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Lameness (Limping) in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Restriction often lasts for four to six weeks and requires, in most cases, confinement to a single room, restriction from going up or down stairs, avoiding slippery surfaces such as tile, hardwood floors or linoleum, and leash walking for bathroom trips only. In some instances your vet may recommend cage or crate rest, which means the "single room" is replaced by a cage or crate, depending on the size of your pet. If this kind of restriction promises to prove difficult, then this problem should be discussed with your vet so that alternative treatment options may be adopted

Following many types of limb surgery, a soft-padded bandage may be placed on the leg to offer comfort, reduce some of the normal postoperative swelling, and provide some support. Because it is not possible to observe the surgical incision for any problems, it is imperative to check the toes on a daily basis for swelling, excessive heat or pain. If your pet is persistently trying to chew the bandage and is not behaving normally in any other respect, a bandage change might be helpful to evaluate the surgical site. Similar care would apply if a limb was in a splint or cast.

If your pet has a visible incision it should be checked daily for swelling, redness or discharge. Stitches or staples will need to be removed in 10-14 days following surgery.

Some dogs just do not tolerate a bandage very well, despite the absence of complications at the surgical site. Elizabethan collars can be helpful in most instances, but in some cases the bandage should be removed if it becomes more trouble than it is worth.

In some instances, passive range of motion, particularly after certain surgical procedures like FHO, will be demonstrated at the time of discharge in order to maximize postoperative range of motion in a joint.

Follow-up visits with your vet will be important to re-evaluate the lameness or to assess the healing from surgical intervention. Further radiographs may be indicated at this time.

Return to normal use of a limb after surgery should be done slowly and gradually. Start with five minutes of leash walk, twice a day for a week, building up to ten minutes twice a day for a week and so on. Don't be in a hurry. Start to introduce stairs and short periods off leash slowly.

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