Do Dogs Legs Fall Asleep? Dog Leg Numbness Simplified

You might have noticed your dog limping after lying down for a while. And this might have you wondering – do dogs legs fall asleep?

Dogs’ legs can fall asleep, just like humans. This occurs when there’s restricted blood flow or nerve compression. It is usually a harmless condition, however, there may be cases when your dog needs help.

What is paresthesia in dogs?

Paresthesia is a term used to describe abnormal sensations like tingling, numbness, or a “pins and needles” feeling. It’s a phenomenon that happens when the nerves of the limbs are compressed for a while. This is usually due to the dog lying on its limbs while trying to rest. Your dog’s damaged nerves can not send proper signals between the brain and the limb. Sometimes, the compression also decreases the blood flow to the limbs.

This leg numbness in dogs is common and it is nothing to worry about. However, if it lasts for a long time and occurs more often, it might require attention.

What are the common causes of dog leg tingling?

There are a few other dog leg numbness causes that every owner should know. Some of these might require attention from a vet.

Activity levels

Dogs that don’t move very much are more prone to developing this condition. This is because their muscles and joints become stiff and they tend to lie down more.

That said, dogs that are extremely active may also suffer from the same condition. This is because they might overexert their muscles without properly warming up. Once they do lie down to rest, they might not be aware of their position and cause paresthesia. You may also see your dog’s paw pad peeling due to overuse.


Dogs like being active and often they injure themselves while doing so. A broken bone is a painful situation, but some dogs can hide it well and only seem like their leg has fallen asleep. Muscle tears are also very painful and affect the dog’s movement.

Another reason why dogs can experience leg numbness is a slipped disc, that also goes with neck and back pain. Most injuries can be noticed by examining the dog and looking for additional symptoms.


A common reason that affects the dog’s leg movement is the inflammation of the joints called arthritis. This is because a lot of breeds are prone to developing hip dysplasia. This condition develops when the ball and socket joints of the hips develop improperly and misalign. With time, inflammation happens and the dog can not move properly. Certain breeds are more prone to this condition and include German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Saint Bernards.

Age-related illnesses

A common reason why dogs’ legs fall asleep is panostheitis. This happens in puppies that are in the process of growing and it is referred to as “growing pains. It will cause the puppy to limp on one leg for a while.

Older dogs can sometimes feel pain and stiffness in their joints during very cold weather. Joint injuries are also more common in elderly dogs that tend to fall over often. These dogs also take more medications and some may have leg numbness as a side effect. “Hind leg weakness may be a sign of incoordination in dogs, usually associated with too high a dose of gabapentin.” according to an article by Dr. Carmen Pope.

How can you recognize canine leg tingling?

There are a few clear signs of leg numbness in dogs that you can notice. This includes the following:

  • Limping – Usually appearing on the dog’s hind legs, or whichever leg the dog likes to sleep on.
  • Lethargy – The dog may seem reluctant to stand up and move around like it usually does. It will seem tired and unsteady once it gets on its feet.
  • Changes in reflexes –  A lack of response, when you touch your dog’s legs, means that its reflexes are not as sharp as they should be.
  • Paw dragging – If your dog drags its paw or knuckles on the ground, it might indicate numbness.
  • Shaking and restlessness – Some dogs become restless or agitated when they experience leg tingling. They might shake once they do stand up though.
  • Awkward movements – Dogs with numb legs may struggle to coordinate their movements, leading to stumbling or falling.

How to help a dog that has problems with its movement?

If your dog is suffering from this condition, there are things you can do to help it. Treating dog leg numbness can be done in a few different ways.

Physical therapy

This means taking the dog to a certified professional who can help your dog by doing tailored exercises for its limbs. This helps improve your pet’s health, mobility, and strength in its muscles.

Chiropractic care

Certified canine chiropractors work by making chiropractic adjustments to the dog’s spinal vertebrae and limbs. This helps alleviate nerve pressure and restore proper nerve function.


This is a therapy in which a dog is placed into a pool and doing treadmill exercises and swimming. These activities help because they don’t put weight on the dog’s limbs while still letting it improve its muscle strength.

Massage and medication

A massage therapist can help your dog by kneading the muscles and improving the blood flow to the limbs. Thus, the muscles get warmed up and the numbness will decrease. Certain medications for pain or inflammation can also help with this condition.

How to prevent dogs’ legs from falling asleep?

If you want to prevent this condition from ever happening to your dog, you can try to do a few things.

  • Nail trimmingCut your dog’s nails regularly to prevent them from growing too big. Long nails can cause pressure on the nerves of the limbs, causing tingling.
  • Leash management – Don’t let the leash be too tight around your dog when taking it for a walk. Avoid using retractable leashes that can cause sudden jerks that can injure the legs.
  • Leg massages – Massages can improve blood circulation in your dog’s legs. Make sure you are gentle and avoid areas that seem really painful.
  • Exercise moderation – Ensure your dog gets enough exercise but avoid overexertion, especially in hot weather. Too much and too little of anything is bad.
  • Comfortable bedding – Provide a comfortable and well-padded sleeping area to prevent awkward sleeping positions during naps.

When should you consult a veterinarian?

If you notice your dogs’ legs falling asleep, you need to watch out for additional symptoms. Serious symptoms like paralysis and reoccurrence of the condition should alarm you. The same is true for dogs that leave odorless wet spots by not being able to control their urination. Dr. Thomas Schubert for the MSD Veterinary Manual explains that:

Paralysis of a front leg is usually associated with injury to the nerve roots in the neck or shoulder, injury to the network of nerves found deep in the armpit (brachial plexus), or injury to the radial, median, musculocutaneous, or ulnar nerve in the leg. Paralysis of a hind leg is usually associated with injury to the nerve roots in the lower back or tailbone, the network of nerves located between the spinal cord and the hind leg (lumbosacral plexus), or the femoral, sciatic, peroneal, or tibial nerve in the leg.

Your vet will thoroughly examine your dog and perform all necessary tests to come to a diagnosis. Once they know what the problem with your dog is, they will propose a treatment plan.

Do dogs legs fall asleep? – Final thoughts

You will often see your dog sleeping on its limbs and getting up to not being able to move properly. This is a completely normal thing and is referred to as paresthesia or peripheral neuropathy in dogs. The most common reason for it is restriction of the blood flow or pinching of the nerves that serve the limb.

That said, some injuries can also cause the dog to limp and move improperly. Arthritis and growing pains are other common health issues that cause this condition. The dog will usually seem lethargic and drag its paws on the floor before getting back to normal.

If you want to help your dog, you can get an appointment with a physical therapist, or try other sorts of therapy that relieve its muscles and joints. Proper grooming and care also play a crucial part in preventing leg numbness.


Are there specific dog breeds more prone to leg numbness?

While leg numbness can affect any breed, larger dogs or those with certain anatomical predispositions may be more susceptible. Breeds that are prone to overeating and obesity may also have this more often.

Are there any preventative measures for dog leg numbness during travel?

Dogs legs do fall asleep during travel and you can help them by making frequent breaks and providing comfortable seats. Make sure the dog is properly restrained to prevent accidents and enable proper ventilation and hydration.

Can dogs fake a limp?

Some dogs are quite smart and can fake limping if they want more attention from their owners. You will need to monitor the dog and figure out if it suffers from a real problem or only wants some love.

More dog health resources

Here are a few other resources talking about dog health.

You can find a lot more information on how to keep your dog healthy on our site Dogisa!

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