Legs, Hips and Paws

When limping doesn't go away or you suspect that the problem is too serious for you to handle at home, you will want to get in to see your vet right away. Don't be surprised if your vet, after giving your pet a thorough exam, walks to the end of the hall and watches as you and your pet stroll around. This will help her figure out what the problem is.

If your vet can't see the problem right away or if your pet appears to have a broken bone, your vet will probably take x-rays to show what is going on inside. She may also use a needle to take fluid from a joint. The fluid can then be analyzed to see if there is an infection or other serious problem happening inside.

Conditions such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are somewhat difficult to diagnose -- blood tests are usually needed -- but they are very easy to treat. Once your pet is given antibiotics, he will probably start feeling like his old self within a day or two.

If there is an abscess, your vet will drain the fluid and clean the area thoroughly. Because abscesses can be very painful, she may have to use a local or general anesthetic to get the job done. In addition, she will probably prescribe oral antibiotics to tackle the infection from the inside out.

Broken bones, of course, will have to be repaired, and your pet will probably come home wearing a cast. Everyone in the neighborhood will have time to sign it since he will be wearing it for about six weeks.

Some dogs with knee injuries are fortunate enough to recover after a few weeks of rest. If your dog severely damaged a ligament or the cartilage, however, he will need surgery to get the leg back into working order, says Dr. Nisson.

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Copyright 1999 Rodale Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

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