If your dog is lame, do you think it is important to know why? What difference would it make?
The list of potential causes of your dog’s lameness is long and most likely suspects depend on:
- how quickly it came on
- how long it’s lasting
- the breed
- the dog’s age
- the dog’s lifestyle
- other variables
Those criteria make certain possibilities more likely than others, but lameness diagnosis can still take work. However, how would you like your dog going through surgery they didn’t need? Yes, it can happen, and some dogs came really close.
Star was a young German Shepherd dog, full of life and mischief. She just turned a year of age and loved playing, running, and fetching.
Then her mom noticed strange scrapes on Star’s hind legs. They were fairly high toward the hock—identical on both legs—it was a mystery. How would Star have done this? It looked almost as if Star screeched to a stop with her hind legs folded under, which didn’t make much sense.
Star starts limping
About a week later, Star started limping too. Because Star always played hard, her mom figured that she might have sprained a muscle—a common injury in active dogs. Deep down, Star’s mom was concerned that it could be Star’s knee ligament that got hurt, though.
If it was an injury like that, though, why would the lameness show up a couple of days after the activity that was most suspect—fetching on a gravel surface?
With two mysteries on her hands, her mom took Star to a veterinarian. The veterinarian couldn’t elicit a positive drawer test, but that is not all that unusual. The top suspects were a sprain or, indeed, a cruciate ligament tear.
Start went home with orders for rest to see if things improve.
Star doesn’t improve
By the end of the following week, Star would barely put any weight on her hind leg. When they returned to the veterinarian, she repeated the drawer test and declared it positive. Because of how severe Star’s lameness was, she said it was a full tear and that Star needed surgery to fix her knee.
Star got referral to an orthopedic surgeon to get a TPLO.
At the specialist
When Star showed up for her appointment with the orthopedic specialist, he reviewed her records and examined Star. He disagreed with the family veterinarian’s findings and declared there was no drawer sign. He didn’t believe Star’s lameness had anything to do with her knee at all; she seemed more painful when he was manipulating her hip than when he was testing the knee.
Don’t forget, Star was there for a knee surgery.
Instead, the specialist decided to take some x-rays to have a better idea of what might be going on.
While Star was under sedation, he repeated the drawer test, and it was still negative. The x-rays showed no problem with Star’s knees or hips. They did, however, show potential evidence of panosteitis. Star needed medication to manage her pain and inflammation but did not need any surgery.
Further reading: Panosteitis in Dogs