Unlike human beings, dogs can’t verbalize their pain or tell owners what happened, explained Anna Burge of AKC (American Kennel Club), a website on breed, health, and training information for dogs. Was your dog not as eager to climb the stairs or jump into your car? Have you noticed it limping, sleeping more, and eating less?
From the aforementioned cases listed by Christina Boufis of health information website WebMD, we have no choice but to determine where they are hurting. Your veterinarian is a valuable resource in determining the cause of your pet’s lameness, but you should also equip yourself with at least a basic working knowledge of canine lameness.
Lameness In Domestic Animals (2014)
Outpatient department (OPD) records from January 2006 to December 2010 were referred and gathered with regard to the number of lameness in different species, breeds, type of injury, limb affected, gender, age at onset, treatment offered, outcome and any reoccurrence, said A. Mohsina and colleagues. Out of 511 cases of lameness, canines were the highest at 56%, followed by equine (21%; 109), cattle and caprine (7%; 35), buffalo, (5%; 28), feline (3%; 16), sheep (0.6%; 3), and monkey (0.39%; 2), and swine (0.19%; 1).
In dogs, the causes of lameness were hind quarter weakness (HQW), amounting to 55% (158/286), followed by right hind limb lameness 15% (42), left hind limb lameness 13% (36), left fore limb lameness 12% (34), hip dislocation 6% (18) and hip dysplasia 4% (12). Mongrel (37%; 58/158), German Shepherd or GSD (29%; 46), Spitz (20%; 32) and others (14%; 22) were the breeds that were most affected by HQW. In all breeds, males were more affected than females, other than the Labrador breed. Mongrels had 72% male and 28% female cases and GSD with 61% male and 39% female cases. 63% of male and 37% of female Spitz were affected by lameness.
42 cases of right hind limb lameness were documented, affecting 33% (14/42) of Spitz and 14% of GSD (6). 9.5% (4) of Doberman, Mongrel, Rottweiler, Labrador were also affected, along with Cocker Spaniel and Neopolitan Mastiff (4.7%; 2). In animals below two years and above eight years, 36 cases of left hind limb lameness were found in 28% of Mongrel (10/36), 22% (8) of GSD, 17% (6) of Labrador, 11% (4) of Spitz, and 5.5% (2) of Doberman, Dalmatian and Pug. Males were more affected in all breeds other than GSD, Labrador, and Pug.
Of the 34 cases of left forelimb cases, the most affected breeds were GSD (47%; 16/34), Mongrel (23.5%; 8), Spitz, Labrador (12%; 4) and Doberman (6%; 2). Males of all breeds were mostly affected except in Mongrel. Most of the dogs were above four years. 18 cases of hip dislocation were documented with 28% (5/18) of GSD and Labrador suffering from it. Spitz (22%; 4), boxer (11%; 2), and others (11%; 2) were also affected. Most male canines were the most affected.
What Are the Causes of Lameness?
1. Injury or Trauma
This can be caused by car accidents, sports injuries, and more. Joint trauma, broken bones, sprains, ligament tears, and the like can lead to moderate to severe limping. Some causes of lameness prevent the dog from putting their weight on its affected limb.
2. Paw Injury
Imagine the pain of stepping on a foreign object. For dogs, it’s the same. Having foreign bodies like glass, nails, or anything sharp lodged in your dog’s paw is painful and uncomfortable. It can also lead to infection.
Moreover, insect and animal bites can also cause limping and tenderness, as can broken toenails or bruising. One sign that your pet is suffering from this injury is when it licks his paw incessantly.
3. Joint and/or Bone Disease
Some cases of lameness cause “gradual wear and tear on joints and the musculoskeletal system.” For example, forelimb lameness in dogs older than 12 months of age can lead to degenerative joint disease, causing your dog’s joint cartilage to deteriorate progressively and permanently, stated vet authored and approved website PetMD.
Hindlimb lameness in dogs less than 12 months of age can cause hip dysplasia or osteochondritis of the hock, the joint of your pet’s hind leg. Causes of hindlimb lameness in dogs older than 12 months can suffer from cruciate ligament disease, “the tearing of an important ligament in the knee joint,” and even from soft-tissue or bone cancer. The latter can be primary or metastatic. Infections such as Lyme disease can cause joint pain and limping, which is why it is important to have your pet canine undergo an effective tick preventative treatment.
How Is Lameness Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam on your dog. They will also consider its history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have caused its lameness. The examination will include a complete blood profile, a complete chemical profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. There are many causes of lameness and your veterinarian might resort to performing differential diagnosis, which is a deeper inspection of your pet’s outward symptoms. Your veterinarian will rule out the common causes until the correct disorder has been found and treated appropriately,
How Is Lameness Treated and Managed?
Treatment will depend on the cause/s of lameness. For example, if lameness is caused by excess weight, your veterinarian will introduce changes into its diet by making a food plan appropriate to its size, age, and breed. They may prescribe medications that can be used to treat the symptoms and underlying causes of lameness. Pain relievers and steroids can be given to reduce muscle and nerve inflammation to aid in healing. The duration of your dog’s treatment plan can be as simple as in a few days of rest or it could entail surgery or prolonged recovery.
If you own a large breed dog, you need to monitor its food intake to prevent your dog from gaining excess weight. If you have an energetic bred, you need to observe its movements to see if there any changes in its actions or behavior after exercising. Some energetic dogs tend to overdo themselves during playtime or exercise.
Speaking of which, try to keep exercise time within reason and appropriate to your pet’s fitness and comfort level. Avoid high-impact activities such as running and jumping as these increase joint pain and inflammation, warned the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, a specialty board, as cited by WebMD. Instead, opt to take your pet for a leash walk regularly to help build muscle around its joints.
Like us, dogs are prone to a variety of injuries. Since dogs can’t talk, owners should closely monitor for any peculiar changes in behavior or movement. A healthy lifestyle should be maintained to minimize the likelihood of lameness. But in severe cases, a veterinarian can perform a diagnosis and provide treatment to help your dog recover.