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Lameness (Limping) in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Treatment

  • Treatment may be as simple, such as rest for a few days for a minor tendon or muscle sprain, or it may be as involved as major orthopedic or neurologic surgery for severe hip dysplasia or an acute intervertebral disk extrusion.

  • In some cases the exact cause of lameness may not be obvious. A period of exercise restriction and rest may be suggested, perhaps with an anti-inflammatory medication in order to see if the problem responds to such a conservative approach. Failure to respond may suggest a more serious problem that necessitates more detailed diagnostic tests.

  • Surgical treatment will almost always necessitate postoperative hospitalization during which time your pet will receive analgesics, pain-killers, to ensure a smooth and comfortable recovery.

    Home Care

    Following a surgical procedure you will need to enforce a period of rest and restriction. This may not prove too difficult at first; however, in the case of many healing fractures, it will need to last at least six weeks, and your pet may not want to be restricted.

    Some lameness problems may be treated with a cast, splint or soft-padded bandage. This will need to be kept clean and dry and, where appropriate, the toes at the bottom of the bandage should be checked daily for swelling, sweating or pain.

    Follow your veterinarian's instructions carefully with regard to medications such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs, and there may be a need for follow-up x-rays or a follow-up visit with your vet. If the lameness is resolving, gradually re-introduce exercise over a period of several weeks.

    Preventive Care

    Lameness problems arise during normal everyday activity. Severe injuries such as falling from a height or being hit by a car can be avoided by good containment of your pet and appropriate use of a leash.

    Certain lameness problems may be associated with certain breeds e.g. hip dysplasia, patella luxation, elbow dysplasia. Choosing your dog carefully, checking the parents and having regular veterinary check-ups can go a long way to reducing many risks for lameness.

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