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What is Abnormal Gait?

An abnormal gait can be due to a wide array of underlying problems or conditions. These can be as simple as a recent trauma or a thorn in the pad, to issues stemming from the central nervous system, musculoskeletal system and even cancers. Often the symptoms are difficult to perceive, but can progress to the point of muscle and joint damage. Pain can cause a dog to adjust its gait to put less pressure on the troubled area to relieve the discomfort, but this can lead to further orthopedic problems.

A gait is the pattern of repetitive limb motions that a dog uses to walk, trot, run and gallop. When that gait begins to look abnormal, with the dog limping, staggering, favoring a side and showing signs of weakness and difficulties in walking, it is often a sign of a more serious issue that cannot be seen. An abnormal gait should be a signal to schedule an appointment at your veterinary clinic.

Abnormal Gait Average Cost

From 499 quotes ranging from $500 - $10,000

Average Cost

$2,500

Symptoms of Abnormal Gait in Dogs

Symptoms of an abnormal gait can include:

  • Inability to walk
  • Knuckling
  • Limb incoordination
  • Lameness
  • Unsteadiness 
  • Painful walking
  • Limping while walking
  • Arching of the back
  • Lowering of the neck and head
  • Shift in weight
  • Weakness
  • Staggering walk
  • Swaying on feet
  • Standing in a wide stance with limbs spread far apart
  • Inability to extend legs during gait
  • Crouched gait
  • Skipping a stride
  • Shortened stride
  • Shuffling gait
  • Goose stepping gait
  • Loss of balance
  • Stumbling
  • Paw scuffing
  • Loss of movement control
  • Carrying a limb
  • Limb paralysis
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Causes of Abnormal Gait in Dogs

There are many reasons why your dog could develop an abnormal gait. These include:

  • Pain
  • Orthopedic condition
  • Musculoskeletal condition
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Joint abnormalities / arthritis
  • Ruptured cruciate ligament
  • Patellar luxation
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Chronic muscle injury
  • Muscle overuse
  • Viral, parasitic, bacterial or protozoan infection that affects the central nervous system
  • Cancers and growths
  • Trauma
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Diagnosis of Abnormal Gait in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin by observing your dog’s gait. This observation will give your vet valuable information about the area causing the abnormal gait. It is important to observe your dog on a flat surface, from multiple angles, engaging in any tasks if your dog is a working animal, and observing both walking and trotting. A gallop and trot can often cause a change in the angulation of certain joints, and can narrow down a cause. Then, an orthopedic and neurological examination are performed. Diagnosis is based on these observations, but the underlying issue causing the gait need to be discovered.

Due to the wide range of conditions that can cause an abnormal gait, your veterinarian will need any and all information you can provide, such as any other symptoms noticed, medical history, any history of trauma, and travel history. Tests to help narrow down the true cause can include a urine test, blood test, serum testing, biopsies, EMG, X-ray, myelography, ultrasound, endoscopy, CT scan, and an MRI. If a specific disease is suspected, more specialized tests can be performed.

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Treatment of Abnormal Gait in Dogs

Once it has been determined what is causing the abnormal gait, treatment will be appropriate to the condition. Only a few will be mentioned here.

Muscle diseases may be treated with corticosteroids, or other immune suppressing drugs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and can often benefit from supportive therapies, such as physiotherapy, body cooling, and rest. Surgery can sometimes help, and can improve joint and limb functions; for example if we need to repair and reattach tendons. External splints can be used after surgery to help recovery. The rate of recovery is dependent on the severity of the case and the success of treatments.

In the case of tumors, chemotherapy, radiation and surgical removal can be used in treatment. 

Bacterial, viral, parasitic and protozoan infections can be treated with appropriate medications. Often, your dog will need to be retested to ensure the success of therapy.

Intervertebral disc disease can be treated with pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs, or surgery if neurological signs are severe or drugs do not help. Successful recovery often depends on how quickly treatment is performed in relation to a loss of pain perception. Recovery is good if treatment is given while your dog can still feel pain.

Degenerative myelopathy is often the last condition looked for, and is diagnosed by elimination of other issues. Since there are no known treatments available for this disease, efforts are focused on the dog’s quality of life, and can include supportive care, rehabilitation, monitoring for urinary infections, pressure sore prevention, and the use of harnesses and carts to increase mobility.

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Recovery of Abnormal Gait in Dogs

Due to the wide range of conditions that can cause an abnormal gait in your dog, the rate of recovery is on a case by case basis. Many conditions can be treated successfully, while others may need continuing treatments or supplementary care. There are also conditions that are progressive with very little treatment available. Your veterinarian will advise you on treatment plans, supportive care at home, and the prognosis for your dog's specific situation.

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Abnormal Gait Average Cost

From 499 quotes ranging from $500 - $10,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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Abnormal Gait Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Dalmation

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Abnormal Gait-

When Oliver gets up he is unsteady on his legs and his rear legs seem as if they are not wanting to work and takes a minute for him to get steady

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I am sorry for the delay, this platform is not set up for urgent emails. Dogs can have neurologic problems, or muscular problems, and he may need to see a veterinarian to see why this is happening with him. They will be able to examine him, see what might be causing this, and see if any treatment is needed.

Oct. 10, 2020

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Oscar

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Dachshund

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18 Years

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Serious severity

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5 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

I have an 18 year old dachshund/beagle (a total sweetheart). He has been very healthy his entire life until this last year. He goes to the bathroom in the house more often than ever before. I don't mind.....just clean it up immediately. Of more concern to me is that his back legs can't get any traction on my tile floor and they sprawl out to the sides as if he is doing the splits. He doesn't have the problem when outside. He walks gingerly with a "swing" to his gait. Also, when he lays down, he puts the front half of his body down first, arching his back and then gently and slowly lowering the back side. He seems to be tender because he does not like much to be petted or touched. Otherwise, he is showing no pain symptoms. Any suggestions on what could be causing his back legs to splay out and what can be done to help the poor guy?

July 31, 2018

Oscar's Owner

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5 Recommendations

Dachshund’s are known for spinal issues and it is possible that the faecal accidents in the house, difficulty laying down and discomfort whilst being petted are all related to intervertebral disc disease or similar condition. Without examining Oscar I cannot say for certain but taking the breed, age and symptoms into account it is quite likely; you should have your Veterinarian give Oscar a check and an x-ray to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 31, 2018

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Abnormal Gait Average Cost

From 499 quotes ranging from $500 - $10,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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