Dog Lameness Misdiagnosis: Did Star Tear Her Cruciate Ligament?

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.

Dog Lameness Misdiagnosis: Did Star Tear Her Cruciate Ligament?

Star’s story

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?

Veterinary visit

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

Source story:
ACL Tear Misdiagnosis – It’s Panosteitis It Turns Out

Related articles:
Dog Lameness Diagnosis: Why It Is Essential to Figure out What’s Wrong
Why Is My Dog Limping?
Common Limping Misdiagnoses in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsDog health advocacyLamenessLimpingMisdiagnosesPanosteitisReal-life StoriesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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