The most common cause of lameness is trauma or injury to joints, ligaments, tendons, muscle or bone. Other causes of lameness include developmental diseases in young animals, degenerative joint disease in older pets, immune-mediated joint disease, infectious joint diseases, neurological disorders, and cancer of the bones or joints.
Finding the cause of a pet’s lameness usually starts with a complete history and physical examination. Your pet’s “history” of illness includes details such as whether the lameness occurred suddenly or came on gradually, whether trauma was involved, whether more than one limb is affected, whether the lameness is constant or comes and goes, and whether there are other signs of illness.
The physical examination includes assessment of the pet’s overall health as well as close inspection of the affected limb(s) or joint(s). The veterinarian is looking for evidence of trauma such as bruising or wounds, as well as signs of soreness such as swelling, heat, redness, pain, or reduced ability to move a joint or limb.