Hind Leg Weakness and Paw Problems


Leg weakness and what causes it
It is not uncommon for cats with diabetes to experience hind leg weakness.  Although leg weakness can occur in dogs, it is much less common than for cats. In technical terms the leg weakness is often called peripheral neuropathy.  Peripheral means at the extremities of the body, and neuropathy means that the nerves that control the leg muscles have been damaged or do not function properly. The weakness may also be due to a loss of muscle mass that results from uncontrolled diabetes. Usually, a definitive diagnosis of nerve damage is not made. Rather, the owner notices that the hind legs are weak and the cat has decreased mobility, or the cat may be walking on its hocks.  The cat may be having a hard time jumping on furniture and in more serious cases, the cat may have a hard time walking.

There are several theories about the exact mechanism of this condition, but overall, leg weakness is due to long period of uncontrolled diabetes and high blood glucose.

Controlling your pet's diabetes is the best way to improve overall health and leg strength. This is a slow process and can take several months, as the leg muscles need time to rebuild their size and strength.  Moderate play and exercise (walking, stretching) can also help improve your cat's leg strength.

Supplements are sometimes used to try to help the cat recover more quickly. Potassium supplements and L-carnitine are often discussed. Methylcobalamin is a form of vitamin B-12 that several cat owners have used and reported seeing rapid improvement in their pet's legs. This is a form of vitamin B-12 that reportedly aids in nerve regeneration.  It is given orally in pill form at a dose of 3 milligrams per day. Note that this is a different form of vitamin B-12 called cyanocobalamin.  More information can be found on Jasper's site.  Before giving any supplement to your pet, you MUST check with your veterinarian.  Without veterinary approval and monitoring, some supplements can be very dangerous to your pet's health.

Personal Experiences


Before Barney Barney was diagnosed, we noticed he was having a hard time getting up stairs and jumping onto the couch.  Since Barney was 14 years old and we had cold weather, I thought his poor mobility was due to age, arthritis, or the cold weather.  It turns out it was hind leg weakness due to the diabetes.  After Barney's diabetes was better controlled, we noticed he was having a much easier time getting around.  His improvement was very gradual, but after about 3 months, he was back to his usual activities.  We did not use any type of dietary supplements. We did encourage him to exercise.  We played with string or feathers on the floor, and encouraged him to follow us around while we walked in the yard. Now he is able to jump on the furniture and onto our laps without any problems!  He has even started climbing trees again! - Donna and Barney.


Shortly Spider after Spider, an 18 year old cat, was diagnosed with diabetes he started experiencing extreme weakness in his hind legs. He could no longer get in and out of bed by himself. We had to cut his litter box down so that he could get in and out. And worst of all, in the evening, when he was tired, he would have to crawl on his belly down the hallway to get to his food. At 18, I thought that was the end of the road. But 6 months later, Spider runs and jumps again! Most of the credit for his improvement has to go to Spider. But we did a few things to help him along. We did not use any supplements. Instead we focused on a few exercises. We started with easy exercises, then progressed to more difficult ones. Sometimes we spent weeks on one exercise. We started with tickling his back feet. He HATED this, but it got him to move his feet. Next, we did "The Baby Walk". I held him around his chest under his front legs and encouraged him to take a few steps, using just his hind legs. Once he regained some of his strength, we started "The Stairs". I would carry him down one flight of stairs and leave him there. This was tough on me! At first, he would just look at me at the top of the stairs and meow pathetically. It broke my heart! But he did eventually climb! He now does two flights of stairs without any problems. Finally, we progressed to "The Walk". We take Spider out for his "rounds" now once a day. We go outside, walk down the deck stairs, and on a good day we walk all the way around the house and up the stairs again. Spider has made a full recovery from his earlier weakness. I think the important thing in recovery is to keep the cat active while working on getting the bgs down. If Spider can do this at age 18, I think there is hope for everyone. - Cara and Spider

Paw Problems
Diabetic dogs usually do not have leg weakness problems, but a few do.  However, dogs and cats tend to be prone to paw problems, particularly infections.  Owners may want to check their pet's paws frequently for any signs of problems.

Leg Weakness and Paw Health Survey


home  education  resources  techniques  site info  contents

Updated January 2002
Copyright. All rights reserved.
This site is for information purposes only.  Please consult your veterinarian.