Can Dog Lameness Be Addressed Without Surgery?

Sometimes a dog develops a limp that gradually disappears, but sometimes the lameness won't go away (and may even progress). Can dog lameness be addressed without surgery?

Anti-Inflammatory Medication for Injuries

Dog lameness can occur due to either a dog disease, infection, growing or an injury to the leg. A little detective work is necessary as to discovering why or how this limp began. Determining what had occurred previously to the dog limping is important. Did the dog twist as he was running? Did he jump off of something and land incorrectly? If so, then the injury could be just a sprain that needs rest to heal. Joint sprains and muscle, tendon or ligament strains can result from any injury. An examination, X-rays and/or a MRI will tell the extent of the injury.

It is also possible that the dog tore a ligament and/or cartilage. This requires more attention because, if the injury does not heal with rest and medications, surgery may be necessary. Usually a veterinarian will prescribe some anti-inflammatory and pain medicine to ensure proper healing.

Massage and Acupuncture

Sometimes an injury will not heal through rest and medications alone. Massaging the afflicted area will stimulate blood circulation and induce healing. Good blood flow is important in order to provide cells will nutrition and oxygen to promote healing and eliminate toxins. Often a dog will curl up the afflicted limb that inhibits circulation which inhibits healing. Acupuncture is another alternative. Great care must be taken in selecting an acupuncturist, since not all practitioners have dealt with animals. Sometimes a dog will not tolerate being "stuck" with needles no matter what the intention.

Antibiotics Will Treat an Infection

Sometimes dog lameness occurs because of an infection at an injury site or at a site of a fleabite. Infections usually occur between the toes (interdigital pyoderma) or paw area since these sites are in contact with dirt and other unsanitary conditions. Antibiotics and rest will heal this type of dog lameness.

Unfortunately some breeds of dogs are susceptible to certain diseases. Hip dysplasia and panosteitis (inflammation of the long bones during growth) or the incomplete growth of bones occurs usually in the large breeds. In these cases, medications, rest and physical therapy may be able to improve but not cure these problems in time.

Degenerative diseases such as cruciate ligament syndrome and arthritis, occurring in all dog breeds as they naturally age due to wear and tear of the joints, can be improved with combinations of chondoitin and glucose or fatty acid supplements and Vitamin E, as well as acupuncture.

Intervertebral disc disease or cauda equina syndrome (pressure on the nerve roots), osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and Lyme disease can also cause dog lameness. Lameness accompanied by non-specific lethargy can result from heart disease, organ system failures or endocrine problems such as Cushing's disease. It is important for a dog to be examined by a veterinarian whenever lameness is accompanied by any other symptoms.

Wheelchairs and Harnesses

Wheelchairs and harnesses are available for dogs with debilitating diseases. They are custom made according to the dog's needs. Most have two wheels, although if the dog is rather large, it may need four. The location of the bar or harness depends upon the location of the disability. Dogs in need of assistance can also use a brace, much like those used by horses. A prosthesis (artificial leg) is also an option.

It is important to seek veterinarian's advice whenever a dog becomes lame to rule out any serious diseases or injuries. Treatment can allow the injury to heal properly without need for surgery and diseases can be treated and cured.