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  • Writer's pictureDr Mark J Tenenbaum

Lameness (Limping) in Dogs

Lameness in dogs is a relatively common presentation in the vet clinic and can have a number of underlying causes, varying from mild-to-serious. Lameness is never "normal" and should not be neglected.

Depending on the signalment of the dog (breed, age, gender) and history of the lameness - we can start to formulate a list of potential diagnoses (causes) of the lameness. We are developing our service Differential by The Vet Society which is aiming to provide pet owners with a list of potential diagnoses based on their dog's signalment & history. With this information, owners can set their expectations when visiting the vet clinic & make informed decisions about the next steps. Click on the link to trial our Differential service

Causes of lameness in dogs can be divided into categories including:

  • Orthopaedic

  • Neurological

  • Immune-mediated and/or inflammatory

  • Hormonal

Common causes of lameness that fit into these categories include:

  • Cruciate (ACL) disease and/or ligament rupture

  • Hip dysplasia

  • Soft tissue injury

  • Luxating patella (knee cap)

  • Elbow dysplasia

  • Fractures

  • Spinal disease (IVDD) or injury

  • Shoulder instability or shoulder tendon injury

  • Nail & pad disease and/or injury

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Lumbosacral disease

  • Bone tumours (cancer)

  • Immune-mediated arthritis or immune-mediated nail bed conditions

  • Degenerative myelopathy

  • Infectious

  • Hypoadrenocortism (Addisons) - weakness which can 'look like' lameness

In order to narrow down the most likely causes, a veterinarian will start by reviewing the dog's signalment & collecting a thorough history. This will start the refining process to help rule out potential causes (as above). Once a veterinarian has this refined list, a clinical examination +/- diagnostics will help to further diagnose the condition. Diagnostics to investigate lameness may include imaging (xrays, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI), blood tests, joint-sampling and exploratory arthrotomy (opening joint)/scoping.

If your dog has started limping and you want some information of the most likely diagnoses (differentials) based on your dog's signalment & history, start with Differential by The Vet Society:


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