Canine Lameness: What You Need to Know

If your four-legged family member is showing signs of lameness or discomfort, it’s essential to understand the potential causes and the importance of prompt care. In today’s blog, we discuss some of the potential causes of lameness in dogs, accompanying symptoms, and available treatment options. Frontier Veterinary Urgent Care in Greenfield, WI, is dedicated to providing immediate assistance for your pet’s urgent needs. If you’re worried about your dog’s condition, don’t hesitate to call us at (262) 226-2055

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Identifying the Causes of Canine Lameness 

Dogs can develop lameness for many reasons. Below are some of the most common examples. 

Injuries and Trauma 

Injuries, such as sprains or fractures, are common causes of lameness in dogs. These can occur from everyday activities like jumping and running or may occur as a result of slipping and falling. Signs of an injury include visible swelling, reluctance to put weight on a limb, or a sudden change in gait. It’s important to have these injuries assessed promptly to prevent further complications. 

Joint Diseases 

Diseases like arthritis or hip dysplasia often lead to lameness in dogs. These conditions are more prevalent in older dogs and certain breeds, typically of the larger variety. Symptoms of joint diseases include stiffness, particularly after resting, and difficulty in rising. Reluctance to jump up or down from the couch or bed could also be a sign. Managing joint diseases early can help maintain your dog’s quality of life. 

Infectious Diseases

Certain infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease, can also cause lameness in dogs. These illnesses often present with intermittent lameness and may be accompanied by fever, lethargy, and/or loss of appetite.  

Nerve Disorders 

Nerve disorders, though less common, can also lead to canine lameness. Conditions such as intervertebral disc disease can affect your dog’s ability to walk normally. Symptoms of nerve disorders in dogs may include weakness in the limbs and difficulty coordinating movements. 

Symptoms That Might Accompany Your Dog’s Lameness 

Along with lameness, your dog may exhibit other symptoms that can help you and your vet identify the underlying cause of their problem.  

These symptoms include: 

  • Swelling or heat in the affected limb.
  • Whimpering or vocalizing due to pain.
  • Changes in behavior, such as reluctance to play.
  • Licking or biting at a specific area, indicating pain or discomfort.

Observing these signs can provide valuable information for a veterinary professional during diagnosis. 

Comprehensive Diagnostic and Treatment Approaches for Canine Lameness 

Understanding and treating canine lameness requires a detailed and methodical approach. At Frontier Veterinary Urgent Care, we use a combination of state-of-the-art diagnostics and tailored treatment plans to ensure the best care for your pet. 

In-Depth Physical Examination 

Our initial step involves a thorough physical examination. This includes assessing your dog’s gait, checking for signs of pain or discomfort when touching and manipulating various areas, and evaluating joint mobility. This examination helps us pinpoint the affected limb and provides clues about the possible underlying cause. 

Advanced Imaging Tests 

For a more precise diagnosis, we recommend imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, or CT scans. These tools are invaluable for visualizing the internal structures of the limbs and joints and identifying fractures, joint degeneration, or any other abnormalities in the bones and connective tissues. 

Laboratory Diagnostics 

Blood tests, urinalysis, and sometimes tissue biopsies are conducted to rule out or confirm infectious diseases, inflammatory conditions, and other systemic issues that could contribute to your dog’s lameness. For instance, a blood test can detect markers of inflammation or infection, providing insight into conditions such as Lyme disease. 

Specialized Neurological Evaluations 

In cases where a nerve disorder is suspected, we would likely need to refer your pet to a neurology specialist for a neurological evaluation. This assessment helps to understand your pet’s nerve functions and detect any neurological deficits that might be causing lameness. 

Customized Treatment Plans 

Post-diagnosis, we (or your vet) can develop a customized treatment plan based on your dog’s specific condition.  

This may include: 

  • Pain Management: Use of anti-inflammatory drugs or pain relievers to reduce discomfort and improve mobility.
  • Physical Therapy: Guided exercises and therapies to strengthen muscles and improve joint function.
  • Surgical Interventions: In some cases, such as complex fractures, cruciate ruptures or advanced joint diseases, surgical intervention may be necessary.
  • Dietary and Lifestyle Modifications: Recommendations on diet and lifestyle changes that can aid in recovery and improve joint health.

Ongoing Monitoring and Support 

Treatment for canine lameness often involves ongoing monitoring and may include adjustments to the treatment plan as needed. Regular follow-ups allow your vet to track your dog’s progress and make necessary modifications to ensure optimal recovery. 

At Frontier Veterinary Urgent Care, we understand how distressing lameness can be for both you and your pet. No one wants to see their dog in pain, so knowing the signs as early as possible is critical to minimizing discomfort and preventing your pet’s condition from worsening. Our urgent care team is committed to providing comprehensive care to diagnose and treat canine lameness as effectively as possible. For any concerns about your dog’s mobility or to seek urgent care, please call us at (262) 226-2055. If you suspect an emergency, we recommend contacting your nearest emergency vet.