Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Is My Dog Limping Because She Damaged a Nerve?
"My female dog has little to no movement of her paw, and she has a mark that might be from a bite. She stays in the countryside taking care of our cattle, so could have been bitten by a snake, insect, or another dog). We think she damaged a nerve, but we have not taken her to the vet yet.
Her paw has been like that for about a month. We thought it was just a sprain, but she can’t really stand or move her paw, she just has it loose. We tried putting on a cast on her paw and doing a little therapy like moving her paw in a circular motion and making her stand on it. We also tried helping her walk on all four legs to see if she could walk on it, but it's still the same.
She doesn’t seem to have any other symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea, but we are not sure since we go to the farm every other day of the week to go feed all our animals. She is just less active since she can’t run or move around like she used to.
What could it be?" —Alondra
Lick Granuloma in Dogs
The photo that you attached looks like a lick granuloma—also known as acral lick dermatitis—which often starts on the wrist secondary to pain, so it is possible that your dog was kicked in the leg by one of the cows and had swelling and secondary nerve damage. If the lick granuloma started first and the limping developed later, you really should take her to your regular veterinarian to have her examined and discuss alternatives to treat the granuloma.
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It may have just started with boredom, as Blue Heeler crosses get bored easily when there are no cattle to round up, or it may have been a spider bite to the wrist that started it. At this point, there is no way to tell.
Nerve Damage in Dogs
If this is nerve damage, it is impossible to say if she will regain use of that paw. It can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months for a nerve to regrow and start working again, depending on the type of injury. (1)
An insect sting or even a snake bite might have just damaged the end of the nerve, but a kick from one of your cows could have cut the nerve in two. If the damage was only to the covering of the cells, healing could happen soon. But if it broke the tube that the nerve runs down and it is no longer intact, it will most likely never regrow.
Depending on the type of injury, we sometimes give anti-inflammatories (corticosteroids), and they may help in this case.
Surgery for Nerve Damage
If she is examined and has no neurological functions to the foot, you will have to wait and see if the nerve regrows. It is possible for some veterinary surgeons to reimplant the nerve, but this has only been done a few times in dogs, so you would need to take her to your state veterinary college.
(1) Menorca RM, Fussell TS, Elfar JC. Nerve physiology: mechanisms of injury and recovery. Hand Clin. 2013 Aug;29(3):317-30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4408553/
This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Dr Mark