Shifting Leg Lameness in a Puppy
Andro, our six month old Rottweiler, became lame about a month ago. It sees unusual, but the lameness shifted from leg to leg several times. The affected leg also seemed painful when we touched it. Should we take her to the veterinarian?
Andro’s problem sounds like panosteitis. It is a common problem in fast-growing large breed puppies and may be related to diet, vitamin and mineral supplements, or immune problems.
Treat the problem by reducing exercise and feeding a diet made for large breed dogs. Your veterinarian can recommend the correct food for her. Sometimes anti-inflammatory drugs can be used if the pain is severe.
Though Andro’s signs suggest panosteitis, you should be aware that there are several other causes of lameness in puppies. Minor sprains and bruises can cause a limp but it usually begins to improve within 24-48 hours. You can test a pup by gently examining its joints for swelling and loss of movement. If everything feels alright and if the dog seems to improve in a few hours, the problem probably is minor and does not require a veterinarian.
A serious problem like Andro’s calls for examination and radiographs by a veterinarian. Panosteitis responds well to conservative treatment, but some bone problems in puppies require surgery. One such example is osteochondritis dissecans, a defect in the bone on a joint surface. It can lead to secondary arthritis unless treated early. A common problem in German Shepherds is loss of blood supply in the tip of the elbow bone. Early removal of the bone tip prevents degenerative joint disease (arthritis). As noted, you suspect such serious trouble when lameness persists for more than a day or two. The sooner the dog is treated, the better its chance for a total cure.
Puppies are at a critical point of development and need a good, well balanced diet to prevent some of these serious bone problems. Improper nutrients in their diet can be as damaging to bone growth as a nutritionally deficient diet. This is why it is crucial to select a high quality dog food and give supplements only if recommended by your veterinarian.