My Dachshund Gretel and I have a couple of big plans this summer.
To help us prepare for a 72-mile multi-day hike, we started training for a dog friendly 5k near Seattle.
However, a couple of weeks ago our plan came to a halt because she started skipping on one of her back legs while running. Then she started doing it when she was just walking.
The skipping didn’t seem to bother her, but I was concerned. I wasn’t sure if it was her leg, back, or something else but it was a new behavior I wanted to get checked out at the vet.
The first thing I did was take a video of her skipping on a run so I had something to show her veterinarian.
It’s really hard to take a good video of a Dachshund running because they are so low to the ground. However, if you look close, you’ll only see her right leg one or one-and-a-half times for every two times you see her left leg.
When Your Dachshund Hops or Skips a Leg When Walking or Running, Should You Be Worried?
Well, I’m not a vet. However, I just dealt with the issue of my Dachshund skipping on her back leg and this is what I learned.
The first thing to do is ask yourself questions such as:
Is this skipping or hopping new?
If your Dachshund has been skipping on a leg when they walk or run for years, it might not be an issue. Some do it naturally, especially when they run fast.
However, if there is a sudden change in your dog’s gait, it could signal an injury.
Other than the skipping, are there any other signs that your dog might be in pain?
There might be something really wrong if your Dachshund is moping around the house, their eating habits have changed, they are hesitating to walk or run, or they otherwise look uncomfortable.
If there aren’t any accompanying signs, the skipping may something minor that will go away.
Can you pinpoint anything that might have caused it?
The first thing to do is check your Dachshund’s foot or leg for visible injury, thorns, rocks, toenails that are too long and are pressing into the foot pads, etc.
Then think back – did your dog twist a leg, jump off anything high, etc.?
Sometimes your Dachshund may skip due to an acute injury or specific incident. Other times, it may be caused by a progressive condition.
Has there been a previous injury that might be related? For example, do you know your dog is developing arthritis? Do they have a bad knee?
In our case, my Dachshund Gretel’s skipping came on suddenly. I hadn’t ever seen her do it before and it was an obvious skip.
There were no other signs that she was uncomfortable though – she was acting like her normal self in all other ways.
There was nothing wrong with her foot or leg when I checked it.
However, we had recently stayed in a dog friendly hotel with a high bed. Gretel had jumped from the bed before we could catch her once.
She didn’t yelp, limp, or otherwise act like anything was wrong after she jumped but I suspected she might have strained a muscle or tendon.
In the end, I normally wouldn’t have been concerned. However, we had plans to do that big hike. I didn’t want to do something so strenuou swith her if there was something wrong.
What Should You Do If Your Dachshund Starts Skipping While Walking or Running?
I certainly can’t, and won’t, tell you what you should do.
These are your primary options though:
- Do nothing – Yes, that is a legitimate option. If you’ve only seen your dog skip a leg a few times, and there are no other signs that something may be wrong, you can keep and eye on it and decide what to do if it keeps happening or gets worse.
- Rest them for a week or so and see what happens – It might just be a sore muscle or a minor abrasion on the bottom of their foot you can’t see. It could be possible that, after a week of limited activity, the issue will resolve itself.
- Visit a veterinarian – If you suspect there might be something up, I would definitely go with this option. Sometimes the vet can tell what is going on from an exam. Sometimes x-rays are needed to get a look inside to see what is going on.
I decided to take Gretel to be assessed by a veternarian.
We visited our regular vet. She didn’t see anything wonky but said I should take her to a specialist, who may take x-rays, to be sure.
We made an appointment with a specialist and I fasted Gretel for 12 hours in anticipation of the doctor sedating her for x-rays.
What Could Be Causing Your Dachshund to Skip?
This is not an exhaustive list but these are the most likely causes:
Hip dysplasia in dogs is a disease of the hip in which the ball and socket joint is malformed. This malformation means that the ball portion and its socket don’t properly meet one another, resulting in a joint that rubs and grinds instead of sliding smoothly.
Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases seen in dogs and certain breeds are more prone to it than others. However, those are typically larger breeds like bulldogs, mastiffs, retrievers, and Rottweilers.
Hip Dysplasia can occur in dogs of all sizes and breeds though, including Dahchsunds.
Besides “bunny-hopping,” or a swaying gait, symptoms include difficulty rising a paw and a narrow stance in the hind limbs.
A Luxating Patella, or dislocated kneecap, is a condition is basically an unstable kneecap that slips out-of-place, causing a twinge of pain as the knee cap slides across the bony ridges of the femur.
It’s caused when the cartilage holding a dog’s kneecap in position becomes damaged.
It’s one of the most common problems to affect Dachshunds. Other breeds prone to this condition are toy and miniature dog breeds such as the Yorkshire Terrier, Pomeranian, Pekingese, Chihuahua, and Boston Terrier.
Typically, a dog with a dislocated kneecap will exhibit prolonged abnormal hindlimb movement, walk with one back leg in the air or run with it’s back legs together.
Torn or ruptured ACL
ACL is short for anterior cruciate ligament. Sometimes it’s also referred to as CCL, which stands for cranial cruciate ligament, in dogs.
Most times when I hear of ACL injuries in a Dachshund, it happened suddenly after the dog jumped off a ledge or step.
If the ACL ruptures, the tibia/shinbone can slide forward and away from its normal orientation with the femur/thighbone. That causes pain, joint instability, and it can lead to arthritis in the long-term.
If your Dachshund has injured his ACL, he will be hesitant to bear weight on the affected leg or he may not put that foot down at all.
Back issues are very common in Dachshunds. Around 25% of them will experience some kind of back injury or complication.
Back issues in Dachshund are primarily caused by a genetic disease called Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).
Back pain could also be caused by an acute injury brought on by a specific event like falling down stairs.
Pain in the back, especially in the lower spine, can cause a dog to skip on a leg when walking or running.
We saw a very nice specialist at the Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle. He talked with me about Gretel’s skipping and gave her a thorough exam.
I was expecting to spend hours, and hundreds of dollars, there getting x-rays. After taking a look at her, he said he didn’t think x-rays were necessary.
He tried to make Gretel’s kneecap slide out-of-place but found they moved very little. He felt her hips and stretched her legs. He didn’t find any indication that her skipping might be caused by hip dysplasia, luxating patella, or an ACL issue.
He explained to me that sometimes dogs, especially small ones, develop a skip in their gait and it can’t be explained. Many dogs have gone on that way with no issues surfacing or it affecting their quality of life.
He said I should just “let her be a dog” and continue to walk, hike, and run even though she was skipping on her back leg.
I explained about our lofty plans to run a 5k and hike 72 miles and he didn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t…. so we continued with our training.
GRETEL WENT A MONTH WITH NO PROBLEMS BUT THEN SUDDENLY STARTED SHOWING SIGNS OF SPINE ISSUES. WE VISITED THE EMERGENCY VET WHERE SHE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH STAGE II IVDD.
PLEASE READ ABOUT THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS THAT LEAD US TO THE ER HERE. IT’S CRUCIAL TO IDENTIFY IVDD EARLY.
A DACHSHUND HAS A GOOD CHANCE OF FULL RECOVERY IF IT IS.