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Dr O Jovovich
Dr O Jovovich, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 394
Experience:  BVSc (Bachelor of Veterinary Science - Massey University, NZ)
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My dog has arthritis in her right back leg, so balance is difficult

Customer Question

My dog has arthritis in her right back leg, so balance is difficult as she tries to adjust onto good legs. She almost sits down after about 30sec when stood waiting, is this arthritis and nothing to worry about or is it something more sinister. She has tried rimadyl and other anti-imflammatories without any real change, more recently she has had an Anebolic steroid injection,but again not much change. Can you suggest a better more effective treatment, or is it best to let her go,hopefully not!!. She eats and drinks well, but her weight has remain static for a while now.
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Dog
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

How was arthritis in her right hind diagnosed? Did she have xrays?


My Vet diagnosed through experience when she was quite young that her right back leg was stiff and would 'probably' get arthritis in it.

No - she has not had x-rays but all other tests , eg'. movement, feeling / exercising the joints, the diagnosis was arthritis.

She only has problem with the right back leg, all other legs are fine.


How old is your girl and approximately how heavy?


She is 15 years 10 months approx. , she is a rescue dog so not 100% certain of age.

Realise she has had life, but don't want to let go unnecessarily as you can appreciate.


Is any specific joint the most affected? (e.g. the knee, hip etc)


Right back leg, limps from what seems to be the hip down the leg.

Her paw bends backwards sometimes and she slow to strighten it, maybe 15seconds.


Expert:  Dr O Jovovich replied 8 years ago.

Thank you for your reply.


The only way to confirm a diagnosis of arthritis is by x-rays. Feeling the leg and checking the range of movement in joints will only allow a presumptive diagnosis to be made. I recommend you take your girl back to your local Vet for an x ray of her right hind. The Vet should also perform another thorough exam of her leg and be able to pinpoint an area that is more affected (such as the knee, hips, hock etc) then focus the xray on this area. It would also be a good idea to shoot a view of her hips as Alsatians are notorious for developing hip dysplasia.

It is very unusual for an older dog to be lame on only one hind leg and develop arthritis in that leg only without prior history of trauma to that leg, developmental abnormalities or something similar. Arthritis in larger breeds of dog commonly develops in both hindlimbs with age and forelimbs and spine may also become affected.


The fact that your dog's paw bends backwards (called knuckling) may also indicate a neurological problem in that limb, a full Veterinary physical exam would enable this to be diagnosed or rulled out.

Othe possibilities for this kind of lameness include cruciate ligament rupture (within the knee), bone infection and even bone cancer - all of these should be able to be rulled in or out by a physical exam and xrays.


After a diagnosis is made specific treatment can be instigated, your girl may need more painkillers to be added to the rymadyl that she is on (such as tramadol) which can be prescribed by your Vet.


I hope this has been of some help to you.


Dr J

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Thank you for your reply.
But it has confused me somewhat,
Why hasn't my vet carried out x-rays ?
Tried rimadyl for 2 months with no change ? so changed to tramadol, that you just reminded me she has tried, but still no change.......
Last month vet gave her anebolic steroid injection, which has made no changes too ??

My vet did say as you have too, that the 'knuckling' she does is likely to be neorlogical, but how do we solve that problem ??
Will x-rays answer all the above questions.........???

And lastly can you tell me if diagnosis is arthritis should I keep her alive, if it is more for example cancer or spinal (which i believe they have dismissed) again what do I do for the good of my dog.

I forgot to give you her weight - it is approx.17kg
However, she has always been thin through her life, think that must be the whippet in her.


Expert:  Dr O Jovovich replied 8 years ago.

Hi Shaun, I apologise for the delay in my reply.

I am not sure why your Vet has not carried out x-rays, it is usually one of the first things we perform at the practice I work at in order to investigate musculoskeletal problems and it is definitely then next best step in your girls case.

Without an MRI the conclusion that the knuckling is neurological is often reached by excluding other more common problems (such as bone tumours, infection and arthritis, all of which are indicated by radiographs, then other tests are done to confirm diagnois, such as bone biopsy for example). If the problem is in fact degeneration of the long nerves to the foot the treatment would depend on the severity of signs, but there is often no cure to this condition.

If tramadol or rymadyl do not provide enough pain relief on their own these 2 drugs can be combined. The dosage often needs to be adjusted so you need to consult with your vet about this.

The fact that your dog is lean works in her favour as extra weight can put undue stress on aging joints.

It is very important to first try and determine why your dog is lame on her right hind before more specific treatment can be started and a long-term prognosis given. In answer to your question about keeping her alive that would depend on the 'quality of life' you perceive that she has at present. Is she still bright and interacting with you daily? If she is eating and drinking well and maintaining her weight that is always a good sign.


I hope this has helped clarify things a little.


Dr J

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Hi Doc,

Thanks for the reply, just glad of the reply delayed or not.
I love my dog to bits,but I do want to let go if it is best for her - not me.
She has decent quality of life despite the perceived arthritis.
She eats and drinks well, takes walks ok, albeit slower nowadays, understandably.
Her weight is not increasing but is fairly constant,as measured by the vet.
Vet was worried about muscle wasting and that is why the anebolic steriod injection was given, does this indicate anything at all ??
Sorry for pestering you for all the answers - I just want to know what to say to thec vet on our next visit in the new year.
Can you possibly list the things I should be asking for and telling the vet I would like done, ultimately this is about the dog getting better or not as the case maybe.
I need to know whether I'm helping my dog or not by putting her through all this treatment or is it just a waste of time and money - and not helping my dog's quality of life.


Shaun Trainor
Expert:  Dr O Jovovich replied 8 years ago.

Muscle wasting is common in older animals (and people alike) and can indicate reduced use (i.e. not as active anymore) but also just old age. It is not really a measure of quality of life as long as the dog is maintaining weight and eating well.

If she was my dog I would perform a full blood panel and urine analysis to check general organ function (this will be a really good indicator of her inner health) followed by xrays of the affected leg and probably the hips as well for good measure.

Depending on what the xrays show other tests may be indicated (bone biopsy etc).

I do not think furhter testing at this stage would be a waste of time and money as we do not yet know what is causing the problem.

If for example, after the initial blood and urine tests they show she has severe renal failure euthanasia may be warranted at that point without proceeding with further tests. Of course, to end her life will always be your call.

That is the testing in order I would perform it initially in hope of obtaining more information on which to base furhter decisions.

Good luck,

Dr J

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thank you and god bless - Maybe just maybe I can give my dog the final part of her life without pain and comfortable.

Happy New Year !!