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Lameness is the result of a dog being unable to bear full weight on one or more limbs. This leads to a noticeable abnormality in the gait or difficulty walking. Lameness can be subtle or barely detectable to bearing no weight on one limb.

To assess your dog’s lameness, the first thing that you need to determine the cause. Also, whether you should seek immediate/emergency care or if your pet can wait for a regular appointment to be seen by a veterinary provider

Major Causes of Lameness in Dogs

1. Injury or Trauma

One reason for sudden limping in dogs could be a paw or leg injury.

Superficial injuries can include a cut or scrape caused by a sharp object such as stepping on glass, getting stuck by a thorn, walking on a nail, or running on hot pavement. Other paw injuries that can cause limping include bites or stings, infection, broken toenails, or burns.

All of these cause pain which, as previously stated, is the main reason dogs limp. To relieve pain. You may also notice your dog licking the area nonstop. It’s another sign of an injury.

2. Paws

The pads can get torn or burned, and when this happens it is extremely painful. A broken or fractured claw is also painful. Foreign bodies like glass or gravel can become embedded between the pads of toes and cause painful limping

3. Bone Disease

Some diseases affect the bones in your dog’s legs. Younger dogs, especially large breed puppies, can develop conditions such as hypertrophic osteodystrophy and panosteitis, which make walking painful. Certain cancers, such as osteosarcoma, also affect bones and require prompt diagnosis for the best prognosis.

4. Medial Shoulder Instability

This is an often unrecognised or misdiagnosed condition involving stretching or tearing of the ligaments and soft tissues on the inside of the shoulder joint, causing ongoing front leg lameness. It is often poorly responsive to anti-inflammatory treatment. Arthroscopy may be required for diagnosis and treatment may involve a steroid injection into the shoulder joint, along with strict rest and avoidance of jumping. Sometimes (though not often), surgical stabilisation of the shoulder joint is required

5. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is the most common disorder of the hip joint which can cause lameness in dogs. It is usually seen in large breed pedigree dogs such as the Labrador and German Shepherd.

The condition is a failure of the hip joint to develop properly, allowing the head of the femur to slip in and out of the joint, causing pain and damage to the joint surface. Signs are often seen in young dogs from 5 to 14 months of age, but often subside when the dog has grown to his/her adult size.

6. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, also referred to as Degenerative Joint Disease, is a progressively worsening inflammation of the joint caused by the deterioration of cartilage.

This condition is a common cause of lameness in dogs, particularly in seniors and large breeds. Although there is no cure for this progressive condition, identifying the problem early and initiating appropriate management can help keep your dog active and improve quality of life.

7. Elbow dysplasia

This condition occurs most often in purebred dogs, and involves multiple, developmental anomalies of the cubital joint.


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