Dear Dr. Baum —
My dog is half lab and half pit bull. He is 5 years old. He has recently been favoring his hind legs. For example, not putting all of his weight down, and having trouble jumping on the bed. And he does not play as much as he used to. But the big problem that has me very worried is the fact that he has for the last 3 days been chewing on his tail and it is swollen. I took him to the vet. They said he has arthritis in his back and is chewing because of the pain. Does this make sense, and what can I do?
Rhonda, Cullman, AL
It sounds as if there is a combination of problems. The chronic problem of not jumping, not bearing full weight and lethargy could very well indicate a musculoskelatal problem such as arthritis in the hips or at the lower spine. If the weight bearing problem is in one leg, he may have injured himself.
Chewing on the base of the tail is not likely to be caused by arthritis- it may be a reaction to flea exposure- a flea allergy dermatitis, or a hot spot of unknown causes. A cortisone injection would most likely provide relief of the skin problem and would also alleviate most arthritic problems or minor muscle strains or ligament strains.
If he hasn’t been x-rayed, I would suggest that diagnostic procedure to enable you to best deal with the problem over the longer term.