This is not meant to replace veterinary care. If your Chihuahua is limping, please seek a veterinarian’s treatment.
There are many reasons your Chihuahua is limping. That is why the best advice we can give you is to seek out a veterinarian’s care. However, it doesn’t hurt to seek out additional knowledge before your appointment with your veterinarian, so here are a few of the most common reasons your Chihuahua is limping:
Luxating Patella or Patellar Luxation
A Luxating Patella is the clinical term for the kneecap dislocating from the correct position in the groove of the thigh bone. If your Chihuahua is suffering from a Luxating Patella, you may notice that he “skips” on one or both of his hind legs. Typically, the “skip” or “swing” in their step is caused when the kneecap dislocates and the dog’s movement will return to normal as soon as the kneecap moves back into place.
A dog with a low-grade luxation may skip very rarely or only take a few steps that are not “normal” or even just hold up his back leg on occasion. However, luxation oftentimes becomes worse with use (or age) so the degree of the limp may worsen over time.
Depending on the degree of luxation and the age of your dog, your veterinarian may recommend a consult with an orthopedic veterinarian for surgery to improve the groove in the femur to prevent further luxation.
Legg Calve Perthes Disease
Legg Perthes is a spontaneous degeneration of the head of the femur bone located in the dog’s hind leg. This ultimately results in disintegration of the hip joint and inflammation (arthritis). The sudden degeneration appears to occur due to blood supply issues to the femoral head and is most common in dogs age five months to eight months.
Typically, a dog affected by Legg Perthes will display increasing lameness in the rear limb affected by the disease. He may also be suffering from hip pain and muscle atrophy of the affected limb.
Your veterinarian will probably recommend x-rays in order to diagnose Legg Perthes in your dog. If Legg Perthes is diagnosed, the next recommendation may be a consult with an orthopedic veterinarian for potential surgery (FHO – femoral head ostectomy).
Big dogs and little dogs can break bones. BUT small dogs are at an even greater risk of broken bones simply due to their tiny bone structure. Simple, every-day things such as jumping off a chair can easily lead to a broken leg in your small dog. If your dog jumps (or falls) off any raised surface…even if it doesn’t seem like a big height…and they start limping or refusing to put their paw or leg down, seek veterinary care immediately! Your veterinarian will need to do x-rays to be able to diagnose the severity of your dog’s injury.
Spina Bifida occurs when there is a defective fusion of the spine during embryonic development resulting in incomplete vertebrae. The severity of Spina Bifida ranges from non-fusion of a small part of one or a few vertebrae to most of the vertebral arch missing with protrusion of the spinal cord.
Spina Bifida may occur anywhere in the spinal column but is seen most often in the lower back region (caudal lumbar spine). When the spinal cord is affected you may see weakness in your dog’s hind-end, poor coordination, or even paralysis or incontinence.
As of the publishing of this article, there is no effective treatment for dogs with spinal cord malformations. However, there is a reconstructive surgery option that may be helpful for mildly affected dogs.
IVDD or Intervertebral Disc Disease
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) occurs when the cushioning discs between the spinal vertebrae either bulge or burst (herniated discs) into the spinal cord. These herniated discs press on the nerves running through the spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage, lameness, and potentially, paralysis.
X-rays and other testing may be necessary to determine if your dog has IVDD and to what severity. If IVDD is diagnosed, depending on the degree, your veterinarian may recommend management (such as anti-inflammatory medication and pain medication) or more aggressive treatment such as surgery.
Do you know of other conditions that may cause a Chihuahua to limp? Let us know in the comments!