You Don't Always Have to See a Limp: Cookie's Physio Update

Since the beginning, Cookie has had her share of musculoskeletal issues, even though the first major lameness had nothing to do with any of those things. We thought she had busted her knee ligament; that's how bad she looked. As it turned out, all that was caused by nothing more than a fragment of a porcupine quill in her foot.

That's why it is important not to jump to any conclusion when your dog is limping.

I also do frequently point out that your dog might be favoring a leg without anybody actually being able to see a limp at all. That is why things such as paying attention to appearance are essential. If your dog's hind end starts looking skinnier and shoulders broader, it is likely your dog has a problem with the hips. Whether there is a visible limp or not, there is an apparent shift of weight-bearing as the front compensates for the painful hind quarters.

It is the same with changes in muscle mass when one leg is getting less muscled than the other. Measuring circumference is a great tool to detect any subtle changes early.

It is about paying attention.

Often, also, environment and the type of terrain can make detecting changes in gait impossible. How could one tell whether a dog is limping when they are stumbling through deep, crusty snow?

Which are the conditions we've had for quite some time now. The terrain is horrible, but Cookie still needs some fun and exercise. But even if she were favoring a leg, there would be no way for me to see that.

Did you know, though, that even something such as your dog's posture when standing can tell you things?

Firstly, the simple willingness or unwillingness of staying in a standing position can be telling in itself. Just as you would seek a place to sit down if standing was painful.

The first time I saw Cookie standing unevenly, I figured it was because of the way she was turned.

I noticed that the left side of her rump was higher than the right side. The first time I saw that I figured it was just a coincidence. I even forgot all about it.

But then I noticed it again. And again. When she was "standing straight" she wasn't standing straight. Fortunately, she was scheduled for a regular appointment with her PT.

Before each appointment, we always discuss any of my findings or observations. I did mention the state of the ground out there, due to which I did expect some muscle soreness. And I did mention my observations about Cookie's stance.

After Cookie's underwater treadmill session, assessment and massage, we learned what is going on.

Some of her back muscles were sore, which did not surprise me. The snow is deep with an ice layer half-way through it. Sometimes it carries her weight and sometimes not. When it doesn't, her legs bust through it quite deep, and it must be quite a job for her to get herself out of it. I do try to go first and "punch" a trail for her, but she does not always follow. And that's not counting her "wiping out" on some ice which was craftily hidden under a foot of snow which sat on top but didn't adhere.

When walking on the treadmill, it was also discovered that she wasn't fully completing the stride with her hind right leg. All the findings put together point to a sore sacroiliac joint. It's not the first time these joints gave Cookie a hard time. She does have some abnormalities due to an old pelvic injury.

The important thing is, though, that we caught it early and can now work to address it before it could become a major problem.

Next week, Cookie is going to get another chiropractic adjustment, we'll do her physio and laser therapy more often for the time being and monitor how the joint does.

Paying attention is important.

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Regular Wellness Exam: Cookie's ALT Was Elevated 
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Figuring out What Might Be Going on with Cookie's Legs: The Diagnosis 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Treatment: Trazodone  
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Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Treatment: Laser, Hydrotherapy, and Chiropractic 
Cookie's Recovery from Iliopsoas Injury: ToeGrips 
It Never Rains ... Cookie's New Injury 
Mixed Emotions: When What You Should Do Might Not Be What You Should Do for Your Dog 
Cookie's New Injury Update 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury: The Symptoms 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury: Battling the Zoomies 
Cookie's Muscle Injuries: What Else Is Going On?
Theory and Actual Decisions for an Actual Dog Aren't the Same Thing: Cookie's Knee Injury
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Cookie's Musculoskeletal Challenges: Restricted Activity and Weight Management
Cookie's PRP Treatment for Partial Cruciate Tear: Update
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Cookie's PRP Treatment for Partial Cruciate (CCL/ACL) Tear and Leg Circumference
Cookie's Wellness Exam
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Ticked Off at the Tick Situation: The Verdict Is In (for Now)
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What Does the Thyroid Do? Cookie is Hypothyroid (Part II)
Thyroid Replacement Therapy: Cookie is Hypothyroid (Part III)
Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment (PRP) for Partial Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Tears: Would I Do It Again?
Thyroid Replacement Therapy Re-Check: Cookie Is Hypothyroid (Part IV)
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Cookie's Fur Analysis
Cookie's Fur Analysis: Lithium

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  1. Cookie is a gorgeous girl. Good for you for loving her through everything! Great post!

    1. She certainly is. The sweetest thing on the planet.

  2. I took Mr. N to the vet because he was limping and the vet thought he might have a hernia! X-rays showed that he didn't but I'm glad I took him in.

  3. My Lyla has broad shoulders and narrow hips and she in fact does have hip issues. It is so important to be hyper-aware of what is normal for your pet so we can notice changes. Great article!

    1. Yes, the shoulders broaden because the front takes on additional work to compensate for the hind end. Jasmine's proportions stabilized again after we treated for her hind end issues and evened out yet again to proper proportions. The only way one could tell was extra skin that remained around the shoulder area.

  4. Layla hops with her left leg in the air but my vet told me not to worry about it as it happens to little dogs but I do monitor it also and trust what he says

    1. I assume you're talking about a luxating patella? Depending on a degree, it might be manageable medically and with supplements. Should at least be getting omega-3 and joint supplement.

  5. Thanks for that helpful info. I agree it's all about paying attention, know your dog well enough and you'll be better equipped to judge when something seems "off." The sooner it's looked at the better the chances of a recovery, or at least being able to manage the condition. Thanks for keeping us up to date about how Cookie is getting on!

  6. What a beautiful girl. And lucky to be in a good and caring home. I am always stunned at how many people don't observe their pets for signs of health issues. They just opened a water therapy place here in Ottawa and although my wee boy is in perfect health I am considering signing him up for 2 things 1) getting over his dislike of water and 2) strengthening his swimming skills. We sail and I always worry that his dislike of water and thus his "I will not swim" attitude will bite him/us in the ass one day if there is a "dog overboard" situation. he has a life vest but still....

    1. Great that you have a water therapy place now. Even dogs who refuse to swim or get wet can usually swim. And with a vest he should be fine. But there is much fun to be had in water so overcoming the dislike is always handy.

  7. I hope Cookie is feeling better! It sounds like you are on top of things and with regular aquatherapy, massage, and chiro it should do her a world of good.

    1. Yes, we're hoping to get her back to well soon. The terrain out there isn't helping, though. It's a terrible mess.

  8. So true! Paying attention is so important. I remember I came home one day after work and my cat greeted me as usual at the door. I went to scoop her up and give her cuddles and she squirmed. I knew in that moment that something wasn't right. Long story short she had an anal absess and needed surgery the same night. Thank goodness I didn't write off her behavior. We know our fur kids when somethings wrong, sometimes it's better/or worse than we can anticipate.

    1. Great job catching the abscess. Yes, it is important to pay attention.

  9. I'm incredibly thankful that so far Bernie and Lizzie have only limped because they had a cactus burr stuck on their paw. Paying attention is important. I find for me this is more true with Lizzie since she's smaller. Sometimes we're walking and I don't realize that she's uncomfortable. Of course, she gets extra snuggles after I get the stupid burr out.

    1. I'd be thankful for that too. We did have limps due to foot infection, foot injury, and a fragment of a porcupine quill. We also, unfortunately, have had our share of orthopedic issues.

  10. Cookie is so fortunate to have you looking out for her! I hope she feels better soon!

    1. Thank you Beth. I just wish I could not only see things but had a magic wand to fix them as I see them.

  11. Cookie is a sweetheart! Paying attention is excellent advice. I have Siberian Huskies, and at different times I noticed something in their gait or walk or a paw being slightly favored...and one had a broken dew claw that needed to be surgically removed, and another had CCL injury and required bilateral imbrication surgeries. So noticing even something small - although not always serious - is worth checking out. Great post! Pinning to share!

    1. Yes, not always serious but always something. And often even small problems can become big, if nothing else through compensation.

  12. Observation is always the key to helping to keep our pets healthy. I know I recognize any change in the skin, eyes, behavior, and and general life. The vet says I always seem to catch things quickly. Although Brulee can get a terrible URI so fast...

  13. I'll have to start paying more attention to this! Definitely a good point about the terrain making it difficult to assess the dogs gait.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. It gets quite frustrating, sometimes, when you're trying to asses the gait and the terrain makes it impossible to make any decent judgment.

  14. It's so important for pet owners to pay close attention to their fur babies. I'm very in tune with my cats and will take them to the vet when I notice something out of the ordinary. Even if it turns out to be nothing, I feel better.

    1. Yes, it is; I often see things hubby does not. I wish there was nothing to see but when there is I'm glad I see it. I got so far I can even hear a limp even when I don't see it.

  15. Great reminder to pay attention to your dog. I have often been the one to head off more serious issues because of early intervention and being hyper-observant about my dogs’ health. Limping can signify so many different things, especially for large breed puppies and dogs, it’s important, as you say, to not jump to conclusions.

    1. Great job, Stephanie, sounds like you're a fantastic observes.


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