Are your dog’s back legs weak after a seizure?
Suffering a seizure can be very frightening for our furry friends, but so too for their owners.
If it’s the first time it’s impossible not to experience panic and distress, wondering how long the seizure will last, what caused it and what the after-effects will be.
Have you noticed your dog ambling around at a much smaller pace than usual? Maybe you’ve noticed they’re avoiding standing on their back legs at all.
Let’s take a look at some of the effects a seizure can have on dogs and whether it’s normal for their legs to struggle so much in the aftermath.
We’ll explore whether certain dogs are more susceptible than others, how long the effects will last, and whether you can exercise your dog’s legs back to health.
As always, if worried about your dog’s behaviour, you should seek advice from a veterinarian.
What is epilepsy and can it cause weakness in a dog’s back legs?
A cause for the seizure could be epilepsy. Epilepsy is a condition that causes repeated seizures.
It’s the most common neurological disorder in dogs.
Abnormal electrical activity in the brain causes sudden changes in the body’s movement, such as convulsions.
Dogs can feel weakness in their legs after a seizure.
This is a disorder caused by ataxia, which affects balance, coordination and speech.
The dog can lose muscle control in their legs, leading to difficulties with walking and balance.
Tremendous stress is applied to the joints during a seizure and your dog’s limbs may take a few days to recover.
Is a seizure more likely to affect the front or back legs?
It’s more the back legs that will be affected.
Why the back legs instead of the front?
Simply put, dogs are far more reliant on their back legs.
Whilst the seizure will also affect the front legs, it’s a lot less noticeable.
If the back legs are more affected than the front, it could be possible that the seizure caused temporary paralysis of the spinal cord.
In this situation, it’s important to try and get your dog moving again as much as possible, to avoid the muscles atrophying further.
What are the other main side effects of seizures?
Are there any other side effects?
The most common type of seizure is a ‘grand mal’ seizure.
Dogs convulse and lose consciousness.
But there are other side effects.
Dogs can foam at the mouth, drool excessively and lose control of their bladder or bowel.
The facial muscles can twitch too, causing the mouth to open and close violently.
The leg and neck muscles can also stiffen.
You can also look out for paddling motions with the legs or a vacant expression on the face, as well as the eyes rolling back and forth.
Whilst some dogs are able to continue as normal, it’s not uncommon to see some remain dazed for up to 24 hours afterwards.
There may also continue to be weakness in the legs.
How long could this weakness last?
It’s natural to worry about the weakness your dog is feeling.
Typically, it can last for 24 hours.
It may also be accompanied by general disorientation or confusion.
The post-seizure recovery period may also see temporary blindness, or increased urination and thirst.
Whilst it may appear concerning, it’s important to consider the strain your dog has gone through if they’ve had a seizure.
Their body needs time to recover.
Should you walk your dog after a seizure?
As your dog needs time to recover, you may be wondering what to do about their daily walk?
Some dogs recover from a seizure straight away and will be their normal bubbly, hyperactive self.
In this scenario, take them out for exercise as usual, but just keep a close eye on them.
It may also be best to not overdo it on the same day.
Recovery for other dogs can take 24 hours.
If your dog is still struggling to shake off the effects of the seizures, hold off the walk for now.
But there are still many ways your dog can shake off boredom.
You can grab their toy basket and see if they fancy playing tug-o’-war with a squeaky bone.
Or maybe they want to try and shred their favourite teddy bear to bits!
Engaging your dog in concentration games, particularly following a seizure, can help to build cognitive function. It can also just lift their mood!
Suffering a seizure is a very bewildering and traumatic experience, and it’s a good idea to keep your pet pooch in a positive mood.
The key is exercising in moderation but utilising maximum brain power.
Apart from epilepsy, what are the main causes of weak back legs in dogs?
Although, it’s not just epilepsy that causes a dog’s hind legs to weaken. Chronic joint inflammation can be a cause.
The dog will feel a lot of pain when pressing down on their legs, so they may decide to avoid using them as much as possible.
This in turn, however, naturally weakens the muscles further due to lack of use.
Degenerative myelopathy can also cause weakness and loss of coordination in back legs. You’ll see your dog start to drag their legs.
Arthritis, diabetes and hip dysplasia can also be major causes. If you notice something unusual, it’s also good to get a second opinion from a veterinarian.
It’s not all necessary, though. Your dog could simply be overweight and feel the strain in their legs!
Are there any simple exercises to strengthen a dog’s back legs?
Naturally, you’re going to hope your dog can return to its best in no time.
However, sometimes they need some support, especially in the form of exercise.
The easiest way to begin is by keeping a short lease on your dog and signalling that you’d like them to slowly move all of their weight onto the legs.
This can also be done with a rear support harness.
A dog can also strengthen its back legs by exercising on a treadmill in water or walking up steep inclines.
What are the main medications used to treat epilepsy in dogs and is a side effect that a dog’s back legs go weak?
If your dog has regular seizures and is given a diagnosis of epilepsy, the medication they may receive is Phenobarbitone.
This is by far the fastest-acting medication for epilepsy. You can start to see changes in two weeks.
The sedative is administered orally and helps the dog to reach a relaxed state by stabilising neuron activity in the brain.
Other side effects are agitation, anxiety and increased thirst.
Can a weakness in the back legs cause a dog to be incontinent?
Has your dog ever suffered from incontinence whilst suffering from a weakness in the back legs?
It’s natural to think both are linked, although it’s almost certain both derive from the same cause: that is, a seizure.
Neurological disorders can directly affect the bladder.
Seizures pile enormous pressure on the body and it could be that the nerves controlling the bladder have been temporarily disrupted.
There is also a chance it could be due to anxiety.
What dog breeds are most likely to suffer from epilepsy?
Are certain dog breeds more likely to have an epileptic fit than others? The answer is, unfortunately, yes.
Large breed dogs such as the St. Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog or Shetland Sheepdog are particularly vulnerable.
So too The Poodle, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Dachshund, English Springer Spaniel and Beagle.
What dog breeds are most likely to have weak back legs?
When it comes down to which dogs are also likely to have weak back legs, sadly the larger breed dogs fall into this category too.
It’s also more common for older dogs, as they have less capacity to support themselves as they get older, or overweight dogs.
Looking after your dog in early life and taking them on lots of walks can mean that later in life, their legs are stronger and less susceptible to vulnerability.
So, why are your dog’s legs weak after a seizure? Seizures place an enormous strain on the body. It’s no surprise there should be some after-effects. Neurological
Fortunately, you can help your dog to exercise their back legs. Or, if necessary, you can allow them to rest while remaining entertained through games.
Alongside weak legs, it’s important to look out for other symptoms
If you have a large breed dog or one abundant in age or weight, they are far more likely to both suffer seizures and experience weak legs in the aftermath.
You can help to prepare them for later life by doing regular leg exercises.