Correctly identifying and dealing with lameness in dogs

UK dog owners could face fines of up to £5,000 when walking their pet

Distinguishing if our dog’s lameness is due to an orthopaedic or a neurological problem can cause problems even to the most experienced vet, but identifying it is the first step to dealing with lameness in dogs.

Cases presenting with concurrent neurologic and orthopaedic disease can be confusing because clinical signs overlap in these patients. Orthopaedic problems generally affect one limb, but when it affects two limbs it can simulate a neurological problem as occurs when there is bilateral cranial cruciate ligament tear.

In contrast, a neurological problem that affects only one limb (monoparexy) can be mistaken for an orthopaedic problem. This occurs, for example, in cases of injuries to the brachial plexus (network of nerves that send signals from the spinal cord to the muscles of the forelimb).

A patient may appear weak or unable to walk due to anaemia or systemic disease in the absence of orthopaedic or neurological disease. That is why it is important not only to perform an orthopaedic and neurological examination but also a general physical examination and perform blood tests. Sometimes the owner is not able to describe what is happening to the dog. It is important to record videos.

Sometimes what the owner describes as sporadic lameness can be a neuromuscular problem as in myasthenia gravis in which the dog after a minute or two of walking suddenly collapses or simply refuses to continue walking. Animals are unable to generate a normal gait due to paresis, intolerance due to pain or due to a mechanical cause that can be a fracture, dislocation, etc. Analysis of the animal’s gait is essential.

Once the lameness in dogs is identified, we will decide to do X-rays, ultrasound, CT or MRI.

José Rial, AVEPA certified in Traumatology and Orthopaedics. www.miperrocojea.com

In Costablanca Norte:
Anicura Marina Baixa Hospital Veterinario
www.veterinariamarinabaixa.com 

In Costablanca Sur:
Centro Veterinario de Diagnóstico por Imagen de Levante
www.resonanciaveterinaria.es

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