HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR DOG IS LIMPING
Our four legged friends are well adapted to compensating and suppressing signs and symptoms of pain. It's important as their caretakers that we notice the subtle signs of dysfunction before a small limp becomes a big deal.
If you suspect your dog may be limping, pay attention and look for the following signs and symptoms of dysfunction.
1. HEAD BOBBING: Watch your pet for a sudden rise in their head carriage. This is easiest to notice at the trot. Generally, a pet will head bob when they are trying to offload a painful leg as it strikes the ground. Their head carriage will otherwise appear level and unchanged until the painful leg hits the ground.
2. TAIL CARRIAGE: Due to muscle attachments in the lower back, the tail is an excellent diagnostic tool. Pets will also use their tail for balance and to redistribute weight. The tail often "points" to the side of dysfunction. Your pet may also hold their tail to one side at rest or be unable to wag from side to side when at rest.
3. WEIGHT BEARING / FOOT FALL: Pets may not weight bear evenly on a painful limb. You can gently lift one paw at a time and assess your pet's balance at a standstill. Be mindful that your pet may fall over if you ask them to shift weight onto a painful leg. Bunny hopping, skipping, tripoding during gait is a sign that your pet feels uncomfortable putting full weight on their leg(s).
4. SYMMETRY: Watch your pet's back feet in relation to the front feet. When your pet is walking or trotting, do the back feet land almost where the front feet just were? If not, and you see one side is really short, or perhaps a leg that goes out and around, or you hear your pet's nails dragging before their paw pad hits the ground... your pet may be working harder to accommodate for a lameness.
To document a lameness or limp, it's best to get a slow motion video from the front, side, and back of the dog with the camera held at the level of the dog's shoulder. Be sure that you can see the entire dog and every foot when you playback the video. It's also ideal to get walk and trot videos, as many pets look fine at one gait VS the other. (If you have a dog treadmill without side panels, these make for the best videos.) Minimize distractions as best you can and document the lameness at it's worst.
Watch your pet for head bobbing, abnormal tail carriage, changes in weight bearing / foot fall, and for lack of symmetry. This will help you determine if your pet has a biomechanical problem that needs to be addressed! Pay attention to small signs of lameness, share your lameness videos with your vet team, and be sure to work closely with your animal experts to help keep your four legged friends feeling their best.
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