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Lameness (Limping) in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Treatment In-depth

If conservative management, that is rest and the use of ant-inflammatory medications, is suggested, then it is imperative to adhere to the recommendations made by your vet. Many cases of lameness are caused by soft tissue injuries, like pulled muscles, ligament and tendon sprains and strains, and in most cases will not require specific diagnosis or treatment. But most dogs will not limit their own exercise for a sufficient period of time to allow proper healing to occur. Exercising too fast and too hard after an inadequate period of rest can re-injure or exacerbate the problem.

Sometimes the conservative treatment approach is used as a test of the severity of the problem. If after a period of restriction the lameness has not improved, your vet will have to believe that his/her suspicions of a minor cause were not correct.

There are obviously a multitude of levels of surgical intervention dependent on the underlying cause of the lameness, the number of limbs involved and concurrent problems. For more minor procedures, like removal of a plantar wart on a foot pad, a dog may be discharged the same day. In the case of multiple pelvic fractures, which may take many hours of anesthesia and surgical time to repair, a dog may be severely debilitated, needing intensive supportive care, intravenous fluids, intravenous or transdermal narcotics for alleviation of pain and indwelling urinary catheter. Such patients will require around the clock nursing care until they reach a point in their recovery at which their management can be performed at home.

Dogs are marvelously resilient and durable creatures. Despite receiving highly invasive treatment options, such as a total hip replacement, or a plate and screw fixation of a femur fracture, dogs can be up and around the day after such surgeries, in many cases using the surgical leg almost 100 percent.

In cases where a lameness is caused by a bone tumor, necessitating an amputation, almost all dogs are up and around the next day, invariably with a much improved attitude, because they are no longer carrying the painful tumor on the lame leg.


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