Why are dogs front legs weak? Here’s What to Do Next

Causes of Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

Front leg deformity can occur for a number of reasons. Many of the causes known to veterinarians are listed below:

  • Fracture
  • Degeneration
  • Injury before growth plate has matured
  • Improper alignment of bones
  • A pair of bones may have disparity in growth rate, causing one of the pair to bow
  • Trauma, or fall on a front limb
  • Damage to the blood supply of a growth plate
  • Genetics
  • Obesity during puppyhood
  • Improper diet and supplementation (deficiency in Vitamin D, excessive calcium or Vitamin C or A)
  • Foods too high in fat and protein may lead to weaker growth plates and bone
  • Your Dog Is Having Trouble Standing and Walking On Its Front Legs?

    If your dogs front leg appears to be paralyzed, dont delay medical treatment hoping it will go away on its own. Its important to take steps to avoid further damage and keep things from getting worse.

  • Importance of Seeing the Vet
  • Front Leg Anatomy
  • Causes
  • Glossary of Terms
  • Diagnostic Tests and Treatment
  • Note:

    If your dog has a front leg that appears paralyzed you should see the vet. Things can go quickly downhill if treatment is delayed.

    If your dogs leg appears paralyzed, dont just assume his leg fell asleep and will awaken during the day. While their legs may fall asleep upon waking up and walking around, it generally happens only for a few seconds. They should soon be back to walking normally—but limping upon getting up could also be suggestive of other conditions. This article though is not about dog limping; rather its about signs of paralysis affecting a dogs front leg. The two conditions are quite different:

  • When limping, a dog feels pain and will bear little weight on the leg to minimize pain.
  • In paralysis, the dogs reflexes, sensation, and ability to move are affected, and the paw is often found “knuckled,” and thus, is dragged around.
  • In order to better understand why your pets front leg may appear paralyzed, its a good idea to first take a look at the leg anatomy and understand how it becomes paralyzed in the first place.

    Dog front leg anatomy, dog front leg paralysis

    The dogs nervous system is composed of the brain, the spinal column which contains the spinal cord, and several nerves that branch off the spinal cord and reach several regions of the body. The main purpose of the nerves is to carry information to the muscles and organs. Its thanks to the coordinated effort of all these parts that they are able to move around, have reflexes, and feel sensations. Paralysis occurs when theres a disruption in the communication between the brain and the spinal cord, along with its ramifications. The front legs are innervated by several nerves as outlined below.

  • The brachial plexus consists of a collection of cervical (neck) and thoracic (thorax) nerves that start from the spinal cord and then split into individual ramifications made of several individual nerves running through the front legs. These individual ramifications consist of the radial nerve, median nerve, and ulnar nerve.
  • The radial nerve originates from the brachial plexus and innervates the upper front leg all the way down to the paw. Its called this because it runs right by the radius bones. This nerve is quite vulnerable to injury.
  • The median nerve also originates from the brachial plexus. Its known as median because its located right in the middle between the radial nerve and the ulnar nerve.
  • The ulnar nerve is called this because it runs right by the ulna bone.
  • When all goes well and the nerves are intact and fully functioning, the dog can flex his elbow and wrist and move his toes with no problems. He is also capable of feeling sensation in his leg, the surface of the paw, and normal reflexes are present. When things go awry though, you start seeing problems.

    The following are some causes of front leg paralysis in dogs.

    Treatment of Front Leg Injury in Dogs

    Due to the fact that the causation can be so broad, treatment will correlate to the type, severity, and age of the front leg injury. Some cases of injury may be treated as described below:

  • Sprains or ligament injuries – Sprains are graded as a severity of 1, 2 or 3. A sprain of 1 or 2 may require rest and medications, or a splint, for 6 to 8 weeks. Grade 3 might require a surgical repair of the ligament. It must be noted that ligament injuries can have a very lengthy healing time and often after one year, it will be found that only 60% of the strength is regained. Permanent instability is also a possibility.
  • Fractures – Fractures are sometimes due to a compression injury or a blunt force impact. Fractures may warrant a surgical repair, though some injuries may heal through the use of a splint or cast.
  • Brachial Plexus Avulsion – This is a very complex injury. Surgery may be attempted, but there can be major complications for your dog during the recovery period. Often, your pet can no longer feel the limb. Unusual sensations in the limb which may present after surgery can cause your dog to self-mutilate the limb. Amputation of the limb might be the best option for your pet’s comfort, due to the fact that severe pulls damage the nerves beyond repair.
  • There are other injuries such as dislocation (repair possible by manipulation or surgery), elbow injury (surgical repair) or infection (antibiotics may be the only treatment needed).

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    Front Leg Limping

    Dogs love to run and play. Unfortunately, the more active they are, the higher risk that your best friend will injure themselves, whether severe or minor caring for your dog’s front leg injury means giving them the proper care and leg support they need so that they can begin to heal.

    Dogs carry around 60% of their weight on their front legs, which means their front legs have taken a lot of wear and tear over the years. Here are a few of the most common front leg injuries in dogs:

    A dog’s elbow is where its radius, ulna, and humerus bones meet. If any of the bones come out of alignment or experience uneven growth, your dog’s elbow can be in a lot of pain.

    Although not an injury, osteosarcoma is a cancerous tumor occurring in the bones, causing your dog’s bones to weaken and make it more prone to joint and bone injuries. This cancer is highly aggressive and can be painful. Osteosarcoma can affect any bone but typically occurs in three places: the toes, in either the radius and the ulna of the front leg, or above the knee or the hip in the hind leg.

    Cancer treatment will vary case by case. However, chemo, radiation, and surgery are a few treatment options. Depending on the dog, additional joint support may be needed as well.

    The most common cause of front leg lameness, elbow dysplasia, occurs when the bones of a dog’s front arm do not align correctly—leading to a painful movement that affects a dog’s gait and, if left untreated, can lead to arthritis. A physical exam is needed for proper diagnosis and to assess your dog’s range of motion in their elbow. Walkin’ Front Splint

    Lower leg injuries in dogs are commonly caused by jumping or landing incorrectly, impacting a dog’s carpal joint and wrist.

    A dog’s wrist is located just above the paw on its lower front leg. Sprains can be caused by a dog jumping or landing too hard on impact. Sprains can occur to any dog and most commonly occur in active pets.

    Like humans, sprains can be painful, and sprains can be painful and can affect a dog’s mobility long after the initial impact that first caused the injury. Wrist injuries cause dogs to limp, and their joints may be swollen and painful to touch.

    A carpal hyperextension affects a dog’s carpal joint and surrounding ligaments, causing the joint to collapse. There are three leading causes of carpal hyperextension in dogs:

    The joint will need to be adequately splinted to heal, and severe cases may require more intensive veterinary care, rehabilitation, and possibly even surgery.