Lameness in dogs is a common reason for veterinary consultation. Know the causes why your dog limps, whether it is a musculoskeletal problem or a systemic process, and what options exist to treat it.

The lameness or lameness in dogs is a manifestation or symptom of discomfort, pain, or anatomical abnormality in the forelimbs (anterior) or back (posterior) of the animal, characterized by support abnormal or lack of support the same. 

It can affect one limb of the dog or several and depend on the speed with which it is established and its evolution. For example, we speak of acute or chronic lameness.

The origin of a limp in our dog can lie in an osteoarticular or muscular disorder or in a systemic disease that affects any of these devices. Therefore, we must differentiate lameness from muscle weakness and ataxia or incoordination when walking, symptoms that can be derived from a neurological condition.

Most common causes of lameness in dogs according to age and breed

We describe below the most frequent causes for which your pet may have some lameness and their predisposition to suffer them according to their age and breed:

  • Wounds or foreign bodies are located in the limb, especially in the plantar area. Such is the case of the spikes that are stuck between the fingers.
  • Trauma: damage to tendons, muscles, or bones can occur from a slight discolouration to a fracture to a broken nail. Younger and more active dogs are more prone to injury. Medium to large breed dogs is predisposed to an anterior cruciate ligament tear.
  • Osteoarthritis: is a degenerative disease of the joints, common in many elderly dogs.
  • Joint dysplasia is a congenital disability in developing joints that do not connect properly. They manifest in the first months of life. The most common are hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. The specimens of some breeds, such as the German Shepherd or the Labrador Retriever, are genetically predisposed to suffer from this disorder.
  • Patella luxation: occurs when the knee bone moves out of the femoral groove to the side. It is common in small or toy breed adult dogs.

Why Does My Dog Limp: Causes of Lameness in Dogs

Lameness is a symptom of another disease in dogs

Sometimes a limp is part of a set of symptoms of systemic or more severe disease in the animal, such as:

  • Immune-mediated arthritis is caused by the deposit of immune complexes inside the joints, causing pain and lameness in the dog. Its origin can be autoimmune or infectious. Such is the case of leishmaniasis, an infectious disease caused by a protozoan transmitted through a mosquito’s bite.
  • Neoplasms: sarcomas are tumours of the muscle, joint, or bone tissue, generally slow-growing but highly invasive and, in some cases, with a high potential for metastasis to other organs of the animal.

Types of Lameness in Dogs and How They Are Diagnosed

The lameness in dogs is defined as abnormality in support of the extremities, but not all lameness manifests in the same way. How and when they occur can help find out their origin in your pet.

There are different types of lameness in dogs :

  • Support lameness: the animal supports the leg, but keeps it on the ground for a short time, unloading the weight on the healthy limb. When it affects the forelimbs, they are usually accompanied by a vertical movement of the head, while if the hindlimbs are damaged, the charge is kept lower.
  • Elevation limp: the dog does not support the leg, leaving it loose or shrinking it so that it walks “jumping.”
  • Cold lameness: these are more clearly seen when walking after a prolonged rest period. They are typical of joint problems in dogs, such as osteoarthritis.
  • Hot limp: aggravated by exercise. Characteristics of muscular ailments.

Diagnosing lameness in dogs: getting to the source of the problem

If you perceive that your dog is limping, you should go to your veterinarian to find out the disorder’s origin and apply the optimal treatment to relieve your pet. To do this, it will first ask you for information about the problem, so it is important to remember when the limp has occurred in your faithful friend, possible trauma the dog may have suffered in recent days, the limp (cold, or in hot), and if you have noticed other symptoms in your pet, such as weight loss, weakness or fever.

Subsequently, and as long as the animal can do so, your veterinarian will observe how it walks and trots from different points and even make a video to compare the evolution of the lameness in subsequent reviews. During the physical examination, depending on the data obtained, he will look for possible foreign bodies, wounds, deformities, areas of inflammation, and pain points.

To rule out or confirm the presence of fissures, fractures, dysplasia, neoplasms, and any other bone or joint alteration in your pet, it is essential to use complementary diagnostic techniques, such as radiography, ultrasound, magnetic resonance, or CT. Sometimes the animal will need sedation or anaesthesia to perform these tests.

In addition, in some cases, it may be necessary to perform a biopsy, take a sample of joint synovial fluid, or perform arthroscopy, a technique in which the interior of some joints is accessed to diagnose and, many times at the same time, treat ailments. Of the lame dog. To complement the study and diagnose immunological disorders or infectious diseases, it is essential to perform a blood and urine analysis of the animal.