Puppy Limping? Difficulty Walking and Lameness!

Puppy Limping? Difficulty Walking and Lameness Article!

You came home from work and noticed your brand new puppy is limping. Now what? There are a few steps you can take for a dog limping, but it looks like it may be time for a visit to your veterinarian.

What is lameness?

Lameness is the result of a dog being unable to bear full weight on one or more limbs. This leads to a noticeable abnormality in the gait or difficulty walking. Lameness can be subtle or barely detectable (grade 1) to bearing no weight on one limb (grade 5).

Puppies, especially those under six months of age, already tend to have an irregular gait. When they play they may run with their rear legs shifted sideways, or they may scamper in leaps and skips. If you really watch your puppy and notice a persistent abnormality, there is a cause for concern.

walk or trot is the easiest ways to spot abnormalities. If you know something is wrong but the lameness is not obvious, look for shortening of the stride on one leg, bobbing or lifting the head when placing a particular limb, or dropping the hip or shoulder. Also watch for abnormalities lying down or getting up, swelling, or signs of pain.

What are some signs your puppy may be in pain?

• Depressed or quieter than usual 
Abnormal crying or yelping, anxiety 
• Lameness 
• Abnormal posture 
• Flinching 
• Reluctance to be touched 
• Not eating

What are common causes of lameness in puppies?

The differences between puppies and old dogs become important when considering the possible reasons for lameness. A puppy's growth and vulnerability to accidents lead to problems unique to its age group. On the other hand, a puppy is not prone to many debilitating diseases that cause lameness over time.

  1. Paws – The pads can get torn or burned, and when this happens it is extremely painful. A broken or fractured claw is also painful. Foreign bodies like glass or gravel can become embedded between the pads of toes and cause painful limping. 

  2. Fractured bones – Sometimes a broken bone or a dislocation is obvious because the limb is held at an abnormal angle, is shortened, or moves inappropriately. Many fractures are not obvious though. Lameness resulting from injury should be evaluated by a veterinarian with access to radiography (like Pet Express Animal Hospital!) 

  3. Sprains and strains – Stresses on the ligaments and tendons can cause long-term lameness and should be assessed by your veterinarian. 

  4. Contusions and wounds – Be sure to check your pup for active bleeding if you notice a wound. Your puppy’s medical professional will determine if sutures or other therapy is necessary.

  5. Trauma – is, not surprisingly, one of the leading causes of lameness in puppies. Often you will witness an injury occur and know immediately the source of your puppy’s limping.

What are other causes of lameness in canines?

 A dysfunctional issue related to rapid growth is a common link to lameness in puppies. Large breed puppies are susceptible to numerous bone and joint irregularities during growing stages, and others breeds may have genetic factors for certain dysplasias. 

  • Front legs can be affected by shoulder or elbow dysplasia (abnormal growth) or osteochondrosis (disease of growing bone). Sometimes bones in the elbow (incongruity) or the foreleg (asymmetry) do not grow at the same rate and cause pain and lameness.

  • In the hind legs, osteochondrosis can affect the knees and dysplasia the hips. Toy breeds commonly suffer luxating patellas (periodically dislocating kneecaps) and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (a disease affecting the ball of the hip joint).

  • Panosteitis is a general inflammatory condition that can affect all bones in growing dogs.

  • Puppies can experience congenital abnormalities present at birth that do not really manifest until they start walking. 

  • Nutritional imbalances may be more common than you think. A lack of specific nutrients in the correct concentrations can lead to growth abnormalities and lameness in pups.

  • Infection often results from injury or can be a side effect of surgery to repair an injury. Signs of infection are persistent pain, swelling, redness, and sometimes pus. If your puppy had surgery to repair a bone, for example, contact your veterinarian immediately if he suddenly becomes painful in the area. 

*Back injuries can cause lameness in any limb in puppies

When is lameness an emergency?

Regardless of the cause, sudden lameness that persists longer than twenty minutes requires veterinary attention. Emergency situations that demand immediate medical attention are bleeding, obvious and/or open fractures, dislocations, clear infections, dangling legs, and extreme symptoms of pain. If you feel your puppy has a lameness emergency, contact Pet Express Animal Hospital at (954)653-6868 or at www.954pet.com for emergency or urgent care.