Lameness in dogs

Lameness in dogs is quite common and the causes are extremely varied. Here we will present an overview and give some advice on what to do with a dog who is limping and has an abnormal gait.

Knowing that it is impossible to cite exhaustively all the causes of lameness. We will describe here only the most frequent.

Obviously, this article can in no way replace a veterinary consultation.

Traumatic lameness

Accidents, falls, fights and other traumas can lead to various injuries:

  • Bruises : benign, they are most often invisible, and fade on their own quickly.
  • Wounds : following a fight, a fall, the penetration of a foreign body (pebble, spikelet) … A wound can be apparent and therefore easily identifiable. Disinfect the wound carefully, protect with a bandage and monitor the progress. If improvement is not rapid, see your veterinarian: a wound that does not heal may be related to an infected lesion or the presence of a foreign body that has penetrated deeper into the paw.
  • Fractures : most often due to road accidents, they are generally quite obvious. Your dog has a sharp pain, he does not put the injured limb, the fractured area will swell, deform. A sore may also be present if it is an open fracture. Often surgery is needed to repair this fracture.
  • Dislocations : your dog does not put his paw down, the dislocated joint (most often hip or elbow) is painful, swollen or deformed but these lesions are sometimes not easy to highlight. A replacement of the dislocated bone will then be performed, without or with surgery to stabilize the joint.

Other injuries

  • Muscle or tendon damage : whether it is stretching, contractures, inflammation or even ruptures, muscle or tendon damage is usually caused by too sudden movements, most often when cold. Depending on the size of the lesion, the area may be more or less swollen but still painful. If the lesion is too large, surgery may be necessary.
  • Ligament damage : it can be a simple strain (the classic sprain) or a complete rupture of the ligaments. It is the most common being the rupture of the cruciate ligaments of the knee. Your dog no longer rests the paw, the knee joint is more or less painful. Depending on the extent of the damage, surgery may be performed.

Lameness in puppies

Apart, of course, from the causes listed above, here are some peculiarities concerning the puppy. Often hereditary, but not necessarily, these lameness will appear during growth, and are more frequently encountered in large breeds.

  • Dysplasia : whether of the elbow or the hip, this malformation of the affected joint will unfortunately only deteriorate over time. The affected puppy has difficulty getting up, has a “swaying” gait and may present with lameness on the limb (s) concerned. If there is undeniably a genetic origin, nutritional conditions (deficiency or excess of vitamins, trace elements, etc.) and environmental conditions (too slippery ground, excessive exercise on a developing skeleton, etc.) can also greatly influence the appearance or not of this pathology. Surgery may then be necessary to correct this malformation.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans : these affections are associated with the detachment of a small piece of cartilage that will float within the joint, like a grain of sand in a cog. They are mainly found in puppies of large breeds and may require surgical treatment.
  • Panosteitis : it is an inflammatory disease of the bone whose origin remains unknown. Its peculiarity is to move from one limb to another, causing pain and lameness. It disappears at the end of growth. An anti-inflammatory treatment will suffice to manage the painful moments.
Lameness in dogs

Lameness related to diseases

  • Osteoarthritis : it corresponds to a progressive destruction of the cartilage of the joints which can go until its complete disappearance. It is the most common cause of lameness in older animals, but it can also affect young animals. This debilitating disease can be relieved well nowadays,
  • Tumors : whether they are bone, muscle or other, they can also be the cause of painful and disabling lameness and are very often of a poor prognosis.
  • Degenerations : most often of medullary origin, they cause paralysis of one or more limbs, unfortunately irreversible.
  • Lyme disease : transmitted by ticks, this disease affects the joints. It tends to develop more and more in France and is unfortunately not always easy to highlight.
  • Other less common illnesses can lead to lameness, the list goes on!

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What to do with a dog that limps

  • Your dog comes back towards you suddenly limping, 2 hypotheses arise:
    • It does not seem too painful to you, does not present any swelling or large visible wound: quietly inspect its paw, the best being to start with one end and then work your way up the length of the limb, looking for a small foreign body , a wound, a hot or painful area … in short, any anomaly. If your search proves unsuccessful, let your pet rest for 48 hours, the chances are that everything will be back to normal quickly. If after 48 hours he is still limping, it is better to consult your veterinarian.
    • He comes back to you very painful, agitated, has lesions that make you suspect a fracture, dislocation … Take him to your veterinarian without delay. Because he may have been the victim of an accident and may present, in addition to his lameness, other lesions which may endanger its survival. Above all, do not use a splint, you risk doing more harm than good.
  • Your dog has a mild lameness that only gets worse, don’t wait, show it to your vet.

Conclusion on a dog that limps

We take advantage of this article to remind you that you should never give medication to your animal without veterinary advice. Certain molecules that are harmless in humans can be dangerous in dogs. In addition, only a veterinarian can make a diagnosis and give you an exact prognosis. Never delay consulting.