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Category: Dog Veterinary
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My dog has a swolen leg - Any suggestions for treatment?

Customer Question

Her leg has been swollen (rock hard) and she hasn't been able to walk on it for a few days. Other than that, she seems fine. Eating, drinking, etc no problems. It is a little tender, too. Looking for advice on what to do to treat her. I think she sprained something. She's a 10 yr old Corgi who jumps around alot.
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Jav917 replied 8 years ago.

Please stop the Motrin since it is toxic to dogs. You need to make sure you do not give any over the counter medictions. The dog needs to see a Vet since the Leg may have a deep seated bone infection. A sprain will not cause the leg to be rock hard. The swelling and hardness will usually come with an infection and not a sprain. Because of giving Mortin it is important to see the Vet. not only for the leg , but for blood work to be sure that there are no residual effects from the motrin affecting the liver or kidneys.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Thank you for your opinion, however if there was infection, there would be other signs, which there are not. As far as the motrin is concerned, I gave her 1/4 tsp once. I have not had good experiences with vets, and would like to try to ease the swelling myself.

(as an example of "bad vet"- 2 of my dogs got a horrible yeast infection a few years ago. The Vet told me their problems would only get worse due to a botched spay even though they were 5 & 7 yrs old and were spayed as puppies. He wanted to charge me $1500 each to "fix the problem" - through this site I found it was merely an allergy! They are fine now with no recurring problems)

Expert:  Jav917 replied 8 years ago.

I will opt out and will open this question up for other experts to try and help you. I understand your being hesitant to have the dog back to the Vet with the bad experiences. I hope someone will be able to help.

Expert:  ChristineLVT replied 8 years ago.

I'm sorry to hear your little Corgi is having problems with her leg.

Being an active girl, and being an older girl, there are a couple of major concerns here. I am curious as to where this swelling is occurring first of all. If indeed the entire back leg (as short as it may be in a Corgi) is 'rock hard', there is a chance of there having been some internal bleeding going on. Thus, Joan strongly suggested stopping the motrin, which I completely agree with. Motrin is not safe for dogs, even in low doses. And any aspirin-type medication can slow bleeding time, which can hurt this problem, not help.

Second, with an active dog, injuries can occur to the joints which can cause some severe swelling within the tissues, which only with proper medicating from the vet (often SAFE anti-inflammatory meds along with pain medications) and strict exercise restriction, can this heal properly. As you'd like to see how this does at home, although not the best idea, I strongly suggest then to keep your dog strictly confined except for short leash walks to do her business. Try cold dry compresses to the swollen area 3-4 times a day for 5 minutes at a time. Even when improvement can be seen, continue the exercise restriction. Even sprains, though they do not present this way, take time to heal. Fractures take longer, and tears of ligaments and more severe fractures will not heal on ther own and without proper treatment lead to severe arthritis.

Another concern if this occurred quite rapidly is a bone tumor or a tick borne illness causing fluid build up in the leg (common in many areas of the U.S.) This is not something you'd be able to try treating nor figuring out from home, but either can become deadly.

My best suggestion is to follow Joan's above suggestion and seek a vet. I certainly understand your hesitation and in your best interest I would seek a different vet than you've seen in the past. And we are always here for you to help you understand what the vet is saying. Decisions do not need to be made asap when suggestions are given, and a vet cannot treat a certain way without your approval. YOU are essentially in charge of your pet's care, and you can choose to only accept treatment on what you are comfortable with. But indeed your dog's symptoms are quite severe and not the norm for just a run-of-the-mill sprain which can heal in a day or two.

I wish you and your dog nothing but the best, ***** ***** he's back to his normal self as quickly as possible. Don't hesitate to reply if there is anything myself or Joan can help you with.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I took her to the vet. Temperature is normal, x-rays showed no fracture or tumor. She does have arthritis in her elbow. (The swelling is her entire leg just beneath the elbow down to her paw and is now 2-3x normal size.) Prescribed Doxycycline and Previcox however she's having a hard time keeping the meds down. Yesterday, the swelling got worse so I took her back. She was given an anti inflamatory injection and fluids injected under the skin. This morning, her swelling looks worse again. As far as her behavior, except being a little groggy from the meds, and obviously uncomfortable from the swelling, she seems just fine. The vet believes there is possibly a tumor somewhere else that might be restricting the bloodflow, but is currenlty treating for tick bite hoping that's the issue. Any other thoughts as to what might be happening?
Expert:  ChristineLVT replied 8 years ago.

Unfortunately, tick borne illness and tumors were my first worries as well. Doxycycline is the best antibiotic to be on, but it can cause stomach upset/ vomiting. Swelling in the legs from this problem could sometimes require hospitalization, and at least pain medications. Your vet may want to send the xrays of the leg along to a radiologist whom may be able to spot first signs of osteosarcoma or chondrosarcoma (bone or cartiledge tumors), or indeed, it could be elsewhere blocking blood flow, especially if the paw appears cold at all to you. However, if not and this leg, however swollen, is functioning/ moving/ warm, blood is indeed fully flowing through it. A tick borne illness like ehrlichia/ anaplasma can take some time to see a difference with the meds, but keep them up, as they are the best treatment out there, along with treating any symptoms that appear, which you should discuss with your vet (i.e. strong pain meds).

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Her leg/paw is so swollen she can't "use" it. It breaks my heart to see her like this, and I've been searching frantically online to find as much info as I can, and I can't find anything that is a 100% match, just alot of might be's. Seems her only problem is severe swelling, which poped up overnight. No fever, no change in behavior (she's a really active dog - totally Corgi), no other signs/symptoms. Wondering if she may have an allergic reaction to some other form of bite / sting? I live in a suburban rural area with a large lake behind my home in Fl. So, there are snakes, frogs, spiders, bugs of many types, etc - I just haven't see any bite marks, sores or anything like that. All I see is the swelling getting worse.
Expert:  ChristineLVT replied 8 years ago.

With this type of swelling it is most likely not an allergic reaction, and the sad part is without some major diagnostics you will not get a definitive answer. If your vet sent out a tick panel, certainly that could help, but a CT or bone scan may be needed to search for evidence of a primary tumor. She definitely needs to be on a strong pain killer, which it doesn't sound like she's got on board.

As your vet about tramadol or a fentanyl patch so at least she has relief while waiting for answers.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
My vet has not done any bloodwork as of yet. My dog doesn't seem like she's in any form of pain. She isn't yelping when she puts her paw down for stability, I can touch it, (as much as she will allow - she hates her paws touched regardless). It's just odd to me that this would pop up without any prior warning signs. I know it can happen, but if we're trying stuff out before running more testing, thought Benedryl or something might be another thing to try.
Expert:  ChristineLVT replied 8 years ago.

You can't give it without letting your vet know about it, as it could interfere with concurrent meds and things they are looking for though. Otherwise it won't hurt the leg any further and if eases your mind, as your vet (phone call), and the dose would be 1mg per pounf of body weight.

Her not using the leg to walk is a symptom of pain. Dogs with severe swellings and no pain would use the leg out to the side and still put weight on it each step. Her symptoms make me wonder if the primary problem is from the shoulder, with fluid build up draining to below the elbow.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Sunday - Here's the update so far. I just returned from the doggie ER. I've been carrying her in an out to do her business, and yesterday when I brought her inside, there was "watery" blood on my arm. It was coming from her increasingly swollen leg at the wrist from an area which ruptured. I called my local ER vet who said they were extremely backed up, but I could dress it myself - she gave me instructions and suggested calling my vet monday morning. I cleaned the area with saline wipe, put on a non stick gauze pad and wrapped it loosely. She didn't give me a problem at all. This morning (sunday) I found she pull the gauze off, the swelling looked like it had gone down a bit, but was still "bleeding". I tried to put another on, but she wouldn't let me touch it this time and yelped each time I tried. Called the ER vet again and they said they were still swamped. I made another call and found another that could see her right away, so off we went.

I gave the ER vet the low - down on my dog as my vet saw it, and my chain of events so far. Just so happened that my primary Vet's asst. worked on the weekends at that ER and she was there. She had seen my dog on the 2 occasions I brought her in prior, and assisted in the x-rays on Thurs. The good thing - she remembered my dog, and was aware of my dog's diagnosis from my primary vet. She said the swelling looked the same as it had on Friday, which was also a good thing becasue it had swelled much more on Sat. (her paw looked more like a cartoon drawing than a paw) The ER vet examined her, (temp and pulse were still normal) and determined she was most likely bitten by a spider, or possibly there may be some foreign matter lodged in there which can't be seen at this time due to the swelling. She shaved the area, cleaned it and lots of "stuff" is draining out. She gave her Baytril in place of the Doxycycline. It has been about 7 hrs since we're home, and watery stuff is still draining out a little. (we left it uncovered to let it take it's course) The blood color draining out has turned from bright red to a brownish color, but still watery. The swelling is slowly going down. She is putting some weight on her foot, which she is now somewhat able to use as it's no longer swollen stiff. She's still limping and swollen on her paw and upper leg, but she even tried to run this time when she was out.

What I did do in an attempt to relieve her swelling was give her leg (only) a warm epsom bath for about 15 min on Fri, and within 12 hrs the rupture occured. I know it was soothing to her because she HATES water, but once I was able to get her leg in there she let it soak anyway.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Monday PM - her leg is now about 80% back to normal. It is still a little swollen, but she is walking on it - There is no more "oozing" and is healing nicely. I can now see there are at least 2 puncture wounds on the back of her leg where the rupture occured. Can't really tell what bit her, and probably will never know, but thankfully there doesn't seem to be any tissue damage around the puncture wounds. Probably some type of spider, or maybe a VERY young snake that didn't have too much venom, just enough to cause the swelling. Maybe just a reaction to a sting. Whatever it was, my baby girl is doing just fine.

Thank you for your insights, however please share my girl's story with as many other vets, etc as you can. Especially if you're in an area that has lots of critters such as S. Fl. I get she's old, but she's in excellent health physicaly and mentally - not one person that's met her can believe she's 10yrs. They usually guess 5-6. Not even a grey hair on her yet.

Hind sight 20/20, what I should have requested was to simply shave her leg to visually see if there was anything there. It would have been less tramatic for her, and might have saved her a few days of discomfort. It certainly would have saved me lots of heartache, but it wasn't about me.

I did find alot of people with unanswered questions about a dog's swollen leg. Hopefully they now will find my girl's story, too. And, remember the key points - normal temp, pulse, absolutely no change in behavior, just a HUGE swollen leg, rock hard, and straight out stiff from the elbow to the paw. Diagnosis - (probable) spider bite.
Expert:  Jav917 replied 8 years ago.

I am so glad Christine was able to offer you some help for your baby girl. I have been following the story and her care since I opted out. Glad she is doing better and the Vet was able to help you.