My Dog Is Limping – Help!
A Limping Dog is often the very first sign of a potentially substantial veterinarian bill. Debts of over $10,000 can be incurred if surgery or the talents of a pet surgeon are required due to chronic leg pain or lameness. Early treatment & maintenance is the key and it can often help avoid huge veterinarian bills. Often, treatment depends on exactly where the limping occurs. Let’s look at each:
Lameness or Limping in Front and/or Rear Legs:
Osteochondritis dissecans (OD / OCD): is a defect on the smooth cartilage surface within joints. It usually affects the shoulder, but also can affect the elbow, hip, or knee (stifle). In certain situations, this defect might be controllable using Flexpet w/ CM8 along with rest & restricted activity for several weeks.
Panosteitis: is an inflammation on the surface of the long bones. It can occur in more than one bone at a time and often causes a painful “shifting” of lameness that goes from one bone or leg to another. It is self-limiting but may recur anytime during developmental years.
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD): is an inflammation in the growth plates of the long bones .It usually causes swelling & pain of the joints, which often presents itself in the form of fever along with loss of appetite. Fortunately, with early diagnosis and treatment, most dogs do not suffer permanent damage. Others may develop deformed legs. Treatment is medication that relieves pain and suppresses inflammation.
Lameness or Limping in Front Legs Only: In this case, the usual cause is Elbow Dysplasia, which is an abnormal growth or development in the dog’s elbow joint that can be identified by 3 different typical problems:
UAP (ununited anconeal process):UAP is a defect in the anconeal process, which is a small piece of bone on the back of the ulna (the longer forearm bones) located at the rear point of the elbow. Whenever this bone does not fuse properly, the dog’s elbow joint becomes unstable and this process develops into degenerative joint disease, in the form of arthritis. Sometimes the bone fragment floats freely in the joint, and dogs with UAP are lame on the affected leg or legs. They demonstrate a lot of pain, & they may cry when the elbow is extended.
FCP (fragmented coronoid process): FCP is a defect of one of the coronoid processes, which are two small bony protrusions on the end of the ulna, found within the elbow joint. Dogs with this condition develop a crack that separates from the rest of the bone, which results in severe pain & joint instability. Unless identified and treated in its early stages, arthritis develops. This condition is traditionally hereditary and is more frequently found in the larger breeds of dog, such as the Retriever, Rottweiler, & German shepherd.
Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). (OCD was discussed in the paragraph topic above discussing Front & Rear Leg Limpness.)
Lameness or Limping in Rear Legs Only: The most prevalent causes of leg lameness to the rear leags are hip dysplasia and / or luxating patella.
Hip Dysplasia: is an improper formation of the hip joint(s). During growth, both the “ball” (head of the femur) and the “socket” (acetabulum) need to grow at equal rates. “Dysplasia” is defined as abnormal development or abnormal growth. Dogs with hip dysplacia do not experience a uniform growth of the ball and socket areas. The hips operate “out of place” which results in pain, limping & lameness. Hip dysplasia is quite frequently hereditary, with common in large breed dogs such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Mastiffs, German shepherds, Rottweilers, Old English Sheepdogs, especially susceptible. Recent research suggests that diet and/or calcium levels in the diet of puppies are risk factors. Veterinarians advise feeding large breed puppies a special large-breed puppy food for at least their first year, along with a preventative such as Flexpet w/CM8. Dogs with severe hip dysplasia have great difficulty moving about, while dogs with mild hip dysplasia may show no signs. However, affected dogs generally develop secondary arthritis.
Luxating Patella: is a very painful condition that affects the kneecap, or patella of the dog. A luxating patella “pops” out of its groove and then can move to one side or the other when the knee is extended. Thus, whenever the kneecap luxates the knee cannot move in a normal fashion.
Unlike Hip Dysplacia, luxating patella is more common in small dog breeds. However, like hip dysplacia, it appears to be hereditary. There are several grades of resultant pain, starting with an occasional luxation which, when untreated, develops over time to a state of permanent luxation. The severity usually becomes more chronic over time & becomes increasingly noticeable while the dog matures. Often, dogs teach themselves how to ‘hyperextend’ the knee joint, the result of which is to snap the patella back into place.
Written by Dr David Randall, DVM
His father established the clinic in 1977 and the the younger Dr. Randall always knew that he would follow closely in his father’s footsteps. Dr. Randall graduated from the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine in 1985 and began his career at Big Cypress Animal Clinic.