Basically, ‘dog lameness’ means the loss of full or proper function in at least one limb (leg). In the case of lameness, your pup is having trouble walking, or using one leg altogether. Maybe that limb can’t bear weight, or it gives out frequently. But what can cause this? In fact, lameness is often associated with some type of injury or physical trauma, but other factors can come into play also.
In general, the most common causes of lameness in dogs are simple, and exactly what you might think: strains, joint injuries, bone fracture (break), Hip dysplasia (discussed below), and one of the countless types of arthritis. We are going to take a look at all of them.
Lameness can be seen in dogs of all ages, from puppies to seniors. Of course these conditions are going to be more common in older dogs.
Bone Deformities as a Cause of Lameness
Believe it or not, the makeup and essential components of a dog’s leg skeletal system are extremely similar to humans. Yes, some of the bones may be shaped differently, but they use almost the exact same chemical compositions and are created in a very close way. Therefore, a dog’s bones can suffer from the same injuries a human can, and each of these deformities can cause lameness even without the considerable pain that usually accompanies. However, there is a good outlook for recovery in an otherwise healthy dog.
Lameness in dogs, swelling, and pain, or all three together, are common signs of a fracture. Treatments vary based upon the type and location. Usually, x-rays are the ones that are used to confirm the type.
Bone fracture is a more ‘scientific’ term for a break, and there are several different categories of them. All named based on the type. Each and every one of these can cause lameness:
- Greenstick fractures are named due to their location along the side of the bone, normally occurring while the animal (or human) is young and the bones haven’t completely developed.
- Comminuted fractures involve bone splintering or breaking into two or more parts. Unless some underlying condition causes the bones to weaken, these types of fractures will normally require considerable trauma or force. You might commonly see this type of fracture after something like a car accident.
- Avulsion fractures are named for portions of bone pulled apart by a tendon or ligament. Ligaments are what hold bones together, where tendons attach muscle to bone. For example, if a bone is weakened, and the muscle flexes in an attempt to move the bone, it may simply pull a portion of the bone away.
- Spiral fractures occur when a bone is twisted severely.
Canine Hip Dysplasia Negative Impact
If you’re the caretaker for a large breed dog you’ve probably heard of the hip dysplasia. Basically, the hip socket doesn’t completely cover the upper end of the thigh bone. The joint created here can become either partially or fully dislocated.
The ‘ball and socket’ joint then doesn’t work like it normally should, thereby movement becomes painful, and things like arthritis occurs, causing lameness.
Knowing that your dog has a higher risk of hip dysplasia provides you an opportunity to act in order to avoid it. You should take care of things that increase the risk. Including diet, physical activities, bedding, and others.
Lameness in Dogs With Arthritis
Arthritis is mainly characterized by an activation of inflammatory processes at a molecular level, ultimately leading to a gradual deterioration of the cartilage. When cartilage – the natural cushioning surface on both ends of bones – wears away, bones start to rub against each other.
The resulting friction causes pain and loss of mobility, including lameness.
In fact, arthritis becomes more common withing age.
Arthritis is not a single disease, it is just a way to refer to joint pain or joint diseases. There are over 100 different forms of it. But what is most common in dogs, and what causes lameness?
Osteochondritis is the most common form of arthritis seen in dogs, affecting nearly 1 in every 4, or hundreds of millions. If your pet reaches a certain age, he or she will probably get it. This is ‘almost’ a fact of life and aging for our domesticated dogs of today. It can also, without a doubt, cause enough pain and discomfort for lameness. Especially if your dog is overweight or obese.
Osteoarthritis, as mentioned before, is caused by loss of cartilage (cushioning tissue) in the joint, and thickening of the bone/joint with excess bone formation. In most cases, this is merely a result of aging. However, the fractures listed above, along with other joint injuries, can also certainly lead to it.
Though there are many ways on how to deal with arthritis. Starting from pain medication that will temporarily help with the pain. Daily changes in diet, physical activities, massages, oils, and compresses can promote suppression or prevention of pain and symptoms. Additionally, there are supplements which usually reduce symptoms but not the cause. Although in some cases there is a possibility to address that as well. Of course, there also is a surgery option. But they are complicated, expensive and become riskier as the animal gets older.
However, there are also effective nonsurgical options like Dogs Stem Cell Therapy. Stem Cells are able to suppress inflammation and regenerate damaged tissues. Therefore therapy helps to prevent pain, dog lameness, and other negative consequences. Stem Cell Therapy is a more effective solution because it ensures faster, more effective and long-lasting results.
Bone tumors, whether benign or malignant (cancerous), can commonly cause bone swelling and fractures, both usually resulting in lameness. When treated within time, depending on the size, location, and type, the dog has a good chance of recovery. Survival chances are often low if an animal is not treated.
In these cases, either amputation or chemotherapy is often a recommended treatment course to deal with leg tumors. Though a dog will lose mobility, he or she can live a perfectly happy life with only three legs. Some do it with two!
Osteochondromatosis a Risk of Immobility
More commonly in younger dogs, several bony growths can form from the surfaces of long bones, vertebrae or ribs. This can cause lameness, depending on the location, but can also be removed surgically.
Ligament Damage & Sprains in Dogs
Tearing or stretching of ligaments, those fibers that connect bones together is called a sprain. Believe it or not, sometimes sprains can be worse than fractures, and take more time to heal. Bones usually heal relatively quickly in a healthy victim, but sprains can take longer – especially in dogs with obesity.
Mild sprains should heal quickly in a healthy dog unless the dog continues to re-injure the limb. Until then, your dog should avoid intense activities as much as possible. Young and energetic, highly active dogs tend to continuously re-injure themselves.
Osteochondritis dissecans is caused by a defect on the smooth surface created by the cartilage of one or more joints. In dogs with this, the cartilage will separate from underlying bone, and much of the cushioned support will be gone.
No matter the cause, or how your dog is coping with it, contact your veterinarian! There is a huge possibility that lameness hides a bigger problem. Don’t ignore dog lameness. Take care of your friend timely by changing daily things in life from nutrition to physical activities.
If you are interested to find out more information about how you can help your dog recover and end lameness contact us!