Evaluating forelimb lameness in juvenile dogs
Find out which conditions are most likely and get general guidance on their diagnosis and treatment. (Part 1 of a 2-part series)
Aug 01, 2012
Lameness is a common malady in young dogs. Numerous differential diagnoses exist for lameness, but when you're looking for "horses rather than zebras," the list becomes quite short.
The first step in diagnosing any lameness is localization. Observe the animal's gait at a walk and run. Palpate the limbs in standing (weight-bearing allows for better assessment of joint effusion) and recumbent positions.
Lameness localized to the limb in general could be panosteitis, which affects the long bones of large- and giant-breed dogs at 5 to 18 months of age. It results in acute lameness and pain on palpation of the long bones. Its cause is largely unknown.
Panosteitis is characterized by endosteal new-bone formation, giving affected long bones the radiographic appearance of an increased and blotchy density of the medullary canal. The condition can affect multiple bones concurrently or sequentially. Treatment includes supportive care, analgesics and time. Panosteitis tends to be self-limiting but can recur, although it is unlikely to do so in the same limb.
Affected dogs exhibit acute onset of swelling over the distal limbs, severe pain, anorexia and fever. The standard treatment for HOD includes supportive care, nutritional support and analgesics. Peracute and severe cases may benefit from a short course of corticosteroids. Antibiotics may be used to treat secondary infections (a specific infectious cause for HOD has not been identified, nor has a specific pathogen been isolated in these cases). Mild cases often spontaneously resolve. HOD is a self-limiting disease, and recurrence is rare.
Keep in mind that, as with panosteitis, it is unlikely HOD will recur in a single limb. So if recurrent single-limb lameness is noted in a young dog, further evaluation for other possible causes of the lameness is warranted.