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Dr. Altman
Dr. Altman, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
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Experience:  Practicing small animal veterinarian for 17 years.
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My dog's back leg is swollen and retaining fluid

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My dog's back leg is swollen and retaining fluid possibly from an injury. We noticed his skin color is red (normaly a pale pink) could he be bleeding under the skin? He is also anemic, on antinflammatories and antibiotics. Would the skin color be red just from pressure or something else? He has no broken bones although we could not see his hip. He is able to walk on his leg and shows no complaints.

Already Tried:
antibiotics x2days, antinflammatories x2days, elevation.

dogdoc4u :
Welcome to JustAnswer!

The red skin color can be due to bruising from an incident. Is there a purple tinge to it? Where exactly on the leg is the swelling?

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
The swelling is on the whole leg with obvious fluid build up. A pouch of fluid under the large portion of the leg and another pouch on the joint above the foot. There may be some purple tinge but on other parts it is more of a bright red color.

dogdoc4u :
OK, is there pitting edema? Meaning if you push on the swelling does it stay as your finger pressed on it or does it release?

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
Only on the top of his foot

dogdoc4u :
Is the foot versus the leg cold to the touch in comparison to the other rear foot and leg?

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :

dogdoc4u :
Is the entire leg hot to the touch?

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
the leg is actually not hot to touch. It may be slightly warmer than the other leg

dogdoc4u :
Is he limping or licking the leg at all?

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
He is not licking the leg. He initially was limping quite a bit starting about a week ago but we thought after a couple of days it was getting better but the more active he was the more he started to limp again. Since starting the Rimadyl and tramadol he has stopped limping and is putting pressure back on his leg.

dogdoc4u :
So just to confirm, the leg swelling and color change has progressed since it was first noticed despite the medication he is on?

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
I only noticed the color change now but it quite possibly could have been there before.

dogdoc4u :
But the swelling is worse even though clinically he has been improving, correct?

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
We brought him to the vet 2 days ago. The swelling is about the same since then although today we noticed the fluid pouch under the large part of the leg. Since starting the medication his energy level has improved as well and he is more like himself.

dogdoc4u :
OK, thanks for your patience with the questions. We always want to look at the whole picture and the fact he is improving clinically is very important.

This means the medications are helping and the body is just a little behind physically what you see.

The swelling is usually going to be related to gravity and how things settle as the fluid accumulates in the leg

If he is acting more normal, using the leg, and eating ok I would recommend continuing to monitor

You can use wet towels placed in the freezer to help cool the leg and it also helps numb it along with massage to resolve the fluid if he will let you

I had a case that had significant localized swelling in the rear leg along the groin and we ultrasounded the area to ensure there was no blood clot due to the severity of the swelling.

After a week or so, it did start to resolve on its own...

The anemia is probably related to the blood loss in that leg and should rebound (and be rechecked) a few days later.

Does this all make sense?

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
Yes it does thank you. So do you think that the reddness of the skin is due to the pressure from the swelling? And how long typically does it take for the swelling to go down? Also, are these the right medications he is on including the clindimycin? If it is a blood clot how would we know without the use of ultrasound?

dogdoc4u :
The redness of the skin is reflecting the irritation or bruising and it is just delayed from whatever is going on. The swelling should start to resolve within a week and completely be gone within two or so. Yes, it sounds like they are using appropriate medication although clindamycin is not my first choice for antibiotics in this situation (to each his own)

Unfortunately without ultrasound or nuclear scintigraphy (much more costly) you cannot determine if there is a blood clot in the leg

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
Which antibiotic would be more appropriate? The vet is concerned with possible cellulitis although I think it is still due to an injury.

dogdoc4u :
Cellulitis can be a result of an injury, it is inflammation of the fat. In essence, you are both right :)

I tend to chose a broad spectrum antibiotic such as clavamox +/- a anaerobic coverage such as metronidazole, clindamycin, baytril

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
Thank you so much for your help. So I don't need to panic yet then? When should I be concerned? If his personality changes again or the swelling gets worse? It's hard to tell with dogs.

dogdoc4u :
Yes, if he goes off his food, is lethargic, or the lameness returns

You can also check his body temperature with a thermometer and if it is above 103 then I would be concerned

JACUSTOMER-z164mnga- :
I appreciate your help. I was going to take him to the vet tonight but I think I'll hold now. Thank you. Have a good night!

dogdoc4u :
You as well

Please let me know how things go or if you have any additional questions or concerns!

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