Why is My Dog Limping: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Why is My Dog Limping?

Why is My Dog Limping - keeping pet

The anatomy of a dog may not appear to be the same as of a human, but there are certain maladies that dogs have in common with humans. And more often than not, limping in dogs can be attributed to a whole lot of reasons, among others, that humans can relate to. You’d often find your dog putting less-than-normal pressure on one of its legs or walking on three feet. This limp can be attributed to something as simple as a thorn prick or a particularly serious ailment.

Why is My Dog Limping?

According to professionals, limping in dogs can be categorized into two: Gradual onset limping and sudden limping.

Chronic or Gradual Onset Limping

As the name suggests, these limps can take place slowly over a period of time. You may not notice it initially, but your dog’s movements would slowly be hindered, and you’d get to know about the limp after some time, usually after 3-4 days. It is pertinent to know whether your doggo’s limp is a gradual one or otherwise to help its diagnosis and further treatment. Most often than not, these limps are due to a chronic root cause that may not be evident on sight and may require professional help.

Sudden or Acute Limping

This limp is self-explanatory as these types of limps appear all of a sudden and can, in most conditions, be traced back to an injury. Such a limp can appear overnight, even when your dog may have been walking perfectly just a while ago. This can certainly make you wonder, ‘why is my dog limping all of a sudden?’ but you need not worry. Although it is crucial to know the sort of limp your dog has for it to receive the best treatment.

Whatever the reason may be behind the limp, it sure indicates that your dog is in pain and needs urgent attention. It is vital to give your furry friend a quick examination yourself before rushing for professional help. The cause behind the limp could be of a mild nature and one that you may be able to deal with on your own. The best recourse, though, is to consult a vet as soon as possible, but if you are curious as to what causes limping in dogs, we discuss some of them below.

Common Reasons for Dog Limping

Injury or Trauma

The most common cause of limping among dogs is a physical injury to their limbs or a trauma. The injury could just be on the surface of the skin, or it could be a deeper one, depending on the source of the injury. Dogs are prone to all sorts of injuries ranging from road accidents to playtime injuries; these could potentially cause sprains, dislocations, fractures, broken bones as well as joint traumas. Even any abrasion to the spine can be a source of limping. In some cases, these injuries, however, are not of a very serious nature; even a thorn prick or stepping on a sharp object or walking on a hot turf can cause the dog to limp.

Puppies, however, can become lame for no specific reason; taming them for a while will help them get back to normalcy.

Upon seeing signs of your dog limping on any of his limbs, you should immediately check his legs and paws for any sign of injury or anything out of order. It is recommended to have your dog examined for their injury to determine the nature of the damage. The dog may require stitches or surgery besides pain management.

Paw Injury

We all know the pain of stepping on Lego; our dogs feel the same pain in their paws when they step on foreign objects that are sharp or pointy in nature. A prick with objects like nails can also cause infections in dogs, thereby forcing the dogs to become lame. Often, things can also get stuck in dogs’ paws because of which they cannot exert pressure on that specific leg. Another cause that often arises is insect bites, frostbite, or swelling due to some reason.  

You can use tweezers at home to pull out anything that may be stuck in your dog’s paws. But often, certain objects like rusty nails or grass seeds can cause infections; you must visit a vet at the earliest to rule out an infection.

Joint Diseases

A gradual decay in bone health due to joint diseases like osteoarthritis, dysplasia, and luxation can cause joints and the dog’s skeletal system to wear down. This deterioration of the musculoskeletal system can cause severe walking problems for a dog and can be a source of limping. Other joint conditions like disk diseases, ligament disease, or the presence of Lyme disease due to ticks can all cause the dog’s joint to hurt and make their limbs limp.

The treatment for joint issues depends on the diagnosis. For dysplasia or arthritis, your dog would, most likely, be given glucosamine and chondroitin supplements as a form of treatment. You need to visit a vet to confirm the presence of these joint issues before administering your dog any supplements.

Bone Diseases

Just like joint diseases, there are some bone-specific diseases in dogs like Panosteitis and Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) that can make it difficult for dogs to continue their routine movements. Additionally, dogs can also develop bone cancers, most commonly osteosarcoma, that can hinder their movement and cause any of the front or hind legs to limp.

You should not waste any time as some of these conditions can be life-altering and need to be addressed right away. Your vet would carry out some tests to determine the nature and extent of the presence of such an issue and would advise you a suitable plan accordingly.                                                

Exertion

Although it may seem that your dog ceases to tire after playing and running around all day, they do have their exertion limits. If you plan to run 6-7 kilometers with your dog, it is bound to tire your dog, making them feel overly exerted. This can also cause them to pull a muscle or feel stiff. This can be one of the reasons for dog limping after a walk.

Your dog should, however, recover from it within a day; if it doesn’t, your dog may need a visit to the vet to check for any anomalies.

Ageing

Dogs, with age, grow their bones weaker, and their muscles start to lose their flexibility; dogs limping on front paws is often because of this reason. Dogs can develop osteoporosis or osteoarthritis with time which weakens their bones.

It is imperative to take your dog for a visit to a veterinary doctor if such a condition arises. You should also start giving your dog some food supplements and change its diet to something that is better suited to bone and joint health.

Identifying Which Leg is Affected When Your Dog is Limping

When in pain, dogs may not act naturally, and their movements are curtailed, too. While it’s understandable that they are trying to reduce their pain by changing positions, it gets difficult to know whether the dog is limping on front legs or a back one. Here’s how you can determine if your leg is limping on the rear leg or front.

Dog Limping on Front Leg

To see if any of the front legs is affected, notice its head. As soon as they touch their aching leg down, they would raise their head. Similarly, they would lower their when touching their good leg down.

Dog Limping on Back Leg

Notice the tail or hip to ascertain the hurt hind leg. The dog’s tail or hurt side of the hip would rise as soon as the affected leg touches the ground.

When to Visit a Vet?

Ideally, you should have routine medical checkups for your furry friends as, sometimes, things that appear normal to us could prove to be something serious. In some cases, your dog can require urgent attention, while other conditions can wait for some time. So how to discern about when to call a doctor for a limping dog?

If your dog does not seem to be in too much pain and is not much bothered by their limp, it means that you can wait for a couple of hours before heading to the vet. The issue, in some cases, can also resolve on its own.

If upon examining, you encounter any limb to be out of place or dangling, this can point to a serious problem that requires expeditious attention. Sometimes, a broken bone would be apparent upon sight, like an unnatural angle of any leg would be an obvious tell. Rush to your nearest vet in such a situation.

If any of the dog’s limbs feel hotter than usual, or you notice any swelling, it could be because of nerve damage and must immediately be reported to a doctor. 

Treatment for Dog Limp

Treatment for dog limp depends entirely on the cause of the limp. If it is something stuck in your pup’s paws that is causing the limp, simple removal of the object followed by cleaning could do the trick. Even if it’s a broken bone and is obvious, no diagnostic procedures would need to be carried out. The doctor can get straight to the treatment; it can either be surgery, pain medications, or a combination of both.

In cases where the cause of dog limping is not obvious, the doctors will have to run several tests as well as physically evaluate the dog. Scans would also be needed to better identify the issues concerning bones and joints. Some biopsies may also need to be carried out to determine the presence of conditions such as cancer.  

Depending on the diagnosis, a treatment plan would be provided to you to for your dog. It can range from a simple resting advice to parlous chemotherapy.

Always try and listen to a professional’s advice on matters pertaining to your animal’s health. Taking matters into your own hands and dosing your dog with over-the-counter painkillers or any other medicines meant for human consumption can prove immensely hazardous for your dog’s health.  

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