Diagnosing Lameness in Dogs

Lameness in dogs or limping can be caused by a wide range of factors including arthritis or Lyme disease. Diagnosing lameness in dogs can be done judging by the history of the dog, the symptoms displayed and by performing a few relevant tests.

Causes of Lameness in Dogs

Typically, lameness in dogs is caused by pain and an underlying condition that causes pain, making the dog limp. The causes of lameness in dogs may be various:

  • An accident that has injured the dog's leg
  • Fractures of bones
  • Tick bites that cause Lyme disease
  • Arthritis of joint swelling
  • Bone tumors
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Muscle pain
  • Neurological problems
  • Brain tumors
  • Tumors located on the spinal cord

Diagnosing Lameness in Dogs

When diagnosing the lameness, the vet will look into your dog's medical history. The vet may ask you a few questions about whether you know of any accidents the dog may have been involved in, or whether you've been in areas with ticks. It is important to let the vet know whether the limping occurred suddenly or has developed gradually over time. This can help the vet establish the possible cause of lameness. The vet will also examine the dog and make him perform different movements. The vet will palpate the limbs of the dog, looking for possible lumps or abnormalities. According to the physical exam and the findings, the vet will perform a few tests.

Clinical Tests

  • A complete blood count may be performed to establish if there are any infections or abnormalities that may point to a tumor.
  • Radiographs and x-rays of the limbs will be performed.
  • An arthography test involves the injection of dye into the joint and may be performed to detect if the dog is affected by arthritis.
  • Joint taps can be performed. This test involves extracting some joint fluid and examining it. A pathologist can establish if the results of the test are normal.
  • A neurological exam may also be recommended if the vet doesn't find any other physical problem. CT scans or MRIs may also be performed.
  • A myelography can be recommended. This will test the spinal cord.
  • If the vet detects tumors on the x-rays or ultrasounds, they will have to be biopsied.

If the cause of the lameness is not obvious and the performed tests are not conclusive, the vet will recommend a period of rest and will evaluate the dog after a few weeks.

Treating Lameness

Lameness in dogs may not always be treatable. If there is a fracture, this may be healed. Lyme disease may also be treated with antibiotics, provided it is detected in a timely manner. Bone tumors may be operable and removed, if detected in time.

Arthritis cannot be treated. Anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medication may be administered to reduce limping.

The vet may also recommend a rest period, depending on the cause of lameness.