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CriticalCareVet
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My dog's hind legs are swollen

Customer Question

My 8 year old American Bulldog's hind legs are both swollen from the knee down - feet and all. She is very active, and doesn't seem to be in pain, but I think her feet and legs are itchy because of the swelling. She has had blood work recently which was normal, her heart sounds fine, and she is very active. She had surgery for hip dysplasia when she was one year old, so she has some arthritic trouble with her hips on occasion, though that is not the case at the moment. Our vet put her on lasix (he suspected possible heart trouble, although her heart sounds fine) but I can't tell that it is helping. Front legs and feet are normal.

Any ideas? I wonder if the type of food I am giving could be a problem. I try to make sure she is getting glucosamine in her food - it is a miracle in keeping her hips mobile. I switch brands frequently, because sometimes one brand doesn't have glucosamine in it when another does.... Most of the time I feed Pedigree Sr, but I have also fed Nutro, and Diamond
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  CriticalCareVet replied 5 years ago.
Hi there,

Has your dog ever been diagnosed with a heart murmur?

Has any bloodwork been done?

Have you changed food recently?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
No heart murmur has ever been diagnosed.

She had bloodwork about two months ago but it was normal.

We have been feeding Nutro Senior for a little over a week. The swelling seems to be worse in the past four or five days. Before, I was feeding Pedigree Senior.

I am wondering about the food - just bought some Pedigree and plan on watching closely to see if it makes a difference. The lasix isn't helping.
Expert:  CriticalCareVet replied 5 years ago.

In my experience, it is rarely related to food.

In a case such as this, I would be concerned about infectious causes, inflammatory causes, or even causes such as cancer or clots to vessels causing fluid buildup.

Certainly a good examination should be performed making sure the lymph nodes are not swollen, especially in the back legs causing lymphatic drainage issues.

Tests to consider if not done within the past week.
- CBC and Chemistry screen - evaluating the organ values and protein levels, specifically albumin
- Tick titers as infectious causes such as tick borne disease can cause this
- Urinalysis (and possibly culture and protein/creatinine ratio)
- Abdominal ultrasound - looking at the abdominal organs, notably the liver as well as portal vein for a clot.

With no history of a heart murmur, heart disease is low on the list (which is why the lasix is not working), but an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) can also be considered.

Please let me know if that makes sense or if you have additional questions.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks so much for your quick response - a few more questions if you don't mind...
Realistically, how long should it take for the lasix to make a noticeable difference? The swelling is obviously fluid - and it isn't just near the joints.

Also, I would think if there were something serious going on, she would actually FEEL bad. This dog has so much energy its amazing. She runs and plays like a puppy.

The other weird thing is the fact that it only affects her back legs. Which I guess is why something more localized (like maybe clots or circulation problems) would make more sense. But again, wouldn't she be lethargic, or have pain somewhere?

Is it possible that the arthritis in her hips would cause fluid buildup in her legs? Her hips don't seem to be hurting her at the moment, but they do bother her when the weather is cold, and sometimes when it is changing or wet. We have had incredibly hot and dry weather lately.

Lyme disease crossed my mind too, but wouldn't that cause fluid to build up around all joints?

Thanks again...
Expert:  CriticalCareVet replied 5 years ago.

Lasix should work fairly quickly if it truly was cardiac related, within 24-48 hours at most in my experience.

Regarding the relation to arthritis - this would be very rare as many dogs develop arthritis, but the degree of swelling you are describing almost never occurs with arthritis alone.

Regarding pain - this is variable as dogs can compensate quite well until...they can no longer compensate...

Although joint issues can occur - this can also cause a "vasculitis" and fluid leaking out of the vessels into the interstitial space (between tissues) causing edeme as you describe.

CriticalCareVet, ER/ICU Specialist
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 63981
Experience: Emergency and Critical Care Specialist
CriticalCareVet and 4 other Dog Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you.
Maggie does seem to have a high pain tolerance. Even with painful hips, and after her surgery to repair one, she wanted to run.
I had "leaky veins" several years ago that caused swelling and pain in my ankles and knees. There was no apparent cause after lots of tests. The doctor said finally it could have been caused by a virus. It finally went away on its own.
The swelling has improved then come back several times over several months.
I have not been back to our vet since trying the lasix. The swelling improved and I quit giving it to her for a month, starting back again only this week. One leg may be slightly less swollen, but I would think there would be alot more improvement than there has been.
I guess we'll order some more tests. Thanks again for your input.
Expert:  CriticalCareVet replied 5 years ago.
You are very welcome!

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