A closer look: Limping (Lameness) in Dogs
Limping is not an emergency by itself. When observed with other serious symptoms, such as dragging a leg or severe bleeding, immediate medical attention is recommended.
Due to the wide variety of causes, limping is quite common in dogs. Predisposing factors include:
- Particular breeds
- Lifestyle and activity
Lameness usually results from a condition affecting one or more limbs or feet, but may also occur in association with a malfunction of the:
- Nervous system
Any illness that leads to weakness or paralysis can also cause lameness, common examples include
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The severity of lameness or limping can be determined by a few factors:
- Consistency: If the dog is limping constantly, or only intermittently.
- Duration: How long a dog has been limping. This is divided into acute; shorter than two weeks, and chronic; longer than two weeks.
- Affected limb: Which limb is affected, and if the limp or lameness changes from limb to limb
- Number of affected limbs: Whether it is only one limb affected, some, or all limbs.
- Effect of movement: if movement changes the characteristics of the limp
- Visible changes to limb: If there are visible differences between the affected and unaffected limbs; if there is a difference between the affected limb before and after the limp began.
- Other signs or symptoms: If the dog is showing signs of pain or distress; if there are other symptoms present alongside the limp.
When limping is accompanied by signs of distress, pain, or other symptoms such as bleeding, vomiting, unsteadiness, or limb dragging, immediate medical attention is recommended.
Testing and diagnosis
Initial tests for a dog presenting with lameness include:
- Physical examination
- Blood work
- Diagnostic imaging
The results of the initial testing will determine what further testing is needed. With such a wide range of causes, there are a wide range of tests that may be needed.
Treatment is determined by the cause, and varies widely. Symptomatic treatment includes rest, time, anti-inflammatories, and analgesics.