The Norman Transcript

July 18, 2013

Dog uses only three legs sometimes

The Norman Transcript

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.

Your dog could also have a “trick knee” — a patella that slips out of place intermittently. The veterinarian should have considered this and should have shown you where to feel and what to look for when your dog is not putting the leg in question on the ground. If this is the issue, it is best corrected by surgery.

Once your dog starts running, his body releases cannabinoids, which have a potent analgesia and feel-good effect on mind and body. Feeling no or less pain could then interfere with the healing process.

Dear Dr. Fox: I am reading your e-book “Understanding Your Dog,” and I see that you did research on laboratory animals. What are your views on animal experimentation? I am doing a report on this for school and would like your opinion.

— S.V.K., Miami

Dear S.V.K.: My opinion on this issue is detailed in my book “Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals.” I am opposed to animal experimentation when the primary beneficiaries are not the animals themselves. This rules out using animals to test cosmetics and various consumables.

The numbers of animals used in biomedical research could be minimized through greater coordination between surgical equipment manufacturers and drug companies. Veterinarians could treat animals already injured.

Healthy animals should not be subjected to intravenous procedures for training human and animal doctors when there are viable alternativesl.

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.