What is lameness? Lameness in dogs is any decrease in the dog’s ability to bear weight on a leg. Sometimes even a vet can not always tell by eye or feel if a bone is broken. If your dog is limping badly and you suspect a fracture, have an x-ray taken. Most cases of limping or lameness are not serious, but dog lameness can be a clinical sign of a more serious disorder.
What are the causes of limping in dogs? There are three common problems that can cause dog limping or a weakness of your dog’s hind legs. They are disc prolapse of the back, pelvic fractures, and instability of the neck bones. Pelvic fractures are common injuries when dogs are hit by cars. Disc prolapse in the nick can produce pain down one or both front legs, since the nerves for sensation and movement for the front legs originate in the neck area. A disc prolapse in the back can produce pain, weakness, or paralysis of the back legs and loss of bowel and urine control. Pekingese, dachshunds, miniature poodles, french bulldogs, and cocker spaniels have a high incidence of disc disease. Instability of the cervical vertebrae is seen especially in doberman pinschers 1-2 years of age and Great Danes. A wobbly gait develops in the rear legs, and the spinal cord become compressed by the unstable neckbones.
Why is my dog limping? There are other reasons for canine limping. Thorns, pain, tar can stick to your dog’s front pad and between the toes. The dog tries to chew off these substances. This causes the paws to become irritated. The irritation makes your dog tender on the paw and then lame. Hot spots between the toes or footpads are another cause. Ligaments are tissues that connect the bones of a joint and give it stability during movement. Sometimes these are strained, sprained, or completely torn. The knee of the dog is the most common ligament sprain or complete tear. The anterior cruciate ligament prevents the knee bones from rubbing together, so a partial or complete tear will cause severe pain. Your vet will be able to determine the degree of tearing.
Another cause of a dog limp is osteoporosis, which can be seen in growing puppies that are fed a diet with the wrong balance of calcium and phosphorus and not enough vitamin D. The calcium is the lost from the bones. The puppy is reluctant to walk, has pain in the legs, and may stand with it’s paws turned inward. It’s bones are fragile and fracture easily.
Osteoarthritis which is bony changes in the join is the result of joint instability that were not or can not be corrected satisfactorily, of joint injuries, or of the aging process. After sleeping, or lying down, your pet is stiff and feels pain that seems to get better as your dog moves around during the day.
Dislocation of the hip joint are occasionally seen in dogs that have been hit by cars. The hip joint is a snug ball and socket arrangement. Trauma can tear the muscles and tendons over the hip and pop the ball out of the socket, causing a dislocation, or a luxation of the hip joint. The dog may not be able to place the leg on the ground if the hip is dislocated. Fractures of the pelvis can accompany traumatic injury to the hips.
Treatment involves time and activity restriction for a few days. Aspirin can be give to dogs to decrease the pain and inflammation.
Any canine limping that gets worse or last longer than three days should be checked by your vet.