What To Do If Your Dog Is Limping

Limping is always a cause of concern — no one wants their pet to be in pain! A limp isn’t always a bad thing though, it could simply be because your pet slept on their leg funny, their leg is stiff, or if their leg is asleep. So many things can cause it, that you shouldn’t panic immediately if you see it. So what to do if your dog is limping? We have the answers.

Like alway though, your most valuable resource for determining the cause of your dog’s limp is your veterinarian. So if you suspect it’s something medical, contact them right away. 

What To Do If Your Dog Is Limping

There are two types of limps: gradual onset and sudden onset. Understanding which type of limp your dog has is crucial to their care. 

Gradual onset limping is usually caused by an underlying medical condition or age. That is to be safe, it comes on gradually, without any explanation most of the time. In general, gradual onset limps are caused by an underlying, chronic or degenerative condition, such as osteoarthritis or dysplasia.

Sudden onset is exactly what it sounds like: a sudden limp. It can happen from stiffness, injury, or trauma. Once you understand the type of limp, you can start figuring out the underlying cause. 

Common Causes of Limping in Dogs

As we mentioned, limping can happen for a wide variety of reasons. Here are a few common ones. 

Paw Injury

Have you ever had a rock stuck in your shoe or step on step on something sharp? If so, then you know how irritating it can be to put weight on that foot. Your dog will react the same way — they’ll want as little weight as possible on their injured foot. 

Not all paw injuries will need medical attention. It could be caused by an insect bite, a broken nail, or a small scratch. They could also have something stuck in their paw. 

To treat it, carefully inspect their paw. If the wound is serious or if they do have something lodged in their skin, take them to the vet. 

Joint Disease

Some conditions cause gradual wear and tear on joints and the musculoskeletal system. This leads to limping. Osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, ligament disease, intervertebral disk disease, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) all can cause limping.

Infections like Lyme disease can also cause joint pain and limping as well. So be sure you keep your dog up to date with their tick medication. 

Bone Disease

Some diseases affect the bones in your dog’s legs. Younger dogs, especially large breed puppies, can develop conditions that make walking painful. 

Certain cancers, such as osteosarcoma, also affect bones and require prompt diagnosis for the best prognosis.

Injury or Trauma

Injuries and trauma are the most obvious causes of limping in dogs. From car accidents to sports injuries, our dogs are exposed to almost as many types of injuries as we are. Broken bones, fractures, sprains, dislocations, ligament tears, joint trauma, and spinal injuries can all cause moderate to severe limping. 

Sometimes, dogs will shut down for a little after an injury. They may display some symptoms of shock, or they could just want to tend to the wound. Wait about 15 minutes (if they don’t need medical attention) to see if the limp goes away. Your dog may surprise you! 

When to Call the Vet

In general, it is usually better to play it safe and to call your vet if the limp doesn’t go away after some time. They may advise you to wait longer or to come in right away for emergency care. 

If your dog doesn’t seem to be in pain, then you can wait a little longer before taking them to the vet. 

Your dog can’t wait in all cases, though. A broken bone, torn ligament, spine injury, or open wound should be looked at as quickly as possible. 

You need to get your dog into the veterinarian or veterinary emergency room if your dog shows any of the following signs of an emergency:

  • Dangling limb (dislocation)
  • Swelling
  • Hot limb
  • Obvious break or unnatural angle

Now you know what to do if your dog is limping! We hope this blog helped you and we hope your dog is okay! Our thoughts are with you both.