Weakness in the Rear Legs of Golden Retrievers

By Noreen Wainwright

The golden retriever is a popular dog that is now often kept as a family pet, rather than for its original purpose of hunting. Owners should be aware the breed can tend to have hip problems called hip dyplasia. Some hip dyplasia problems are genetic. However, your golden retriever may develop a problem in its rear legs, even if its parents did not. This genetic predisposition may be unpredictable and skip a generation.

Presentation of the Problem

The problem of rear leg weakness might be obvious because of the way the dog walks. You might even notice a shake in the back legs and your dog might sit down suddenly. The dog might not want to exercise. You might even notice the dog is in obvious pain. In an acute situation, such as the case of a dog being involved in an accident, the injury could need urgent treatment.


Some dogs are predisposed to have leg, hip and joint problems. Veterinarian Scott A. Krick, in an article in the Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue Golden Opportunities newsletter, disputes the theory that joint and limb problems are caused by a rich diet and too much exercise. However, Krick states that excessive protein and too much exercise will exacerbate the problem, or even precipitate it, in a genetically predisposed dog.


Specific problems can be difficult to diagnose by just a physical examination. The muscles around the dog's joints can make it hard for a veterinarian to feel around for the tell-tale signs of leg and hip weakness. A diagnosis will be even more challenging if the dog's leg is swollen or the animal is in pain. An X-ray and ultrasound examination will be more conclusive.


If there has been trauma to the joints or limbs caused by an accident, treatment will focus on dealing with the damage. If the problem is minor, treatment probably will not be necessary. The veterinarian might advise the owner to give the dog supplements, such as glucosamine sulfate or glycoflex. Sometimes, painkillers or steroids will be prescribed, but these treat the symptoms rather than the cause. In some situations, surgery might be necessary.