A dog blood clot in a leg is a medical emergency. A dog with a blood clot in a leg may experience intense pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. If the blood clot is large, it may block the flow of blood to the leg, causing gangrene. If the blood clot is small, it may simply cause pain and swelling. If the blood clot is not treated, it may cause the leg to die.
That's a question I recently had to answer for the worried parents of a middle-aged Labrador Retriever.
Murphy is a typical, eager 6-year-old Lab, a happy soul whose tail is constantly wagging.However, this energetic ball-chasing dog had awoken unable to walk that morning.
Back legs of a dog suddenly stop working
Murphy's worried humans called in, saying he was limping and they didn't know which leg he was limping on.
Murphy was unable to stand after thirty minutes in the waiting room and had to be carried into the exam room.
A history is always important.
Murphy's story was remarkable for its simplicity:
Murphy didn't appear to be in pain, but his back legs couldn't support his weight, so I examined him while his person supported him in a standing position.
Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) and neuritis are two possible causes of a dog's back legs being weak.
Murphy’s Physical Exam
Broken bones seemed unlikely in Murphy's case, given his lack of a history of trauma.
Even so, it's critical to look for fractures and dislocations, which Murphy did not have, nor did he have painful joints.
A simple test of flipping Murphy's back paw upside down revealed that it remained that way; this is known as the "placing reflex," and it tests the nerves that run from his paw up into his spinal cord and brain stem.When the dog is unaware that his paw is turned upside down, the vet concludes:
Murphy's problems appeared to be neurological, given his good muscle tone.
The next step was to test more nerve reflexes to confirm this was a neurological problem and pinpoint the location. To do so, I had Murphy lie on his side and tested one back leg at a time as follows:
That brings us back to the main point: why were his back legs so weak?
If your dog is having problems with their back legs, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Photo: bhumann34
Why have my dog's back legs stopped working?
When confronted with a problem, the vet creates a mental list of possible solutions (in vet speak, this is referred to as a "differential diagnosis" list). For Murphy, mine went something like this:
Disc disease is a common cause of a dog's back legs suddenly not working, but Murphy didn't appear to be in pain, which is unusual because this is normally a bloodcurdling, painful condition.
Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE)
This is when a small piece of cartilage enters the bloodstream and blocks the blood supply to the spine, causing swelling. It was also slightly perplexing that both of Murphy's back legs were affected — normally, this is a one-sided problem, with one good leg and one bad leg.
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A tumor was certainly a possibility, but the symptoms should have appeared gradually.
This is a spinal cord inflammation, and the dog is usually sick and possibly feverish, none of which applied to Murphy, who was happily begging for treats.
Spinal Cord Hemorrhage
A blood clot can cause spinal cord damage, which is usually associated with trauma (which Murphy did not have) or problems with blood clotting.Murphy, on the other hand, had healthy pink gums and no signs of internal bleeding.
Murphy didn't seem to fit into any of these categories.
The Following Step: Tests to Determine When a Dog's Back Legs Are Weak
When presented with a dog whose back legs are weak, which test would most likely provide us with the answer?
In a nutshell, an MRI or CT scan.
This meant referring Murphy to a specialist center for a cutting-edge scan, and the dog's owners didn't hesitate and agreed right away.
After a few phone calls, I had a veterinary neurological specialist on the line.
He was confident that Murphy's problem was a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE), which is a "Labrador thing," with the breed being especially susceptible.
FCE symptoms appear suddenly, and the dogs are not in pain. Fortunately, FCE has a good prognosis.Many dogs recover completely with excellent nursing care.
However, there was still a slim chance of disc disease, which could not be ruled out without an MRI scan.
I discussed this with Murphy's representatives, who, quite rightly, preferred that Murphy be seen by a specialist in case something else was wrong.
Keep an eye on this dog as she works to strengthen her back legs:
A Twist in the Tale
I received a preliminary report from the specialist about two days later.
Murphy had not one, but two slipped discs.
He'd had surgery to remove the discs and was recovering well; prompt action meant the damage to his nerves was limited, and he should recover well, fingers crossed.
Things don't always go as planned, and where possible, confirming (or ruling out) a hunch is the best policy. Keep that tail wagging, Murphy, and next time, how about something simple, like a snagged claw?
Please consult your veterinarian if your dog's back legs are weak.
Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, wrote the following pet health content.This article was first published in 2018 and is regularly updated; it was last reviewed for accuracy and updated in August of this year.25, 2019.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your veterinarian, who is best equipped to ensure your pet's health and well-being. This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.See additional information.
What is the best way to treat a blood clot in a dog's leg?
Streptokinase, a clot-dissolving medication designed for human use, is also quite effective for canine patients. In some cases, the return of blood flow can cause dangerous levels of potassium, lactates, and acids to invade the patient's body., which was designed for use in humans, is quite effective for canine patients as well. In some cases, the return of blood flow can cause dangerous levels of potassium, lactates, and acids to invade the patient's body.
How do you know if your dog has a blood clot in his leg?
Although weakness and lameness may occur, the most common clinical signs of aortic thromboembolism are sudden paralysis and pain, usually in the back legs, with decreased or absent pulses in the femoral arteries of the back legs., are the most common clinical signs of aortic thromboembolism, although weakness and lameness may be seen. If the rear limbs are affected, there may be decreased or absent pulses in the femoral arteries of the rear legs.
What causes blood clots in the legs of dogs?
Canine Blood Clot Causes Endocrine diseases such as Cushing's Disease, autoimmunity (especially immune-mediated hemolytic anemia), cancer (both diagnosed and undiagnosed), infections, and inflammatory diseases.Endocrine diseases such as Cushing's Disease. Autoimmune diseases of all kinds (especially immune-mediated hemolytic anemia) Cancer (both diagnosed and not-yet diagnosed) Infections and inflammatory diseases.
What symptoms indicate a blood clot in the leg?
DVT symptoms in the leg include:.
throbbing or cramping pain in one leg (rarely both), typically in the calf or thigh.
Swelling in one leg (rarely both).
Warm skin surrounding the painful area
Skin that is red or darkened around the painful area.
swollen veins that are hard or painful to touch