Limping is a common sign of pain in dogs. Our Diamond Bar vets explain some reasons why your dog could be limping, what you can do to help your dog, and when a vet appointment is needed.
Why is my dog limping?
There are numerous reasons why your dog may be limping, just as there are for humans. However, unlike humans, your dog cannot express how they are feeling or why they are limping. This means that you must determine the cause of your dog's limping and whether or not your pet requires veterinary care. The following are some common causes of limping in dogs, as well as more serious causes of limping in dogs that require immediate veterinary attention.
Common Reasons for Limping in Dogs
- Something painful stuck in one of their paws
- An insect bite or sting on a leg or foot
- Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Trauma, such as broken bones
- Osteoarthritis joint pain in hips, legs, or feet
- Infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease
- Inflammatory conditions
- Vascular conditions such as aortic thromboembolism
The following scenarios necessitate immediate emergency care for your dog. If your veterinary emergency occurs after regular business hours, take your dog to the nearest emergency animal hospital so that they can receive the critical care they require!
- A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
- A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation)
- Any moderate to severe swelling
- Limbs that feel hot to the touch
- Limping in combination with a fever
- Sudden paralysis and pain in rear legs
How can I help my limping dog?
If you notice your dog limping for the first time, try to rest him as much as possible. That means restricting their mobility to avoid putting additional strain on the injury. Until your dog has healed, exercise should be limited to short on-leash walks for bathroom breaks.
Never give your dog any medication without consulting your vet first! Many pain meds that work well for people are toxic to dogs. Your vet will recommend treatments for your limping dog you that can do at home and will prescribe proper medication and dosage information for pain relief.
Examine the sore leg and foot for signs of bleeding, as well as swelling, bee stings, cuts, or anything stuck in your dog's paw pad, between their toes, or an injured nail bed. Bee stings can be iced and monitored, but any cuts must be cleaned and kept clean with soap and warm water. If your dog has a cut paw, take him to the vet to have the wound cleaned thoroughly and bandaged if necessary. Your veterinarian will be able to examine the wound for signs of a foreign body lodged in it.
If you notice swelling, alternating between heat and ice packs may work to reduce swelling and discomfort. Swelling is a symptom of an injury or other condition. Painful joint conditions, as well as ligament or muscle tears, can all cause swelling to occur. Consult with your vet's office for recommendations on whether your dog is showing symptoms severe enough to require an examination.
If your dog's limp isn't severe, you can monitor your pup's progress at home for 24-48 hours. That said, it's typically better to be safe than sorry, and scheduling an appointment with your vet may help to pinpoint the cause of your dog's limp so that the underlying condition can be treated effectively.
If the limp doesn't resolve itself within 48 hours, becomes worse, or if your pup is whining or yelping, it's time to call your vet to book an examination for your pet.
Your veterinarian is best equipped to determine the cause and severity of your dog's pain. Depending on what your vet spots during a physical examination of your dog, further veterinary diagnostic testing may be required. Tests can include blood work, tick testing, and x-rays.
Your dog's overall health, age, breed, and medical history will be considered in the diagnosis, as well as the prescribed treatment plan.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.