Left Back Leg: New Injury or Old Injury Acting Up?

holding up the back left leg

holding up the back left leg

She’s been limping for several days now. It was barely perceptible at first, and I questioned myself as to if it really was a limp. But now it has gotten worse — a definite limp.

I’ve not yet trained myself to recognize, by the stride, if the injury is in a paw, wrist, knee, hip or shoulder — veterinarians apparently can do this. But even I can tell that it’s the back left leg because she holds it up regularly, not wanting to put her weight on it, and her gait is not smooth.

It doesn’t seem to hamper her ability to move. I still see her climbing steep inclines and rocks — but it might be hampering her speed. And the injury might be the reason she keeps much further away from people and dogs, all the time lately.

I wonder how much it hurts. I know it hurts because she’s holding it up. Pain serves a purpose — it tells her “don’t use this appendage”.

Is this a new injury, or is it an old injury coming back to haunt its victim? Four years ago, this same coyote sustained a severe injury on her hind back left leg after being hit by a car, the same leg she is now holding up. That leg retains large black scars from that incident. Is this that injury acting up, or is it a new injury? No way to know. I’ll keep tabs on it.

Anyway, life is short in the wild. Every injury or disease takes its toll. A coyote can live 14 years in captivity — but what a horrible worthless life that would be. In the wild, the average life expectancy of a coyote is about five years. Do we even know how long coyotes live in the urban wild? Many urban coyotes are killed by cars. In some areas of the country, coyotes are trapped and killed in urban/suburban areas. Most coyotes everywhere endure all sorts of diseases and injuries. Whenever there is an injury, I think about it specifically and globally.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara Knupp
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 15:06:00

    Great photo! Hate to see wild animals injured as their only hope is to accommodate or heal.

    Usually I see an injury start with a severe limp and gradually improve to a slight one. This seems to be going in the opposite direction.

    While I don’t presume to diagnose, When I see a dog walking in this manner, I suspect a knee problem. In some cases, the knee cap slips in and out of position. In that case, the dog walks with its leg held as in the photo until it manages to get the knee cap re-positioned. I’ve seen dogs with a torn ligament which also held their legs similarly. While this type of injury usually calls for surgery, I’ve known a dog to heal very well on its own. Come to think of it, I had a tear in my knee cap a year ago. Quite painful but it healed on its own.

    I have a dog with moderate hip dysplasia and arthritis but she never walks in this manner. I’ve also seen a dog holding its leg in this way with a paw injury. So based on my experiences, I’m simply making guesses.

    Would be interested in how she deals with the injury and how it all turns out.


    • yipps
      Feb 26, 2013 @ 15:54:05

      Hi Barbara —

      This is really informative. Thank you! Yes, I knew someone else, more knowledgeable than myself, might be able to narrow the focus of where that injury might be. Gosh, a knee cap or ligament injury don’t sound too good. I’ll keep you posted.

  2. Barbara Knupp
    Feb 27, 2013 @ 16:07:46

    Thinking about the injury, a torn ligament isn’t that uncommon in dogs. It may result from a simple jump. Vets usually recommend surgery but I have known dogs – depending on injury’s location and severity – to heal without it. In my experience, a ligament tear is immediately painful and the animal carries its leg as shown in the photo. So its not a transition from a slight limp to walking on 3 legs. As the injury heals, the animal gradually regains use of its leg. Of course a strain or less severe tear may reveal itself a little differently. If the cartilage tears in the knee, again the location and extent of the tear determine whether surgery is necessary. However, it is painful (I can attest) and the animal may not have use of its leg until healed. Dogs, and I’m sure coyotes, do very well on 3 legs. When the patella (knee cap) slips in and out of position, it doesn’t seem quite as painful. A dog may limp for a few minutes before resuming its normal gait – until the patella slips again.

    So I’m not an expert by any means but I’ve seen a number of dogs walk in a similar manner after a knee injury. Animals amaze me with their stoicism and ability to heal so I’m hopeful….


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