Lameness is usually caused by pain but non-painful lameness may also occur. Two examples of non-painful lamenesses are “mechanical lameness” where limb movement is restricted but pain-free, and neurological lameness which usually means paralaysis of a limb or part of a limb.
Sprains and strains
Bone inflammation or infection
Developmental problems in young dogs
Spinal or neck injuries
Front leg lameness
To ascertain if there is lamness in either of the front legs, the dog needs to be trotted towards the observer as lameness is harder to detect while walking unless it is very severe.
Trot the dog slowly in a straight line on a relaxed lead. If your dog scrabbles, pulls or leans to the side it can be impossible to see the lameness clearly.
The dog favours the sore leg by taking less weight on it. The impression given is that the dog “nods” downwards with its head ON THE GOOD LEG ie he nods AWAY from the bad leg.
Hind Leg Lameness:
To try to ascertain if there is hind leg lameness, the dog should be trotted slowly away from the observer. The dog favours the sore leg by taking less weight on it.
The impression given is that the hindquarter on the GOOD side moves down more – the dog seems to fall onto it. The sore leg is the other leg.
Lameness in more than one leg:
Lameness in more than just one leg at a time can be much harder to detect. The dog may seem to be generally sore and adopt a “paddling” or “pussy-footing” gait. More weight may seem to be taken on the front or hind legs, or on one or other side of the body. Two-limb lameness may only be able to be detected by the vet.
“Shifting” lameness is when all the legs are sore, either at once or at different times. This can be characteristic of bone inflammation in younger dogs or certain other rare conditions.