If you see your dog or cat develop a little limp or sensitivity in his legs or feet, it’s always best to have it checked by a veterinarian. Sometimes it can be an early sign of some very serious issues.
Here are some things you need to consider if your pet experiences lameness:
1. One of the signs that your dog has been bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease or other “tick-borne” diseases is lameness. The limp may change from one leg to another – this often happens when the lameness is caused by one of these diseases.
2. Some common tumors and diseases of the immune system can cause lameness. A pet is likely to begin favoring the affected limb or limbs not only to reduce pain, but to shift weight to the unaffected legs so they can continue to walk, run, and function normally. Pets do this to try to compensate to maintain an appearance of feeling normal –an instinctual holdover from their days in the wild.
3. Arthritis is very common among older pets and just like people, pets start to limp and favor the affected limb. There are many pain management medications and other recommendations such as hydrotherapy, and weight loss, to help make an arthritic dog or cat more comfortable and possibly slow down the progression of the disease.
4. Many dogs will manifest lameness because they are genetically predisposed to certain conditions such as hip dysplasia, elbow and knee malformation. Cats can also suffer from similar problems, but not as often as dogs. Your veterinarian can make many recommendations to help should your pet be affected by any of these conditions.
5. Perhaps the most common cause of lameness is rough play and over exertion. And while those twists and bumps will usually heal on their own, sometimes they cause more serious problems that need treatment by a veterinarian, including conditions like a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Try to avoid encouraging your dog to jump high to catch balls, frisbees, and other toys, as this is a leading cause of injury. Toss toys away from your pet at a low height and on a relatively even surface.
6. Pets will occasionally receive injuries that result in lameness. This might be something such as a broken toe nail, or a thorn or other foreign object embedded in their paw. A very common cause of limping in outdoor cats is a bite wound that you might not even notice until it forms an abscess. Being hit by a car is also a possibility to consider when a pet returns home lame.
7. Neck injuries can manifest themselves as lameness in either front or hind legs as well. If your pet is holding its head in a strange posture, or seems to be painful when the neck is touched or manipulated, see your veterinarian right away. This injury is more common with your small breed dogs.
The next time you see your pet limping give your veterinarian a call to be sure it’s nothing to worry about.