Overview of Canine Limping (Lameness)
Canine lameness, or limping, can be caused by any underlying reason for a dog to have pain. Any decrease in an animal’s ability to bear weight on a limb or a decrease in the normal mobility and function of a limb can be considered lameness. Lameness can be extremely subtle or profound, affecting one limb or several limbs. It can be intermittent or constant, worse in the morning, worse at night, worse after rest, worse after or during exercise.
There is no breed, age or sex predeliction for lameness. Lameness may be associated with a traumatic event, such as being hit by a car, or it may develop gradually, as in a bone tumor in an affected leg. The underlying cause of a lameness may be life threatening or it may be detrimental to a good quality of life such as debilitating and painful hip dysplasia and its associated arthritis.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Lameness in Dogs
Treatment of Lameness in Dogs
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.
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.