Why does my dog kick his back legs?

Why Does My Dog Kick His Back Legs Randomly?

Why does my dog kick his back legs randomly? Well, perhaps it isn’t random. Kicking back legs is an instinctive behavior among canines. Sometimes, it might seem as though your furry buddy is preparing to attack, but it’s typically a harmless behavior. Your pup could be trying to remove something from her legs, marking her territory, or simply excited. But it could mean a lot more.

In this post, we’ll explain several possible reasons behind “why does my dog kick his back legs like a bull?” You’ll want to know if it’s something to worry about.

What are Kicking Back Legs in Dogs?

If kicking back legs has become a common behavior for your dog, like earlier stated, it is natural. However, in some cases, it can mean something serious. Let’s see the most common instances that could lead to such behavior:

  • Making of territory
  • Active REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycles
  • Muscle spasms
  • Medial patellar luxation
  • A degenerative joint disease of the hip

If your pup is drinking, eating, and acting normally, she’s likely not suffering from anything or in danger. But you should still take your dog to the vet if you suspect anything. While it is not immediate, several causes of kicking back legs and spams in dogs can lead to long-term damage.

dog back leg spasm

Kicking Back Legs in Dogs: Explained

Your pup kicking back her legs can be an illness or a behavioral issue. If she’s only marking her territory, it is not a problem for her health. Nonetheless, other causes can be of serious danger, and you should take your pet to the vet for a checkup.

Marking of Territory

It is normal to see dogs kicking up dirt and kicking back their legs against the ground after the washroom. Some assume that they’re only trying to cover their privacy, just as cats would. However, this is not true.

The most common reason dogs behave this way is to mark their territory. There are scent glands at the back of a canine’s feet, so when they kick their legs against the ground, they are trying to warn off other dogs with their scent. Dominant dogs mostly act this way to leave their scent behind for other dogs to stay away. At the same time, submissive dogs do it only to inform others of their presence.

Active REM Cycles

Some canines with severely active REM cycles can experience muscle spasms and leg jerks during their rest. It only happens when your pet is sleeping and mostly occurs in older and younger dogs since their sleep cycles are much different compared to young adult dogs.

If your dog would not wake up, she could be experiencing seizures during her sleep which is why she’s kicking her legs and performing other movements like twitching. As soon as you wake a dog from a seizure, they’ll likely show coordination problems and confusion. But if you could awaken your pet, then it was most likely not a seizure.

Muscle Spasms

Dogs with uncontrollable rhythmic spasms can experience petit mal seizures. This illness affects tiny groups of muscles in a single area. That said, grand mal seizures are more serious than petit mal seizures. With grand mal seizures, your pet will experience total loss of consciousness, uncontrollable muscle contractions in the entire body, and possible loss of urine continence and stool.

A grand mal seizure has a higher chance of resulting in increased body temperature and then brain damage. Arthritis, infections, nerve inflammation and damage, and disturbances in electrolytes and minerals can as well cause muscle spasms. They can also be caused by physical injury, overexertion, or neurological damage.

Dogs who engage in strenuous physical activities or don’t take enough fluids can suffer muscle spasms as a result of interruptions in their muscle contractions. They are very easy to spot and come as twitching or tremors in one part of your dog’s body. They also react to touches. Since muscle spasms usually arise from another injury or medical condition, you’ll most likely notice other symptoms apart from the muscle spasms. Signs of pain, depression, and lameness are often noticed.

Medial Patellar Luxation

This is a situation where a knee cap moves out of place. Medial patellar luxation is a common orthopedic condition in dogs and happens in about 7% of pups. It can happen to any dog breed but is more common among small dogs, especially Chihuahuas, Boston Terriers, Miniature Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Pomeranians.

Predisposed larger dogs are Chinese Shar-Pei, Flat-coated Retrievers, Akitas, and Great Pyrenees. In some of the cases, it affects both hind knees of the dog. And in other cases, it affects only one knee. This disease can result from an injury to your pet’s knee or could happen to dogs with swollen femoral grooves.

Medial patellar luxation can also result from abnormal malformation or conformation of the hip joint, the femur, or the tibia, tightness of muscles, or deviation of the femur crest.

The signs vary depending on how severe it is. If your furry buddy is affected, she’ll most likely hold up her limb or skip for a couple of steps and extend the affected leg out. If the disease has gotten more serious, the lameness will grow more frequently.

Pups with this condition can also have a bowlegged look that gets worse as they grow into adults. At the same time, bigger dog breeds tend to look like they have knocked-in knee. However, over time as their knee moves out of place more often, it can wear down the cartilage, thereby exposing the bone. That will lead to severe pain and arthritis.

Degenerative Joint Disease of the Hip

DJD (Degenerative Joint Disease) happens when the cartilage covering and protecting the end of bones in movable joints is lost. This cartilage doesn’t have nerves, so when bones move against each other, there’s no pain.

However, if that cartilage disappears, your dog will experience severe pains as the bone robs against each other. There’ll also be inflammation as well as other symptoms of arthritis. DJD is a progressive condition, which means it grows worse with time. It can occur due to the wear and tear of a bone joint and aging. It can also occur due to other diseases, including dysplasia.

Canines with congenital joint issues or those with previous joint injury are likely to DJD. The signs can vary depending on the dog’s age, the severity of the disease, and the joint involved. The first prominent symptom is a skewed gait, followed by a noticeable reduction in your dog’s muscle size. Also, there is a possibility of changes in behavior and appetite, depending on your pet’s level of pain.

You can as well observe reluctance to perform some movements, stiffness in the limbs, increased sleeping, and weight gain. Some dogs can also bite and lick at the affected area.

Why Does My Dog Kick His Back Legs Like a Bull?

Your dog can behave this way due to excitement, leaving behind his scent, or display dominance to other animals. Most often, this is a harmless display driven by instinct. But if it seems unusual and you suspect that your pooch isn’t comfortable, you should get him to the vet.

How can you tell if it’s a problem or not? A dog that is excited or showing dominance is usually agile and frantic, but if he seems to be shaking something off his leg with a disturbed look, then you should be worried.

Why Does My Dog Kick Me When Lying Down?

Your dog kicking you while lying down is typically a playful gesture. Your dog can even kick you and then roll over, showing you his belly. But if your dog is sleeping, then it’s a different thing entirely. He’s most likely dreaming and performing the scenes physically, which explains “why does my dog kick his back legs when sleeping.”

Dogs kick in their sleep because they also go through sleep stages like humans. So, when they are in their REM stage, they begin to dream of playing or chasing another dog. And occasionally, their body shakes or twitch.

why does my dog kick his back legs when sleeping
Image by cate186 from Pixabay

When Is Twitching in a Sleep a Cause for Concern?

Although sleep-twitching is usually nothing to cause for concern, in some cases, such movement is enough to worry about.

According to the owner of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Tennessee, Dr. Kathryn Primm, the sleep movement can be an issue if the twitching starts to interfere with your pet’s sleep. She says, “dogs can experience narcolepsy as well as other sleep disorders, so if you think that the twitching is interrupting or excessive, you should see the vet.”

Excessive twitching might also result from a neuromuscular condition, including seizure activity, electrolyte imbalance due to malnutrition, or tick paralysis. Normally, twitches occur when your dog is paddling his paws, lying on his side, and possibly making a little jump here and there.

Should I Wake My Dog Up from a Bad Dream?

If you’ve ever been woken up from a bad dream, you’ll remember the feelings of fear, confusion, and panic.

So, let your pooch sleep. Waking your dog up from a REM state could startle her, and she could react violently. Even the gentlest dog can react surprisingly. But if your dog seems to be harming herself during this dream, or you can’t bear to watch him shake, you should try calling her name softly.

Try as much as possible not to startle her as that could only enhance the panic when she awakes. When your pup is fully awake, you can comfort her with all she wants.

What are the Signs of a Stroke in Dogs?

Most times, the signs of a stroke in dogs are too subtle and difficult to notice. There are usually no warnings to indicate the possibility of a stroke. Dr. Coates explains that can move from seemingly normal to a quick “severely impaired.”

When left unattended, the issue can grow worse in a short time. Therefore, the longer the treatment is ignored, the greater the chances of permanent neurological damage.

According to AKC (American Kennel Club), here are the common signs that your pet might be suffering from a stroke:

  • Head tilt
  • Abnormal facial expressions or eye movements
  • Circling, pacing, or turning the wrong way when you call her
  • Loss of balance
  • Collapse and loss of consciousness
  • Impaired vision
  • Paralysis in one or more limbs or acute weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of control over bowels and bladder

Nevertheless, it is crucial to note that other conditions can lead to similar signs. One of the common conditions in older dogs resembling the sign of stroke is the Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome.

The vestibular system is a fragile array of structures in the brain and the inner ear, which helps your dog coordinate the position of his eyes, legs, and brain. It also helps them maintain balance.

Image by dife88 from Pixabay

What are the Causes of a Stroke in Dogs?

Dr. McCue suggests that hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes occur most often in older dogs, while spinal strokes are more prevalent in larger, more active dog breeds.

Strokes mostly occur in dogs with persistent health problems. So, if your dog is not constantly moving from one health condition to the other, you should worry less. The (AAHA) American Animal Hospital Association states that dogs are at more risk of suffering from a stroke if they’re currently affected by other illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, Cushing’s disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, kidney disease, among others.

Although your pet’s previous medical history can offer some clues, about 50% of dog strokes have no primary cause.

Sadly, there’s no way proven way to prevent your dog from having a stroke. But maintaining a healthy routine for your dog can keep a stoke away. Frequent checkups with your vet are particularly vital since early detection and treatment of diseases that can lead to stroke could help.

Final Thoughts

There are numerous reasons your dog is kicking his legs, and most often, it is nothing to worry about. However, it is important to observe this behavior as it is easy to tell when he’s doing it out of instinct or discomfort.

Why does my dog kick his back legs randomly? It is not random. He’s excited, marking his territory or telling you it is time for a checkup – observe.

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