Why is my dog limping ?

Sometimes you may notice that your dog is limping for a few moments and starting to walk normally. But it is also possible that it limps longer, with variable intensity, which can greatly limit our dog’s mobility.

Whether this is the case with your dog or whether you have noticed a dog raising its hind leg after running in a park, in this article, we will present you the various possible causes explaining why your dog box.

Here we go ! Enjoy your reading.
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Rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament
Dislocation of the patella
Hip dysplasia
Growth panosteitis
Vascular necrosis of the femur head
Other possible causes

Rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament

Known as the” football player’s lesion”, this ligament rupture can also affect our dogs. This is one of the most common pathologies in canine trauma, leading to claudication of the hind leg.
What is the anterior cruciate ligament ?

It is a fibrous tissue that runs from the femur to the tibia, anchoring the tibia securely so that it does not move forward or inward when the knee moves. There is also another cruciate ligament that helps him in this mission : the inner cruciate ligament. But the one who generally tends to suffer from ruptures is the external. These ligaments, together with the meniscus and other structures, control the mobility of the knee and related structures (femur, tibia, kneecap)…).
Are there any breeds predisposed to a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament ?

It can be considered that this trauma mainly affects two different groups of dogs :

Dogs of small and medium size, of medium age and with short legs. Examples: shih tzu or carlin. Moreover, these breeds have the disadvantage of being predisposed to the problems of degeneration of the joint collagen which predisposes even more to these problems.
Giant-sized dogs such as the labrador, rottweiler or the Naples mast.

Nevertheless, any dog may one day suffer from claudication of the hind leg due to a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. Especially dogs that exercise abruptly without having “warmed up” before by jumping and turning on themselves or climbing on the couch for example.
How do we distinguish this limp from another ?

Generally, this limping of the hindlimb due to a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament occurs abruptly. It is very painful for the dog and it walks without supporting its paw on the ground or in an extremely light way. When stationary, it tends to extend the externally affected posterior leg. Simply put, he takes his painful paw away from his body to avoid feeling his weight. In general, it will extend the leg forward or outwards according to its morphology. It’s a way for him to relieve the tension in his knee.

The dog may suffer from an inflammation of the knee that is not always visible. All symptoms will be more or less intense depending on the condition of the ligament, if it is completely or partially broken.
What is the diagnosis of anterior cruciate ligament rupture ?

The ways to diagnose will depend on the case but our veterinarian may have to put our dog to sleep in order to do the “drawer test” during which the veterinarian tries to move the tibia forward while keeping the femur in its place. If the ligament is broken, the tibia will go much too far forward. Sleeping the dog is necessary because if he were awake,he would resist and hurt himself even more.

The X-ray did not confirm the rupture but showed clear signs of osteoarthritis that appeared during the first few weeks after the anterior cruciate ligament rupture. The knee joint begins to degenerate, the joint surfaces are irregular and everything contributes to worsen the prognosis, hence the importance of going to the veterinarian if you notice your dog limping from the hind leg, even slightly.

In the most complicated and well-equipped clinical cases, we can be offered arthroscopy or magnetic resonance imaging.
Is there a treatment for anterior cruciate ligament rupture ?

There are two types of treatment available :

Conservative medical treatment, for cases in which surgery is discouraged. Rehabilitation measures with physiotherapy are proposed which may include laser therapy or movements in water with products designed to calm inflammation. In addition, a special diet is instituted to prevent the dog from gaining weight and to promote joint cartilage regeneration or delay osteoarthritis as much as possible. We will be told the rules to follow for the daily exercise, the food and the necessary so that the dog does not have to climb ramps or go down too steep ribs (the knees suffer a lot).
Surgical treatment: restorative surgery using various techniques requires a lot of attention on the following days and constant supervision of our dog to avoid sudden movements. He’ll come home with a bandage that covers the entire hind leg and he’ll need some rest. We will be advised to follow the same food-related rules as in the conservative treatment (if they eat and do not move, they will gain weight and make the situation worse).

It is important to note that sometimes the other hind leg suffers the same a few months later. Our dog certainly limped a little bit and then went back to normal. We don’t pay any attention to it until it’s obvious and we have to go to the vet. Then he diagnoses your dog and tells us that the other leg has been carrying all the weight for weeks. It is therefore not surprising that the other anterior cruciate ligament also breaks, a kind of snowball effect, unfortunately.
Why is my dog limping ? – Rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament

Dislocation of the patella

The patella is located between the femoral trochlea and a groove created specifically for it. As it were, the latter is like an ear groove : it can move from top to bottom but not from left to right. And if you look closely, the knee flexions/extensions do exactly the same movements : from top to bottom and vice versa.

But sometimes, the kneecap becomes luxuriant and begins to move from left to right. This can happen for two main reasons: :

Congenital: from birth, the kneecap is defective, even moving on all sides. This congenital reason usually affects breeds of caniche type toy, Pekingese, yorkshire etc..In general, we notice that our dog walks with Bell-legs, raising the painful paw when he goes down or goes up the stairs, then, he can resume a normal pace, which leads us to think that he does this because he is a puppy and that he is not yet sure of himself, when in fact, it is the right time to go to see the veterinarian !
Trauma: after a fracture, such as that caused by an accident or a fall, this dislocation can occur.

Levels of dislocation vary and can be found in exercise limitation and other physiotherapy measures. Large breeds are not exempt and may suffer from lateral dislocation, which is why our veterinarian will do a thorough examination to rule it out or confirm it.
What tests are possible ?

Tests to detect patella dislocation leading to claudication of the rear or front leg are as follows: :

Basic Exploration: the knee “breaks” during the veterinary maneuver.
X-rays: to detect signs of osteoarthritis, or ruptured femoral trochlae after a stroke.
Arthroscopy O magnetic resonance imaging

Even if the veterinarian does make a diagnosis, he will need to know how badly the knee is affected, since the constant rubbing of the kneecap on the surfaces of the femur results in wear and tear of the latter, as well as the osteoarthritis that it is necessary to know to make a diagnosis.

There are several surgical techniques, from the simplest, such as making the groove between the femoral trochlets deeper, to the most complicated, which consists of putting back part of the anterior tibia to relieve the tension of the patella. Each technique will vary depending on the case and the level of dislocation (from I to IV). The time the dog has spent with this problem also counts, or if he suffers from bone problems such as hip or femur head pathology.
Why is my dog limping ? – Dislocation of the patella
Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a pathology that can be caused by several causes (environmental, nutritional etc..) but it has a genetic basis. In summary, the femur head does not fit well into the existing bone especially for it located in the pelvic region. Although the reasons are varied, the dog suffering from it presents a “genetic programming”. That is why it is completely unreasonable to assign dogs suffering from this pathology to reproduction.

To know all about this pathology, we invite you to read our article : hip dysplasia in dogs-symptoms and treatments.
Why is my dog limping ? – Hip dysplasia
Growth panosteitis

The term “panosteitis” refers to inflammation of” the entire bone or bones, ” literally. The pain in this case is due to inflammation of the outermost layer covering the bone (the periosteum) and although it may be due to several causes, here it is called growth panosteitis.

This pathology is much more common in dogs with rapid and marked growth, that is, in large and giant sizes during months of growth (usually between 5 and 14 months). It usually affects large bones such as the femur, which drives the limp of the hind leg.

Sometimes it is acute, sometimes lighter. The use of anti-inflammatory drugs, the proper diet, a gentle exercise routine and above all, time, will make it disappear.
Vascular necrosis of the femur head

Legg-CalvĂ©-Perthes disease or “vascular necrosis of the femur head” is another cause causing claudication of the dog’s paw. Generally, it affects growing mini or toy sized breeds, such as dwarf pinscher, poodle toy or yorkshire, it can sometimes be confused with hip dysplasia.

The head of the femur no longer receives blood flow at a critical stage (explaining necrosis) and between 4-9 months, these symptoms may appear :

Marked limp
Muscle atrophy
The affected leg is shorter (due to atrophy)
Cracking during manipulation and signs of pain.

Is it hereditary ?

Until a few years ago, this was the only explanation. But today, it is believed that the microgravity in the area produces a drastic reduction in blood flow and thus, death or necrosis of the femoral blow and head.

The treatment is surgical, and operates by removing the affected femoral head (or both) and the fact that the affected dogs are usually very small facilitates surgery and rehabilitation of the dog.
Other possible causes

There are dozens of other possible causes that can answer your question ” Why is my dog limping ?”, in addition to those previously mentioned. If you have not yet found an answer to the question, it may be in the following list :

Osteosarcoma.: This is the most common bone tumor in dogs and one of the most malignant. It usually affects medium-to large-sized dogs more, although it can affect all breeds independently. Most of the time, it is on the knee, on the distal part of the femur or close to the tibia. It is very painful, progresses rapidly and is very invasive. Once diagnosed, amputation of the extremity is required and the dog will require chemotherapy as metastases may accumulate. Affected dogs have few months ahead of them but with chemotherapy, life expectancy can lengthen.
Fractures of metatarsals and phalanges: fingers and phalanges tend to suffer from accidents, especially when dogs are still puppies. In fractures of metatarsals or phalanges, surgery is avoided by using restraints such as bandages, in addition to anti-inflammatory and rest.
Injury of the pads: it seems obvious that inflammation of the dog’s pads can cause claudication, erosion, irritations etc… That is why we have to look at them often, and that is what our veterinarian will do first.

Why is my dog limping ? – Other possible causes

This article is purely informative, we do not have the competence to prescribe veterinary treatments or to carry out any diagnosis. We invite you to bring your pet to the vet if it presents the symptoms of febrile illness or disease.

If you want to read more articles like Why does my dog limp ?, we recommend that you consult the other health problems section.

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