Is diagnosing lameness in dogs easy? What do you think?
Well, let’s see; this is a list of potential reasons your dog might start limping:
- sprains or strains
- paw or foot injuries
- foreign body in a paw or foot
- nail injuries
- insect or animal bites
- dislocation, luxation, or subluxation of a joint
- torn ligament or tendon
- patellar luxation
- cruciate injuries
- hip dysplasia
- elbow dysplasia
- intervertebral disc disease
- osteochondritis dissecans
- panosteitis/growing pains
- degenerative myelopathy
- tick-borne disease
- congenital malformation
- other muscle, nerve, bone, or immune system disorders
Source: The SprucePets
Granted, a couple of these conditions affect exclusively either the front legs or the hind legs. Many of these causes, however, can cause limping in any leg. As you can see, diagnosing the limping dog may or may not be easy.
To complicated things further, not every tool is ideal for every issue. X-rays, for example, are great for looking at bones but tell little about soft tissues.
Forrest Gumbo’s story
Forrest Gumbo was a young, healthy Pitbull. To say that he was full of life would be an understatement. He loved going for a run with his mom and he would end the outing with happy zoomies.
One morning, after he completed his daily routine, Forrest started limping a little. He favored the leg for a bit and every once in a while he wouldn’t put any weight on it. His mom knew this wasn’t normal and took Forrest to a vet.
The veterinary visit
At the clinic, the veterinarian checked Forrest and took a quick x-ray. He suggested that Forrest had a partial cruciate ligament tear and prescribed NSAIDs, glucosamine supplement and reduced activity.
Did that mean that Forrest’s days of happy, vigorous activity were over?
Following the advice
Forrest’s mom stuck with the recommendations for a year and a half. Their walks got slower and shorter. No more running and no more zoomies.
Meanwhile, Forrest was putting on weight, lost interest in food and play. He became an unhappy boy. And he was often holding his leg up. His trainer insisted that Forrest was in severe pain.
After a lot of research, Forrest’s mom concluded that he had a cruciate tear. She made an appointment with an orthopedic specialist to get this confirmed and fixed.
It came as a surprise when the orthopedic specialist diagnosed Forrest with hip dysplasia and arthritis. For treatment, he recommended long-term NSAIDs. Say what?
Forrest’s mom decided that she ought to get a second opinion. She asked for Forrest’s x0rays and took them to a holistic vet.
As it turned out, the x-rays were fuzzy and impossible to read. And that was after Forrest spending a whole day in the clinic to get those done. Apparently, Forrest wasn’t sedated and couldn’t be positioned to take good images. And, they x-rayed the hips but omitted the knees completely.
All the while, Forrest kept limping.
It was time for new x-rays and a third opinion
The new veterinarian determined that Forrests hips were fine. But he didn’t x-ray the knees either. Instead, she figured that Forrest was a rescue dog suffering from some kind of phantom pain. She recommended Forrest’s mom to continue the meds and supplements. That’s it? The same approach that hasn’t worked in all this time?
Could Forrest have some nerve damage or slipped disc? Could there be something wrong with Forrest’s groin? Should Forrest see a behaviorist instead?
It took a mishap and a fourth veterinarian to get the right diagnoses for Forrest.
What do you think was the correct diagnosis? What would you do if it was your dog?