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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The short version:

In the last 10 months there have been 3 occurrences of hind leg lameness (same leg). Lameness lasts from minutes to hours and then goes away completely - i mean running, jumping, etc., no issues at all. I have been keenly watching him and I'm sure that it goes away completely each time. Vet suggested ACL early on when it first happened, but I'm not convinced.

6 year old Lab, exercised regularly, hiked off-leash his whole life.

The long story:

April 2016. At the end of a short hike comes out the woods favoring right leg - wouldn't put much weight on it and was mostly holding it up. Does not sit square - sits with right leg extended sideways. Got home, same deal. I let him rest at the house. When I decided to take him out on the lawn that night, he was barely limping - almost 100% improvement.

By next day it was gone.

Took him to the vet the following week; he suggested that it's ACL and it could potentially let go and there's no way of knowing. He stated that he seems to feel some muscle loss in the affected leg, but wasn't sure and was vague about it. Suggested it may have been going on for a while.

I was skeptical but kept an open mind. I have have some OCD tendencies and one of them is noticing any new or unusual physical symptoms on the pup, much like I am with new sounds my car makes. I believe to be very attuned to things like this and with active monitoring I'd likely have noticed something like this if it's been going on for a while.

Regardless, I got him on supplements and rested him. No offleash for 6 months and we took it easy. There were 0 other signs during this time.

After 6 months I began ramping up his exercise. At month 8, after an hour and a half hike he seemed tense and stiff. When I compressed his right knee he was clearly in some pain. Otherwise, next day was fine. Running, jumping, stairs, all that.

Fast forward to 1 week ago. Came out the woods at end of hike again, holding up same rear leg. I checked things on the spot and could not find anything like a thorn or another issue. Within 5 minutes limp fades severely and within 7-8 mins it's gone and he's running again. Weird.

Today. Came back from a 7 mile hike. He was running the entire time. Back and forth, all over, busting the brush the entire time I hiked. He hardly walked - he ran all the way through. All the way back to truck no symptoms of anything at all. At home this evening I notice that he's favoring same right leg after he's been resting a while. A bit of a limp and he's not putting full weight on it.

The limp only lasts a few steps, literally. I notice the limp after he got up for us to go outside. By the time I was outside he was running offleash with no hesitation, discomfort or a limp. Got down and up the stairs just fine, one hind leg at a time and not afraid to put weight on it when ascending. He did kind of seem uncomfortable when I was compressing his right knee but I couldn't tell for sure.

So, has anyone had similar experiences with a very short-term limp that goes away within minutes or hours at most? Everything I have read about ACL issues points to the fact that an ACL matter would manifest itself with symptoms that are far longer-lasting. From what I've seen, partial ACL tears can have a limp lasting a few days or a week, certainly not a few minutes or a few hours. What could possibly be causing a seemingly short-term injury on the same leg and then and then go away quickly?
 

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Discussion Starter #3

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Hard to tell for sure, but our Samantha will suddenly limp and favor a front leg. It typically won't last more than a day or so. Our Vet is unable to find anything definite, so we just watch her. It doesn't happen often, but we are so fixated on her and her well being, anything out of the ordinary immediately gets our attention. Like your guy, our girls lameness comes on suddenly, lasts a short period of time and disappears just as quickly. I would say in the past several years this has occurred maybe 3 or 4 times, and the last was at least six months ago, so right now I'm just writing it off to a strained muscle. Obviously if it ever becomes acute, whatever treatment was indicated, she would get.
 

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Hard to say without some diagnostic tests. An X-ray is probably the best place to start. Poor puppy though. I hope you are able to sort it out.
 

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As he been tested for lyme disease? How about rads of the hips for dysplasia? Fianal thought is a referral to an orthopedic specialist. Getting to the root of the problem early while he is still fairly young will help prevent further breakdown in the future and give you peace if mind. Good luck and keep us updated.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
As he been tested for lyme disease? How about rads of the hips for dysplasia? Fianal thought is a referral to an orthopedic specialist. Getting to the root of the problem early while he is still fairly young will help prevent further breakdown in the future and give you peace if mind. Good luck and keep us updated.
His hips are good - they've been looked at not too long ago. He's not been tested for Lyme. I'll check that out.
 

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As mentioned already above, partial cruciate strain/tear fits very well. Cruciate ligaments are very susceptible to being strained or slightly torn in larger dogs, but partial injuries of the ligaments themselves do not always manifest in much pain, as the ligaments do not have a great nerve (or blood) supply. This allows dogs to walk/run on them (particularly the latter) after a very brief 'warm up' period with few if any signs of lameness. The lack of a consistent limp does not mean there is no actual damage, however, and over time, the damage may become more permanent if there is repeated trauma (particularly vigorous running, jumping or slipping... or the patient is huge or fat). The lack of a great blood supply is one of the major problems as this can often keep the ligaments from healing completely, even with extended periods of rest (the smaller the dog, the more likely rest will result in sufficient 'healing' or scarring of the ligament, though). The good thing is partial tears CAN heal eventually (but that does not mean they always will) without surgical intervention, but physical therapy is still indicated.

The best way to tell what is going on is to see get some good radiographs and see a surgical specialist. I have diagnosed hundreds of cruciate injuries in dogs, but not all end up being complete tears, and sometimes the surgeons suggest rest over surgery. And sometimes I am just completely wrong and its another stifle (knee) ligament injury. I no longer do any of these surgeries myself as there are many specialists available, with a lot more surgical experience and specialized tools to fix these stifles way better than I ever could.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
As mentioned already above, partial cruciate strain/tear fits very well. Cruciate ligaments are very susceptible to being strained or slightly torn in larger dogs, but partial injuries of the ligaments themselves do not always manifest in much pain, as the ligaments do not have a great nerve (or blood) supply. This allows dogs to walk/run on them (particularly the latter) after a very brief 'warm up' period with few if any signs of lameness. The lack of a consistent limp does not mean there is no actual damage, however, and over time, the damage may become more permanent if there is repeated trauma (particularly vigorous running, jumping or slipping... or the patient is huge or fat). The lack of a great blood supply is one of the major problems as this can often keep the ligaments from healing completely, even with extended periods of rest (the smaller the dog, the more likely rest will result in sufficient 'healing' or scarring of the ligament, though). The good thing is partial tears CAN heal eventually (but that does not mean they always will) without surgical intervention, but physical therapy is still indicated.

The best way to tell what is going on is to see get some good radiographs and see a surgical specialist. I have diagnosed hundreds of cruciate injuries in dogs, but not all end up being complete tears, and sometimes the surgeons suggest rest over surgery. And sometimes I am just completely wrong and its another stifle (knee) ligament injury. I no longer do any of these surgeries myself as there are many specialists available, with a lot more surgical experience and specialized tools to fix these stifles way better than I ever could.
Good deal - thanks for a concise and helpful post.
 
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