The Norman Transcript

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July 18, 2013

Dog uses only three legs sometimes

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: I am writing about my 6- or 7-year-old beagle, who I adopted four years ago from a local rescue group.

Last year, he started lifting his rear leg and walking and running on three legs — not all the time, but particularly when he would rise from his dog bed to go outside. He seemed to do it consistently after intense playtimes or long walks.

I took him to our vet right away, and she could not determine the cause. She worked his leg and knee, but neither seemed to give him any pain. He’s been to the vet a number of times for the same issue. A couple of months ago, his back and rear spine were X-rayed and everything looked good.

He continues to raise his leg — some days more than others. He will hop on three legs until he gets outside, where he then runs like a crazy dog with our two other dogs, chasing squirrels. Most of the time, he is running on all four legs. Our vet’s position is that we need to wait for another symptom before we do anything. I appreciate her conservative approach, but I am wondering if further diagnostic tests are warranted.

— B.M., Charlotte Hall, Md.

Dear B.M.: Your veterinarian’s “conservative approach,” rather than subjecting your dog to further tests and you to costly fees, is an appropriate wait-and-see response to your dog’s intermittent lameness.

There could be a hairline fracture in one of the bones in the foot, for example, that may only show up later if it worsens. Such a lesion, sprain or torn ligament could eventually heal.

Not allowing your dog to engage in vigorous running for six to eight weeks would be advisable. Regular swimming in a pool could be good physical therapy, as could going for long, fast walks. Try putting anti-inflammatory fish oil in his food, plus half a teaspoon of turmeric and Cosequin.

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