Limping is one of the most common reasons why dogs come to see us at River Hills Pet Care Hospital. In this blog, our Mankato vets discuss some possible causes for your dog's limp and when you should seek veterinary care.
Why is My Dog Limping?
Dogs, like people, can suffer from a variety of ailments that cause them to limp. Dogs, unlike humans, cannot express what happened to them or how painful their leg is. It's up to you, the dog owner, to figure out what's causing your dog's limp and discomfort so you can assist.
Common Dog Injuries That Make Dogs Limp
Here we discuss some common injuries dogs can experience in their legs that make them limp:
Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears
CCL ruptures and tears are the most common leg injuries in dogs, and they're usually caused by overexertion during activities like running and jumping. German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, rottweilers, and Newfoundlands are among the dog breeds that are more susceptible to this injury than others.
This injury is most common in small breed dogs like Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers, but it can happen to any dog. It happens when the patella (kneecap) of a dog moves out of alignment with the femur (thighbone). When this injury occurs in small dogs, it usually occurs on the inside of the limb, or medially; it can also occur laterally, but that is more common in larger breeds.
Canine Carpal Hyperextension
Although it is more common in active larger breed dogs, it can also affect smaller breeds. It occurs when a dog applies excessive force to the carpus joint, causing it to collapse, and it can be seen in the forelimb just above the dog's paw. Favoring one leg over the other, swelling in the forelimb, and joint instability are all symptoms of this injury.
If you believe your dog is experiencing any of these injuries call your vet immediately.
Other Causes of Limping in Dogs
Your dog's limping could be due to something minor, such as a small stone caught between their toes, or it could be a sign of a more serious health problem. The following are some of the most common injuries that cause dogs to limp:
- Trauma, such as broken bones
- Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Something painful stuck in their paw
- Insect bite or sting
- Vascular conditions
- Inflammatory conditions
- Infectious diseases, such as Lyme
Do I need to head straight to the vet?
While it is not always necessary to take your dog to the vet if he or she is limping, there are times when it is necessary. If any of the following apply to your dog, it's time to seek medical attention from your veterinarian or a local emergency animal clinic.
- Limping in combination with a fever
- Limbs that feel hot to the touch
- A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
- Any moderate to severe swelling
- A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation)
How can I help my limping dog?
As soon as you notice your dog limping, do everything you can to assist them in resting. You'll need to restrict their mobility because any additional strain could aggravate the injury. You should also wait until your dog has recovered before exercising them, and keep them on a leash when taking them outside for bathroom breaks because they may try to run.
Look for signs of injury, such as cuts, on your dog's foot. If you notice anything that hurts, contact your veterinarian.
If you think inflammation is the cause of your dog's limp, try alternating heat and ice packs to help reduce swelling and discomfort. Consult your veterinarian for advice on which products to use and when.
Look for any signs of bleeding. This should reveal whether or not your dog has been injured, bitten, or punctured.
If your dog's limp isn't severe, you can usually just keep an eye on him at home for the next 24-48 hours, looking for new symptoms or seeing if the limp gets worse.
It's usually best to err on the side of caution and make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may be able to provide relief for both you and your dog. If the limp persists, worsens, or is accompanied by whining or yelping, it's time to contact your veterinarian or go to your nearest emergency pet hospital.
Your veterinarian has the training and knowledge needed to diagnose the cause and determine the severity of your pup's pain. A thorough examination may include blood work, tick testing, or X-rays. Breed, history, age, and general health will all be considered in the diagnosis, as well as the prescribed treatment plan for your limping dog.
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.