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Other Causes of Lameness

There are many other causes of lameness in dogs.  Please consult with your veterinarian regarding the proper diagnostic tests and potential causes of your dog's lameness, as well as a detailed treatment plan.  

Listed are some of the more common causes of lameness other than the ones previously discussed.  This area will continue to grow and provide additional information.


Fractures may occur in any bone, and in any region of the bone, and may also include a joint.  Trauma is the main cause, either associated with automobile trauma, jumping from a height, or involvement in a 

dog fight.  Your veterinarian will help you decide the best method of treatment, which often involves surgery. Surgical stabilization may involve pins and wires, intramedullary rods and screws, bone plates and screws, or external skeletal fixation with pins or wires and clamps and bars.  A cast or splint may be used to repair certain types of fractures of bones below the elbow or stifle.  Close attention to post-operative care instructions will be critical to minimize complications. 



Unfortunately, bone cancer is an all too frequent cause of lameness in large to giant breed middle aged to older dogs, and in some cases, very young dogs. The most frequent sites are away from the elbow (upper humerus, lower radius) and toward the stifle (lower femur, upper tibia).  Lameness progresses over time Initially, the lameness may be attributed to a sprain/strain or arthritis.  But the lameness progressively gets worse and the area feels enlarged and painful.  Radiographs are usually diagnostic, and a fine needle aspirate or biopsy can confirm the diagnosis.  By the time of diagnosis, the vast majority of cases have already spread to the chest, even if tumors are not yet visible on chest radiographs.  Survival time without treatment is 2-5 months.  Treatment usually involves amputation (some cases may be managed with limb sparing 

techniques, but case selection is very important) and chemotherapy.  Average survival time with treatment alone is approximately 1 year. Oddly, amputation alone does not appear to significantly increase survival time but eliminates the source of pain.  Owners may be reluctant to amputate, but consider that fact that the patient is only using 3 legs already in most cases, and the dog is in severe pain. 

Other tumors may affect joints and muscles. Fortunately this are less common.  Some tumors of the joints can be very aggressive, while others may be controlled with amputation for a relatively long period of time.  


Dislocation of the hip joint may occur with trauma.  In cases where minimal trauma causes luxation, such as bumping into furniture, careful evaluation for hip dysplasia must be made.  If the hip is not dysplastic, closed reduction followed by sling immobilization may be successful.  Otherwise, surgical stabilization or a femoral head and neck excision should be performed. 


Major trauma may result in a deranged stifle.  Repair of this injury requires a thorough assessment of all injured structures and considerable experience to surgically correct the injuries.  

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) may affect the medial aspect of the lateral femoral condyle.  Advances in surgical techniques can result in good function, but arthritis will be present.

Tarsus (Hock)

Several traumatic injuries may occur in the tarsus, including fractures or dislocations of various bones of the hock.  In addition, injury or degeneration of the common calcaneal tendon may occur, resulting in a "dropped hock" appearance.  Splinting or casting may be effective in mild injuries, but more severe injuries require surgery.  The post-operative treatment is extremely important to prevent re-injury.  

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