We have a six-month-old German Shepherd named Ginger. The poor dog has been limping over the past five weeks in first one leg and then a second leg. She cries whenever we touch the affected leg so it must be painful. Is this serious? Should we have her examined?
Ginger is still considered a puppy and we get concerned when puppies are limping. If she only suffered from a sprain or bruise, I would have expected the problem to begin to improve with a day or two. Initially the area may be painful, but it should quickly improve. Minor sprains and bruises shouldn't last for weeks at a time. The fact that the lameness has been in two different legs may be important and may indicate panosteitis. This is a common problem in fast-growing, large breed dogs. Its tell-tale signs are the shifting of lameness from leg to leg and pain when you touch the affected leg. The lameness can last weeks at a time. Radiographs will confirm the diagnosis. The problem can be cured and almost always is self limiting (that is, it will get better on its own). Panosteitis is inflammation of the bone which is the reason why it is so painful. The exact cause is not known. If Ginger has panosteitis, you should reduce her exercise and use anti-inflammatory drugs which will help with the pain. It is important to have Ginger examined and radiographed because she might have more serious problems. While panosteitis responds well to conservative treatment, some other bone problems in puppies require surgery. One problem is Osteochondritis dissecans, a bone defect on a joint surface, that can lead to secondary arthritis unless surgically corrected early. In another problem, also common to German Shepherds, there is a drop in the blood supply to the tip of one of the elbow bones. Early removal of the affected bone tip can prevent degenerative joint disease (arthritis). To summarize, you should suspect a serious problem in a puppy if lameness persists more than a few days. The sooner the dog is treated, the better its chances for total cure.