Ask Dr Claire
My Labradoodle has a limp on his front leg. There is no injury. What can I do to strengthen his legs?
Limping on a front leg is either due to pain (very, very common especially in large breeds, labs and their crosses commonly suffer from elbow dysplasia and shoulder problems) or a mechanical issue (less common- uneven limb size potentially but this is usually due to a growth plate injury).
Like us, there are many causes for sore legs, dogs can break bones, sprain muscles, tear ligaments, slip discs, and get inflammation or degeneration of their joints (arthritis). They can also get burrs in their paws, foreign bodies like grass seeds, cracks in their pads or tear their nails. Neck pain and injury can also be responsible for limping with a front leg.
If your dog is young, growing pains (panosteitis) is possible, Labradors seem to have a genetic predisposition, often a shifting leg lameness, often requires pain relief and they grow out of it but can occur up to 18 months of age.
A hands-on examination from your local vet would be a great place to start. Imaging of the problem area (particularly radiography) is often used in cases of lameness to diagnose the cause the cause of the issue.
As to what you can do to strengthen legs, it depends on what the underlying cause of the limp is. Hydrotherapy is great for arthritis for example (non-weight bearing strengthening, on underwater treadmills with constant monitoring), as is seeing a veterinary physiotherapist or even a veterinary acupuncturist.
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