What Pet Owners Need to Know About Lameness in Dogs
At some point, almost all dog owners will have to deal with a dog with lameness. Lameness can range from only a minor discomfort to serious physical pain and decreased mobility. Understanding the causes of lameness, potential treatments, and related issues common in dogs can help pet owners bring their pet back to full health.
What Causes Lameness in Dogs?
Dogs can experience lameness in their limbs and joints due to a variety of causes. Among the most common causes of lameness in dogs are:
- Misalignment: Dogs with misalignment of their legs can experience lameness in their limbs due to the uneven forces on their joints and muscles. Common misalignments that can lead to lameness include hip dysplasia and luxating patellas.
- Injuries: Dogs can suffer injuries to their legs, feet, and joints from a variety of causes, ranging from falls, car accidents, or even being stepped on by a human. Injuries can range from minor sprains and strains to more serious fractures, torn ligaments, or damaged cartilage.
- Arthritis: As dogs age, their joints can experience a buildup of wear and tear, leading to a loss of flexibility and painful inflammation. This condition, known as arthritis, is common in older dogs.
- Infections: Bacterial, fungal, and viral infections can all lead to lameness, especially when the infection spreads to the legs or joints.
- foreign objects: Objects such as sticks, rocks, or even pieces of glass can lead to serious injuries, from minor cuts and abrasions to more serious issues such as punctures and lacerations.
Diagnosing Lameness in Dogs
Once a pet owner suspects their dog is suffering from lameness, they should contact their veterinarian right away. It’s important to get a timely diagnosis and treatment plan to prevent the lameness from worsening over time.
A veterinarian will typically begin by listening to the pet owner’s description of their pet’s symptoms and any potential causes such as trauma or repetitive stress. They will then typically take X-rays of the affected area to get a better view of the joint and surrounding structures.
Depending on the individual situation, other diagnostics may be necessary, such as blood work, ultrasounds, CT scans, or even surgical explorations.
Treating Lameness in Dogs
Once a diagnosis has been made, the veterinarian and pet owner can decide on the best course of treatment for the specific condition. More minor cases of lameness may be able to be managed and treated at home with rest and special medications, while other cases may require more invasive treatments, such as:
- Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is an important part of any treatment plan for lameness in dogs. Physical therapy can help to keep the joints mobile, reduce pain and inflammation, and help prevent future episodes of lameness.
- Surgery: When injury or misalignment is present, surgery may be necessary to realign bones or repair damage. Depending on the situation, non-invasive or minimally invasive surgery may be required.
- Medications: Pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, and other medications may be prescribed by the veterinarian to help with pain and inflammation.
- Weight Management: Keeping an overweight or obese dog at a healthy weight can take a significant load off the joints and limbs and can help reduce the frequency and severity of lameness episodes.
Preventing Lameness in Dogs
Pet owners can take steps to help prevent lameness from occurring in their pet. These steps include:
- Provide Adequate Exercise: Exercise helps to keep the joints and muscles of a dog limber and healthy, so it’s important to ensure the dog gets enough activity each day.
- Monitor Weight: Many overweight and obese dogs suffer from lameness due to excessive strain on the joints. Regular weigh-ins and adjusting the diet as needed can help to keep the pet at a healthy weight.
- Warm Up Before Exercise: Dogs should never be taken out for high intensity or long-duration exercise without warming up the muscles first. This should include 5-10 minutes of walking or even slow jogging.
- Orthopedic Beds: Investing in an orthopedic bed that is supportive but that doesn’t put too much pressure on the joints can be very beneficial for older dogs who are prone to lameness.
- Monitor for Signs of Lameness: Watching for any signs of lameness, such as limping or difficulty walking, should be done at least once a day. If any signs are seen, the pet should be taken to the veterinarian for evaluation.
Lameness in dogs can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, ranging from injuries to arthritis. Understanding the causes and potential treatments of lameness can help pet owners identify and treat any issues with their dog quickly and appropriately. Additional steps can also be taken to help prevent lameness from occurring in the first place.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from lameness, contact your veterinarian right away. With timely and appropriate treatments, your dog should soon be back to their old self!