Have you ever seen your dog limping or moving stiffly, and figured it was just weekend warrior syndrome or maybe a sign of advancing age, but nothing that required veterinary care? You may want to think again.
Ignoring a dog’s lameness can have a number of negative outcomes. First is that your pet might suffer when he or she doesn’t have to; while popping a Tylenol or Aleve is not safe for dogs or cats (in fact, it can harm or even kill them), we often do that without even thinking about it. There are safe medications or treatments that can relieve your pet’s pain even if the cause of the lameness doesn’t require serious treatment.
And even if the cause is “age” (which isn’t a disease) or a chronic, progressive condition like arthritis, pretending your pet isn’t in pain won’t make that pain go away. Our animals can’t get treatment on their own; we need to get care for them when they need it.
Second, a dog might have a serious injury such as a cruciate ligament tear, the most common orthopedic problem veterinarians see in dogs. Torn cruciate ligaments are extremely painful and cannot heal on their own; they require treatment by a veterinarian. Without repair, the ligament tear can lead to painful degenerative joint disease.
Third is the big one, the one we never want to hear as a diagnosis: bone cancer. Any dog who is reluctant to put weight on his limb or who shows sudden signs of lameness should be evaluated for osteosarcoma, which is the most frequently diagnosed bone tumor in dogs and cats, and one of the most painful of all cancers. Diagnosis requires an X-ray and biopsy.
To sum up my point, any time your dog shows signs of lameness, head to your veterinarian. Know that whatever the cause, treatment can relieve pain, improve function, and slow the advancement of the underlying problem. Simple therapies like rest or rehab, or others like medication or surgery, can help your dog live a life free of pain.