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Dog Health Advice & Tips for Pet Owners

10 Common Back Leg Injuries in Dogs

Dogs are naturally playful and active. They love to run, explore, and jump whenever they go out. A dog’s playful nature is one of the many things we love about this precious creature. But it can also make canines prone to injuries, including hind leg injuries. In this article, we’ve layed out some of the most common hind leg injuries in order to help you understand what your dog might have experienced. What are the Symptoms of Dog Hind Leg Injuries? You can find out whether your pet has rear leg injuries in many ways. Start by watching how your dog moves, or listen for audible cues, paying attention if they whimper or cry. Your pet may have hurt its hind leg if it: Looks and acts weaker than usual Becomes uninterested in their favorite activities Has bruises or swelling on their leg Whimpers and wails from pain Limps or staggers while walking  Has decreased range of motion  Moves with their bones clicking or cracking What are the Most Common Back Leg Injuries in Dogs? Some breeds of dogs can experience certain injuries due to their size and body build. For example, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and Saint Bernards are breeds most susceptible to a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury. These larger breeds tend to put on excessive weight, causing additional stress on their hips and joints. Additionally, less physical activity and an unbalanced diet can increase a canine’s risk of injury. To help reduce that risk, make sure your pet gets frequent exercise and consumes healthy food. If you need help identifying a specific hind leg injury, we’ve listed the most common ones below. We have also categorized these rear leg injuries in dogs by location: ankles, knees, and hips. Ankle Achilles Tendon Injury The canine Achilles tendon is also known as the common calcaneal tendon. It is made up of multiple tendons from different muscles in the hind limb to comprise the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendon injuries can be: Traumatic - injuries caused by lacerations, blunt force trauma, or overstretching the tendon. Atraumatic - chronic and degenerative injuries. Among dog breeds, Labrador retrievers and Doberman pinschers are most prone to atraumatic Achilles tendon injuries. Generally, dogs can limp and have some or excessive swelling around the injured area. But you may also see a canine walking “flat-footed” or “dropped,” with the toes curled downward (known as a crab claw stance). Your pet may curl its toes when every part of the Achilles tendon, except the superficial digital flexor tendon, has ruptured. Sprains & Strains While dog leg sprains and strains may seem similar, both are completely different injuries. But before we dive into what makes sprains and strains different, let’s talk about ligaments and tendons. Dog ligaments connect bones to a joint, while tendons connect bones and muscles. So if your pet overstretches or tears any of its ligament, it will result in a sprain. But if this injury happens on a tendon, your canine can experience a strain. Additionally, slips, falls, or jumps can cause strains in dogs and injure their hips and thighs. As for sprains, they can result in joint damage and often involve their ankles and knees. If you see your pet limping, it may have strained or sprained its rear leg. Recurring or extended lameness will need immediate veterinarian attention, as it can be a sign of a more serious condition. Tarsal Fractures These involve fracturing the tarsal bones of the foot of the dog. Causes can vary from the normal wear and tear of repetitive actions, to sudden impact and compression. This condition can cause pain and swelling on the affected foot, and your dog will have difficulty putting weight on it. Tarsal fractures can either be micro or stress fractures, or complete fractures. You’ll find a dog’s tarsal bones between the crus (lower leg) and metatarsus (metatarsal bones). If your pet experiences acute trauma or sprains their tarsal joints repeatedly, they can eventually become fractured. Tarsal fractures can happen when your pet: Overextends a joint Experiences internal or external injuries to its limb Has weakening ligaments Is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or another immune-mediated condition Symptoms of these fractures may include a dropped stance while your pet walks, pain, swelling, and popping, clicking, or crackling from the injured leg. Slipped Hock A dog’s hock is equivalent to the human ankle. It’s located on the rear leg, under your pet’s knee. The hock connects the tibia and fibula (shin bones) to the talus and calcaneus (the bones in your canine’s paw). If your pet always runs or jumps often and lands the wrong way, its hocks may get injured or damaged. A slipped hock is one injury that can affect how the joint functions. It happens when the hock flexes incorrectly by hyperextending or collapsing forward as it moves. In turn, a slipped hock can cause fractures or become dislocated, affecting the balance and mobility of your pet. Knee Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease (CrCLD) or CCL Injury The cranial cruciate ligament helps stabilize the inside of the knee of your dog. When this ligament ruptures, your canine may limp and feel pain, or eventually develop knee arthritis. CCL injuries can involve a partially or completely ruptured cruciate. Torn ligaments pull back and weaken, or they can’t be rehabilitated completely and need special medical attention. If left untreated, a torn CCL can worsen and lead to arthritis and other diseases. Moreover, 40 to 60% of dogs with CrCLD on one knee will experience the same condition in the other knee, since they will often compensate for the injured knee by bearing more weight on the other healthy leg. Meniscal Injury The meniscus is the C-shaped cartilage in a canine knee that distributes force and friction within the joint. The meniscus can eventually wear out due to constant stress. If your canine is always on the move and does a lot of jerking actions, it may get a torn meniscus. Meniscal injuries can also happen when your pet falls and twists its legs. Canines with a torn CCL can get an injured meniscus, increasing pain and lameness. After the CCL tears, your pet may move as if it hasn’t limped. But when the affected joint becomes unstable, the canine will limp again. You may also hear clicking sounds coming from a free section of the ruptured meniscus as your pet moves. Luxating Patella A luxating patella is essentially a dislocated kneecap. The kneecap moves out of the groove on the thigh bone. Smaller breeds like the Maltese, Chihuahua, French poodle, and Bichon Frise tend to experience a luxating patella. Patellar luxations can be mild, moderate, or severe. If your pet moves its knee and the patella gets dislocated, mild luxations will follow. The kneecap may also go out of place every time your canine uses its knee, leading to moderate or severe luxation. Hip Hip Dysplasia Genetics, excessive growth, types of exercise, improper weight, and unbalanced nutrition can cause this rear leg injury. Hip dysplasia can affect canines as young as four months or develop in dogs with osteoarthritis. Some symptoms you should watch out for include: Reduced activity and range of motion Lameness Swaying and “bunny hopping” Enlarged shoulder muscles, if the canine is using them instead of its hind legs Pain Stiffness Large dogs, including Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Labrador retrievers, and German shepherds, are more likely to have hip dysplasia. Hip Luxation Hip luxation happens when your pet dislocates one of its hip joints. This can be caused by severe trauma, rigorous physical activity, or repetitive stress. Dogs with hip dysplasia are also more likely to have hip luxation. If your pet has a dislocated hip, it won’t bear any weight on the injured limb. The affected leg might also look off and be at an odd angle. Additionally, your canine may limp and cry in pain because of this injury. Pelvic Fractures Pelvic fractures are the cracks in your dog’s pelvic bones. They make up 25% of the fractures that veterinarians and surgeons treat. Most pelvic fractures stem from major trauma. A fall from a high place, a car accident, or another accident can break your pet’s pelvic bones. Lameness usually follows pelvic fractures. What Should You Do if Your Dog’s Hind Leg Hurts? If you feel that your dog has injured a rear leg, we encourage you to visit a veterinarian right away. The vet will perform various physical exams on your pet to check its overall condition and determine suitable treatment options. At home, limit your pet’s mobility and prevent reinjury. You should confine them to a small space, and prevent them from jumping up, or playing with other dogs. Keep your dog from going outside, except for bathroom breaks. And use of a sling may be recommended to assist their movement. Massaging the injured area can help ease your pet’s stress as well.  Depending on the injury, you can apply dry, cold packs and ensure your dog gets enough rest for a quick recovery. Joint supplements, like fish oil, can be incredibly effective in long-term, preventative care for your pet.  Diet can be incredibly important as excessive weight alone can also cause rear leg injuries. Put your dog on a diet and help manage its weight to prevent future injuries. Lastly, if you have concerns, consult your local veterinarian. If you leave an injury untreated, it can worsen over time and develop into various complications or diseases. Speed Up Your Dog’s Recovery with Lick Sleeve A dog’s playfulness can hurt any part of its body, including the back legs. Knowing the most common rear leg injuries and their accompanying symptoms ensures that your pet recovers smoothly. After veterinary treatment, your dog may lick its injury or surgery site to relieve some pain and discomfort. This too, can worsen their condition. Lick Sleeve has the most comfortable, water-resistant, durable and breathable sleeve on the market, to prevent harmful lick, and help your pet recover better.  These steps will help prevent potential complications from your pet licking it’s injured leg. Make sure your canine stays healthy and happy. Learn more about how to prevent common injuries in dogs and recover better on the Lick Sleeve blog today.

Avoiding Hind Leg Weakness in Senior Dogs

Having a senior dog can be a fulfilling experience, especially if you saw your pet grow up with you. Yet, it can also be challenging, especially for the family dog. Over time, older dogs will become more lethargic, moving and walking slower as their muscles grow weaker. As they age, their legs become more susceptible to injury.  The fact that they grew old while with you is a testament to why dogs are man's best friend. Helping them navigate their senior years is a joy and comes with a responsibility. Here, we will discuss how hind leg weakness can affect senior dogs and what measures you can take to help avoid or manage their effects on our pets. 5 Causes of Hind Leg Weakness in Senior Dogs Weakness in your dog's hind legs can be due to numerous factors all related to aging. We've listed down a few common reasons if you notice  their legs are starting to give out: Arthritis Canine arthritis is when inflammation sets into the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and discomfort. The cartilage in the affected joint becomes less smooth as it wears down. Eventually, the joints will rub against each other and cause different complications such as: Joint instability Permanent damage to the cartilage and nerves Physical trauma to the bone Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) DM, or chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM), affects the spinal cord of dogs. The effect on the back legs becomes more apparent as the white matter of the spinal cord weakens over time. While veterinarians have yet to discover the exact cause of DM, some physicians associate spinal injuries or conditions such as lumbosacral stenosis with this disorder. Diabetes Like humans, dogs also produce insulin to help their bodies store energy from food and move glucose (sugar from consumed carbohydrates) into their cells. If they make little to no insulin or trigger an unusual response to the hormone, your pet may have diabetes. Symptoms of canine diabetes can range from excessive thirst to vomiting. Left untreated, this condition can cause more severe problems like urinary tract infections and seizures. Miniature poodles, Bichon Frises, pugs, and beagles are some breeds with an increased risk for diabetes. Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE) FCE occurs when a piece of fibrous cartilage blocks blood flow to the spinal cord. The cartilage may come from the nucleus of an intervertebral disc. Your canine may experience FCE while jumping or running. In this case, your pet may bark aggressively or act as if it's in pain. They might also refrain from using their back legs and have one half of their body looking weaker than the other. Other Spinal Conditions Certain spinal-related conditions can also cause hind leg weakness in senior dogs. They include: Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) - IVDD can refer to a ruptured, slipped, bulging, or herniated disc in your dog's spinal cord. Beagles, Dachshunds, Pekingese dogs, basset hounds, and American cocker spaniels are some breeds more prone to getting this condition. Wobbler syndrome - Wobbler syndrome is a common neck condition of large dog breeds like Doberman pinschers and Great Danes. The pain in their neck will cause these canines typically have a "wobbly" stride in their back legs. Lumbosacral stenosis - This spine-related condition happens when the spinal canal connecting the lower back and tailbone narrows. This constricts the bundle of nerve roots that run down the canal and will end up weakening their hind legs. The Warning Signs of Weakening Back Legs Symptoms of hind leg weakness in senior dogs can vary, as they can show obvious signs right away or gradually develop over time. Some warning signs can help veterinarians determine whether your pet has unstable back legs. Therefore, looking out for any physical or behavioral changes is vital. Your pet may experience lameness, lose coordination, and go off-balance with weakening hind legs. Other symptoms can include instability, difficulty walking, pain, swelling, or even weight loss from losing muscle mass. 6 Ways to Strengthen Your Pet’s Back Legs If you want to ensure your elderly dog maintains strong hind legs despite their age, the tips below may help. Perform Low-Impact Activities Low-impact exercises require less effort to strengthen your canine's joints and muscles. You can start with multiple daily walks that are slow and short. Swimming is a great low-impact activity that can help your pet strengthen its hind legs. 15 to 30 minutes in the water will do for your furry friend. If your dog is one of those canines that love to spend time in the water, you can extend their swimming sessions up to 60 minutes. Your pet can also perform simple exercises such as: Sit to stand - Have your canine sit and stand 10 to 15 times per session. Try doing this exercise several times a day. Passive range of motion (PROM) exercises - Raise your pet's leg and hold it in the air for 30 seconds. Do three to five repetitions per leg to keep the legs even. Put Your Pet on a Healthier Diet A healthy diet is one of the best preventative steps to offset pelvic limb weakness in senior dogs. Make sure your pet consumes food rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants daily. Consider including foods containing Vitamins D, K, C, and E and magnesium in your canine's daily meals.  Additionally, your dog should still eat enough fat and protein. A protein-rich diet will help your dog increase muscle mass and keep its joints healthy. When shopping for dog food, look at the nutrients it provides. High-quality dog foods contain enough protein, calcium, and phosphorus for strong bones, fats, and other vital nutrients. Also, the food you're considering should meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) 's nutritional guidelines. Ensure Your Canine is at a Healthy Weight If a dog is overweight, its joints and muscles will be under extra pressure. This strain can cause pain and weaken the limbs. Because of this, senior dogs should maintain a stable, healthy weight to prevent their joints from wearing out faster. Sufficient exercise and a balanced diet are keys to maintaining your pet's ideal weight. More importantly, discuss how your canine should weigh with a veterinarian and plan its exercise routine and diet. Get Joint Supplements for Your Pet Canine joint supplements contain essential nutrients for maintaining healthy joints. They help reduce inflammation and pain and protect the joints from additional damage. You can get canine joint supplements in the form of chewable tablets, soft chews, or liquid supplements. The best joint supplements for dogs contain glucosamine, a naturally occurring compound in cartilage. Additionally, they're rich in chondroitin. Chondroitin, like glucosamine, is found in cartilage. It lowers inflammation in canine joints. Other ingredients in canine joint supplements include collagen and fish oils. Collagen ensures optimal joint health for your pet, while fish oils contain Omega-3 to control inflammation and improve mobility. Talk to a Veterinarian If you notice your canine's back legs becoming wobbly, take them to a veterinarian immediately. They'll help you know why your furry friend is experiencing hind leg weakness and how you can start to manage it. Some veterinarians may recommend canine physical therapy to help mitigate the weakening hind legs of your senior dog. Keep Your Furry Friend's Bones Healthy Canines can get wobbly hind legs as they age, causing pain and increasing their risk for accidents. Back leg weakness in senior dogs stems from various causes, with symptoms that can develop abruptly or gradually. But there is still a lot you can do to prevent these conditions. Consider now how you can strengthen your pet's hind legs and bones through methods like low-impact exercises, healthy dieting, and giving them joint supplements. Are you after optimal canine health? Find more helpful tips and resources on the Lick Sleeve blog today.

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