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Previous leg injury.

Species: Dog
Breed: Greyhound
Age: 2-5 years
Dear Dr Marie,

Recently I've taken in a rescued Greyhound. I immediately noticed, however, that her right front leg is significantly longer than her left one. The lady at the shelter then told me that they thought her leg had been broken in the past but never healed properly.

Because her front legs are unequal in length, and also do not align under her body as expected (the right one is further to the back), the lower portion of the longer leg is constantly at an angle w.r.t. the upper portion. My vet says this likely causes arthritis in her elbow and heel joints. Indeed, she is a bit rusty in the mornings and she does seem to be in some (minor) pain when lying down after a walk.

Now my questions to you are as follows:

1. Can an improperly healed leg really result in unequal leg lenghts, as described, and cause arthritis? Will the arthritis grow worse if I don't do something about it?

2. I've read somewhere that if a person has an improperly healed fracture, then sometimes the bone is re-broken and re-set surgically. Does such a procedure also exist for dogs? If so, could this be done to my dog? How much would it cost, approximately, you think?

Many thanks in advance! You do a great job!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for adopting a greyhound! Every rescue greyhound I have seen has been an absolute sweetheart.

The best way to get answers to your questions is to have some xrays taken of Misty's leg. This really should tell us what kind of damage has been done and whether there is anything we could do to fix it.

The surgery that you are describing is possible. However, it would be very expensive and could come with a number of risks. You would have to consult with an orthopedic surgeon to determine if this is possible and whether it would be likely to help Misty. While I can't say, without seeing xrays myself, I would think that the risks would outweigh the benefits.

It's hard to say whether Misty will be prone to arthritis because of this. I wouldn't say that having a leg that is a different length would cause arthritis. But, if there was an injury that affected a joint in the leg then it is possible.

Have you ever considered seeing a veterinary chiropractor? It's possible that a chiropractor could help. Of course, this depends on what the cause of the uneven legs is. If it is because of a back issue (which is possible) then they may be able to help. If you do see a chiropractor be sure to see one who is a veterinary chiropractor.

But again, the best thing that you could do is have some xrays done.

Hopefully that has answered your questions, but if you have more concerns, just reply.

Dr. Marie.



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Dear Dr Marie,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and informative answer! I'll ask my vet to make some X-rays, so that we may see what is going on. One more question though. You say that the surgery I've described carries significant risk. But what exactly could go wrong with such a procedure? I'm very interested.

Thanks for your time.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

The surgery sounds very similar to something called a "leg sparing" surgery that can be done if a dog has cancer. In this surgery, they will remove the piece of bone that has cancer and then use bone plates to fuse the two pieces of bone together. In your dog's case, it would be similar, except that instead of cancerous bone being removed it would be regular bone that is removed.

But, the risk is that the surgery may not heal properly. There is the risk of infection. Or, it's possible that some screws or other hardware that is used to keep the two pieces of bone together come lose. If the surgery doesn't heal properly then she could need additional surgeries or even worse, could end up needing the leg amputated.

This is why a consult with an ortho specialist would be great. They can give you an idea of just how uncomfortable she is and whether she would benefit from surgery...and if so, whether the benefits outweigh the risks.



Customer reply:

Many thanks once again! I'll definitely have a word with my vet and, if need be, a specialist.

Great job done!


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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.