Why is My Dog Limping? Causes and Treatments

There are many possible reasons for limping, from old age to an acute injury. Know the signs of a serious condition and when it’s time to visit the vet.

Mar 10, 2024By Nikita Hillier
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Dogs are known for their endless enthusiasm and fun energy, so when you notice an ailment holding them back, you may be a little concerned. Limping in dogs can happen for a variety of reasons, from age to serious underlying conditions.

Here, we will examine some common reasons why dogs limp, when it is important to seek veterinary attention, and how you can ensure that your canine companion is as comfy as possible during their recovery. Let’s go!

Common Causes of Limping in Dogs

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Your dog could be limping for many different reasons, including:

  • Injury or trauma: One of the most common reasons for limping in dogs is injury or trauma. This could be the result of a collision, fall, or other impact. Strained muscles, sprained ligaments, or fractures could cause limping.
  • Arthritis or joint problems: Aging dogs and specific breeds are predisposed to joint issues. Conditions such as osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, luxating patella, and degenerative joint disease can cause limping.
  • Paw problems: Something as simple as a thorn or as complex as an abscess can cause limping.
  • Ligament tears: Dogs, usually larger breeds, can suffer from ligament tears, most commonly the cruciate ligament. This requires urgent veterinary attention.
  • Neurological disorders: Neurological disorders, such as intervertebral disc disease, can affect mobility and cause limping.

Obese dogs can also have a problem walking, leading to limping. This is because their frames cannot support their weight, leading to a limited range of motion and, unfortunately, discomfort. You can combat obesity in your dog by feeding them healthy dog food brands and cutting back on the treats.

Signs of Limping in Dogs

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Some dogs are better at hiding pain than others. So, noticing a limp in your dog may appear harder than it seems. Some signs that your dog might have a problem walking or maintaining their balance include:

  • An altered gait: One of the most obvious signs that your dog is limping is an altered gait. They may favor one leg, hold it up, or put less weight on it when walking. They may even begin to “shuffle” while they’re moving around, instead of picking their legs up correctly.
  • Lameness or hopping: Your dog may show lameness or hopping movements when the affected leg is hurting. If you notice this, it is a very obvious sign that your dog has been injured.
  • Reluctance to bear weight: Dogs experiencing lameness may not want to bear weight on the injured leg.
  • Change in activity level: If your dog has stopped running around as much as they usually do, it may indicate pain. Try to get them to walk, and if you see them experiencing lameness, call your vet.

When You Should Seek Veterinary Attention

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While some limping can resolve on its own with rest and your canine first aid kit, sometimes, you need to consult a professional. You should make an appointment with your dog’s vet if you notice:

  • Persistent limping: Persistent limping could be a big indicator that your pup is dealing with underlying issues, such as luxating patella.
  • Severe pain or swelling: Keep an eye on your dog for signs of severe pain, swelling, or deformities.
  • Limping after an accident: If your dog experiences trauma, like a collision or fall, you need to seek veterinary attention––even if you don’t notice limping. Injuries may not be immediately apparent, and urgent vet care can prevent complications, like internal bleeding.
  • Changes in behavior: If you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior alongside limping, speak to your vet. Behavioral changes can include whining, reluctance to move, aggression, or signs of distress.
  • Your dog is aging: Older dogs are much more prone to joint issues and arthritis. If your senior dog starts to limp, speak to your vet about how you can manage it.

How to Keep Your Limping Dog Comfortable

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If your dog is limping, making them “walk it off” will not make the condition heal faster. It could make their condition worse! Aside from seeking veterinary care, the best thing you can do for a limping dog is to prioritize their comfort. This involves offering:

  • Rest and limited activity: Make sure you allow your dog to rest, rest, rest. When they’re asleep, their body directs energy toward healing. Restrict any vigorous activities and give your dog a comfortable space.
  • Apply ice or heat: Depending on the injury your dog has, provide them with ice or heat to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Consult with your vet for the best option.
  • Check and clean paws: Make sure you regularly clean your dog’s paws to make sure they’re free of any cuts, foreign objects, or signs of infection.
  • Provide soft bedding: Ensure your dog has a comfy and soft bed, especially if they’re dealing with arthritis or joint issues. Orthopedic dog beds can help greatly.

When in Doubt, Go to the Vet

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Understanding why your dog is limping is incredibly important to ensure that you can provide them with the appropriate care. Prompt attention, regular veterinary check-ups, and a true commitment to your dog’s comfort can contribute greatly to a swift and successful recovery.

Remember, if you’re ever in doubt, make sure you book an appointment and speak to your vet. Then you can ensure the well-being of your beloved companion. Limping is not a good sign, so if you notice it, you should ensure that you get to the vet straight away and get answers.

Nikita Hillier
By Nikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!