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Dr.Fiona, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  Small animal medicine and surgery - 16 years experience in BC, California and Ontario
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my dog is suddenly holding his rear leg up with no apparent

Customer Question

my dog is suddenly holding his rear leg up with no apparent pain when running or if I pull gently or move his leg in any direction. any idea what may cause this?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.
Hi there,

Welcome to Just Answer! I would like to help you and your dog but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.

How many hours/days ago did this start?

Is he licking at the leg or foot?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
He's not licking anywhere and I checked the foot as well and get no reaction as if he is in any pain. this has been going on for about a week. He has been without any other symptoms from the start. His disposition is the same as it's always been. He is eating well too...
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.
So... when he is standing, does he hold the foot right up off the ground, or does he "toe touch" with it barely resting on the ground?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
he does both...
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.

And when he runs, he puts it down and bears weight on it?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
he uses it to assist the healthier leg but does not put all his weight on it
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.

There are a few things that I would consider in a dog this age.

1. He could have a patellar luxation.

This is a problem in some dogs in which the groove that the patella (kneecap) sits in isn't deep enough. With this problem, the patella can pop out of the groove and suddenly the dog cannot use the leg.

You can see this often if you watch Jack Russels running - you will see them hold up a hind leg for a few beats and then put it down again. This is a classic symptom of a patellar luxation, and then spontaneous return to the normal position.

BUT sometimes it doesn't pop back in.

In these cases, surgery is usually recommended to deepen the groove in which the patella sits. Has your boy ever had this "skipping" type behaviour on either hind leg in the past? If yes, then I would be very suspicious that this is the problem.

Here is more:

2. He may have stretched or ruptured his cranial cruciate ligament.

This is something humans get as well, but in humans it is called Anterior Cruciate Ligament.


The cranial cruciate ligament is one of the structures that stabilizes the knee joint. It is prone to problems. If the dog is in motion, and the lower leg is held still (by going down a hole, getting caught on a string, etc) while the upper leg keeps moving forward, there will be damage to this cranial cruciate ligament.

The symptoms seen are usually a sudden onset of hind-end lameness, with toe touching seen at standing and walking, but the dog often carries the leg when running.

Here is more information about this problem:

And you can see more here in this video:

3. Your boy may have a fracture (broken bone) of one of the bones in the leg. Probably, with this problem your dog would yelp when you touch the leg.

I have seen this many times with a dog getting their toes jammed under the door of a crate, and then twisting somehow and causing a fracture, usually in the foot area. Symptoms are a sudden onset of non weight bearing lameness, just as you are describing. X-rays would help to diagnose this.

Here is more:

4. It is also possible that your dog has dislocated his hip.

Again, your dog would almost certainly yelp with you moving the leg around.

This is a common dislocation and again could happen if he trapped his toes under the door and then pulled. It is unlikely but certainly possible. With this, again you would have the symptoms of non-weight bearing lameness. Here is more:

So, in summary, there are a number of different orthopedic conditions that can all give these same symptoms you are describing in your dog.

In order to diagnose this, a veterinarian would have to perform a thorough orthopedic examination, and a neurological exam. The vet might well suggest an x-ray. For this part, it might be necessary to give your dog a pain killer to allow proper positioning for the x-ray without hurting him. I do think your dog needs to see his vet to have this looked at. Something is going on, and the sooner it is diagnosed and treated the better.

I definitely would recommend a visit to see your veterinarian. If your boy is eating and drinking normally, then you should be fine to wait until your family veterinarian opens. In the meantime, keep him as quiet as possible - just out to void and back in again.

Be particularly careful with him if he has to go UP stairs as this is when all his weight is on the back legs and he is more likely to do additional damage.

I very strongly suspect that your little guy has injured his cruciate ligament. Try to keep him as quiet as possible. If it is just a stretched ligament, then 2 weeks of complete rest (NO running, just out to void and back in, NO stairs) might allow it to heal. However, if he has completely ruptured it, then rest will have no effect and he may need surgery.

I hope that this helps you to help your dog!

If this has been helpful, please accept my answer and leave feedback.

If you need more information, just click on reply and I will still be here to provide it!

The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.


Customer: replied 7 years ago.
my wife had a ruptured and then later tore her ACL. she was in pain. is it common for a dog with this condition (or any of the above) to show no symptoms of pain?
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.
Yes! As they have 4 legs, they simply avoid using the injured leg and thus avoid pain. It only hurts when the bones are unstable and slide across each other, stretching the joint capsule. When I suspect a dog of having this, I check for a "Drawer sign" which if present helps to confirm the diagnosis.

You can see more here:

Hope that helps!

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
even when I gently tug on that leg? after watching the 2nd vid my dog definitely holds his leg up higher with occasional toe touching while running