes of muscle tears include overextension, trauma, inflammation, and neuromuscular disease. Muscle tears are also a risk factor for active lifestyle German Shepherds.
Knee dislocation (stifle luxation)
A German Shepherd with back leg limping could be a result of knee dislocation. Knee dislocation or stifle luxation in a German Shepherd is the dislocation of the femur and tibia bones from the knee cap.
It is a serious injury that occurs from severe high force trauma that compromises the soft tissue structures and ligaments around the knee joint which locates the knee.
Trauma or injury can be caused by falling down the stairs, a bed, getting hit by a car, or a direct blow to the knee or stifle joint.
Because knee dislocation is a result of high force trauma or injury bone fractures may also be present.
Most German Shepherds walk with a dislocated joint or broken leg.
Signs of knee dislocation include agitation, refusal to use the back leg, back leg limping, non-weight-bearing lameness which is the avoidance of putting their body weight on the affected limb when walking, severe soft tissue swelling, extreme pain on the affected leg, and inability to walk or use the leg.
Lumbosacral disease, also known as Cauda Equina syndrome, is a condition that affects the lower spine.
The disease causes narrowing of the spinal canal which compresses the nerves of the lower spine resulting to back pain loss of mobility and inflammation of the muscles and spinal cord in the affected area.
The narrowing of the spinal canal can also be caused by trauma, arthritis, intervertebral disc infection, spinal tumor, congenital malformation, thickening of ligaments, disc protrusion, and herniation.
Male German Shepherds are susceptible to this health condition.
The instability of a German Shepherd’s spine causes:
- An abnormal movement observed as lameness or weakness in the hind legs
- Reluctance to wag their tail
- Worn out nails
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
- Excessive licking of the genital area
- Difficulty in squatting
The reluctance to walk or a slow rise from a lying position, self-mutilation of the feet or tail through obsessive chewing, and rupturing of the last vertebrae which cause paralysis of the rear legs occurs in the progressed stage of the condition.
Hip flexor muscle strain or tear
The hip flexor muscle, also known as iliopsoas muscles, are the many muscles that support the lifting of a dog’s knee (stifle). The muscles also function to flex the hip joint.
Overuse of the muscles and tendons can cause strain or tears. Hip flexor muscle strain can also occur when the muscles are injured, torn, or strained.
This can be due to intense physical activity, for example during agility training, vigorous play, loose footing, or slipping causing which results in sudden muscle contraction.
Hip flexor muscle injuries can also occur when a German Shepherd is trying to compensate for pre-existing orthopedic abnormalities such as torn knee ligaments or hip dysplasia.
The signs of hip flexor muscle strain or tears include:
- German Shepherd back leg limping due to discomfort during hip extension when the hip flexor muscles stretch
- Mild or severe numbness of one or both of the hind limbs which gets worse with exercise
- Reluctance to move up or downstairs or jump because of extension of the hip muscles Non-weight-bearing limping
Superficial digital flexor tendon injury or dislocation
The superficial digital flexor tendon, also known as the Achilles tendon, is located in both the front and hind legs of a German Shepherd and runs along the back of the ankle, heel bones, and toes.
The tendon is responsible for the support and stability station of the hock joint (canine ankle).
Superficial digital flexor tendon injury or dislocation occurs when the tendon tears and slips out of its groove causing numbness of the affected limb.
This is caused by vigorous activity exercise or trauma.
The injury is common in large breed dogs and middle-sized dogs.
The symptoms of back leg limping can be mild or severe which can eventually lead to paralysis of the hind legs and immobility.
German Shepherd back leg limping can be an indication of a serious underlying health problem that might lead to bad outcomes if not left untreated.
Broken legs, fractures, muscle sprains, tears, and disease are all serious conditions that lead to hind leg lameness.
When to seek help for German Shepherd Back leg limping
Limping in German Shepherds is often a sign of an illness or injury. If you notice your German Shepherd limping on its back leg it is important to take immediate action by taking them to the veterinarian.
Do not wait for the limping to become worse especially if other symptoms are present such as lethargy, fever vomiting, difficulty in breathing, confusion, extreme pain, shaking, bleeding, swelling, and change of behavior.
The veterinarian will start by getting information from you about your dog’s medical history, the likely cause of the limping based on your dog’s activities, whether any trauma was involved, as well as if the limping was gradual or sudden.
They will also ask when the limping is worse, that is, whether your dog limps after lying down or after exercise.
A complete physical exam and diagnostic tests are also conducted to investigate the underlying cause to reach a diagnosis.
Other Causes of German Shepherd back leg limping
Common problems that affect both the from and hind legs include:
- Bone fractures
- Muscle strains
- Joint dislocations
- Broken nails
- Diseases (wobblers syndrome, osteoarthritis)
- Developmental disorders
- Cancer of the bone, joints, and soft tissues
Should you examine your German Shepherd's legs?
If your German Shepherd is in severe pain do not examine them. You could worsen the situation by manipulating the broken bones.
Also, because they are in pain they might bite you to warn you not to touch the affected area.
Leave the evaluation to the veterinarian.
Treatment for German Shepherd back leg limping values depends on the cause. This includes:
- Medication and plenty of rest for sprains, arthritis, or minor injuries
- Some injuries may need surgical or non-surgical treatment
- Physical therapy for dislocations
- Anti-inflammatory medication t to reduce inflammation and swelling
Follow-up checkups conducted by your veterinarian are important to ensure that your German Shepherd heals well and long-term conditions such as arthritis are managed well.
Summary: German Shepherd limping back leg
German Shepherd back leg limping is not normal. It can gradually or suddenly occur making a German Shepherd have an unusual gait and in extreme cases cause hind leg lameness.
Limping is an indication of injury or an underlying health condition that causes a German Shepherd to experience pain and inability to walk.
Because the underlying health condition can progress and lead a German Shepherd to lose mobility, always immediately seek medical attention so that your German Shepherd can be examined and treated.