We all know this one, right? The cause of shifting lameness, quick, anybody? Yes, intermittent or shifting lameness is a common symptom of Lyme disease.
So that’s it? Case closed?
Not so fast. Yes, shifting lameness, stiff walk, and sensitivity to touch can signal Lyme disease. However, it likely wouldn’t be the only symptom you’d see. You can observe any other signs involved with an infection, such as swollen joints, lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, lymph node swelling, and others. Serious complications can even include kidney damage.
Only 5-10% of dogs who might test positive for the disease are likely to show any symptoms.
The traditional antibody test can only tell you whether or not your dog has been exposed to the organism that causes Lyme; it doesn’t tell you whether or not there is an active disease. Meaning, your dog will have antibodies if they successfully fought off Lyme disease and from vaccination as well. A better antibody test is available now to diagnose only active infections.
However, Lyme disease is not the only potential cause of shifting lameness.
If you have a medium to large breed puppy between the ages of 5 to 18 months, your pup’s joint pain might have nothing to do with an infection but rather be caused by what is sometimes referred to as growing pains, panosteitis.
While the reason for joint inflammation is very different, the result is similar.
All that doesn’t exclude the possibility of other conditions that affect more than one leg.
For example, when Trago started limping, panosteitis was the initial diagnosis he was given. As it turned out, however, this wasn’t Trago’s problem at all. Instead, Trago had bilateral elbow dysplasia.
Both elbows were hurting. Picture this, if you will. One might hurt just a little bit more than the other. Compensation will lead to overusing the other leg, making that one hurt more. And so on. The mystery behind shifting lameness.
Your dog can have hip dysplasia but start favoring one of the front legs. The principle is the same. Compensation can result in pain even in places that initially had nothing wrong with them.
Further causes of shifting lameness include:
- other infectious diseases like ehrlichiosis or leishmaniasis
- immune-mediated disorders,
- and even back problems
The only thing shifting lameness tells me for sure is that there is a problem.
Does it tell me what the problem is? Not really. I can have my suspicions based on age, history, and lifestyle, but I’d be just guessing without a vet and proper diagnostics.
20 Causes of Lameness & Limping in Dogs