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Persistent limp

Lewis Moon

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Max went to the vet yesterday to try to diagnose the cause of his persistent limp. The vet couldn’t find anything on external exam and opted not to do X-rays because she couldn't elicit any reaction that said something hurt. They're doing a Valley Fever test but, beyond that, nothing is scheduled. I’m a little worried about this and thought I’d just get a bit of input here while waiting the ~ 4 days until the ValFev test gets back.


Max is ~ 18 months old, 52 lbs, BC/Australian Shepherd possibly mixed with Golden. We have had him for about three weeks. He came to us from a bad situation where he was sharing a dirt corral with a St. Bernard behind a doublewide. The previous owner said the SB was slamming him around. He limped pretty badly when we got him but it seemed to almost completely go away. However, it has lately gotten worse on the front leg. The limp doesn’t seem overtly painful most of the time but when standing you can plainly see he is trying to take the weight off of both left legs. He regularly jumps a 2 ft baby gate.


Symptoms etc:


• Limping on both left legs when we got him

• No external signs of injury

• Limping on rear subsided but still there

• Limp on front gets better/worse; lately worse

• Limp gets better with anti-inflammatories (low N)

• He has good energy, activity, plays with Cerb

• Normal temp

• No cough or sneezing

• Eating normally

• No ticks when we got him

• Front leg will move through full range of motion w/out problems or pain

• Limp seems worse after crating

• Limp seems worse in cold/wet weather (imagination?)

• Limp gets worse with too much exercise

• Can be made worse with falls from rough play


We’re trying to keep his activity low and low impact but his “foster brother” is a very active, 16 month old BCx who loves to play above all else. Max recently got altered and was laid up in a cone for about a week and the inactivity didn’t seem to help. If anything, the front limp got worse.

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I would go in to see a veterinary chiropractor for an exam. My older dog Rose came in as a rescue and had a similar limp that the vet said was probably panosteitis. She still jumped things, etc. but had a limp. A year and a half later she still had wandering, intermittently lamemess- took her to a chiropractor and discovered that most maladjustments don't show up on x-rays but are easily found in a brief exam with a veterinary chiropractor. Rose does still have an intermitten issue- every once and awhile we see the chiropractor but otherwise she's doing agility, herding, and daily hikes. If Max was being physically or mentally stressed that can cause severe maladjustments. Its worth a try. :)

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Here are a couple of random thoughts that ran through my mind while reading your post:


Based on the description of his situation before you got him, it would not be out of the realm of possibility that he was injured in his play/body-slamming with a much bigger dog.


Good idea to test for any infectious diseases that may affect joint function - Valley Fever (is that a tick-borne disease) and any tick-borne diseases endemic to your area.


If it is a soft-tissue injury, it should get better with an anti-inflammatory (Rimadyl, etc.) and crate rest. No playing/running in the back yard with playmates, no body-slamming by playmates, restrict walks to just enough to eliminate, leash walking ONLY, maybe not even going down a set of stairs. The severity of exercise restriction depends on the seriousness of the injury - if that is what is causing the limp.


If it is something more serious (e.g. joint injuries due to ligament or tendon tears, etc.), I don't know how far your group wants to go with a foster. Xrays may be required and I would definitely try to find a rehab/ortho vet for an evaluation. Most general vets do not have the training to correctly diagnose sports injuries (for lack of a better term). This opinion comes from personal experience and experiences of several friends with "active/working" dogs.


It is not unusual for a working dog to have a very high pain tolerance - hence the ability to play/work with no or little limping, then show the effects after. So they never really heal because they are always "re-injuring" the original insult.


If it was me, the testing for infectious diseases would be the first step (which you have already done). Next I would try the conservative "restricting exercise" regimen - with or without anti-inflammatories - for a couple of weeks. Many people do not realize that some injuries can take a month or longer to completely heal. Continued observation will be important too.


You have a mystery on your hand. Best of Luck with finding a solution.



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My first thought would be soft tissue injury/bruising thanks to the SB. Such injuries can appear to go away with rest only to recur with activity, which means that you really do have to be strict about crate rest and not allowing any rough play, or really any active play at all (I know--I've prolonged recovery on more than one dog by not being strict enough on the crate rest thing).


The fact that it gets better with rest does seem to point to an injury. The fact that you can't get a reaction on exam doesn't mean it's not an injury.


I would also do standard bloodwork, including testing for tick-borne diseases (in addition to Valley Fever), just to be safe.


If it *is* a soft tissue injury, there's no substitute for a strict crate-rest (in a crate unless you can insure that the dog is not being active when left out of a crate), out on leash only to go potty, regimen.



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Good idea to test for any infectious diseases that may affect joint function - Valley Fever (is that a tick-borne disease) and any tick-borne diseases endemic to your area.

Valley fever is caused by a fungal infection that is acquired by inhaling spores that are present in dust from disturbed soil. It can affect both people and dogs.

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I would go along with Crawfords Dogs and recommend a visit to a dog chiropractor. My husband's dog, who has had a FHO, would keep having intermittent limping on right front leg. I took him to someone who does some chiropractic work and also does myofascial release and after just a few visits he has been limp free for over 2 years. When I first brought him in he had a neck vertebrae out of alignment along with a few other things, another time he had popped a rib out. I have found that she has done wonders for a lot of dogs.



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Thanks all. I think we'll try crate rest for a week or so to see how it proceeds. It'll be next Monday before we will get the ValFev test back so we can keep him in at least until then, and decide.


The more I think about it the more I agree that he may be re-injuring soft tissue. He's still basically a playful adolescent and gets egged on by his hyper (especially when he misses exercise) "foster brother" (see B&W Ball Monster below). We also have wood floors, and while Cerb has mastered the "more pad, less nail" thing, Max will often slide around like Bambi on a frozen lake. That's gotta be stressful.


We're going to have to be strict, and that's going to really make two dogs unhappy. :unsure:

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