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Limping in Dogs

One of the most common reasons our Gaithersburg vets see dogs at our animal hospital is for them to be limping. Our veterinarians discuss the causes of limping in dogs, what you can do to help your limping dog, and when it's time to see a vet in today's post.

Dogs & Limping

Dogs, like people, have a variety of issues that cause them to limp. The issue is that, unlike people, dogs are unable to communicate what has occurred or how painful their condition is. That means it's up to you, the caring pet owner, to figure out what's causing your dog's discomfort and how you can help.

Why is my dog limping?

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 causes of canine limping:

  • Something painful stuck in their paw
  • Insect bite or sting
  • Infectious diseases, such as Lyme
  • Vascular conditions

There are also various different kinds of leg injuries that can cause limping in dogs. These include:

  • Fractures: Broken bones in the legs can cause severe limping and pain in dogs.
  • Sprains: Ligament injuries from overexertion or sudden movements can lead to limping.
  • Muscle strains: Pulling or tearing a muscle in the leg can result in limping.
  • Arthritis: Joint inflammation and degeneration can cause chronic limping in older dogs.
  • Tendonitis: Inflammation of tendons in the legs can lead to limping and discomfort.
  • Luxating patella: A condition where the kneecap dislocates, causing intermittent or persistent limping in dogs. 

Breeds Prone to Limping

Some dog breeds that are prone to limping. For example, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers all have a genetic predisposition to limping.

They are prone to limping due to their large size and weight, which puts extra strain on their joints and muscles. Additionally, these breeds are known for their high energy levels and tendency to engage in vigorous physical activity, increasing the risk of injury. 

Lastly, genetic predispositions to certain orthopedic conditions, such as hip dysplasia and arthritis, can also contribute to limping in these breeds.

Should I take my limping dog to the vet?

While it's not always necessary to take your dog to the vet right away if he's limping, there are times when it's necessary. If any of the following apply to your dog, it's time to seek medical attention from your veterinarian or a local emergency veterinarian clinic.

  • 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

Is there treatment for a limping dog?

When you first notice your dog limping, try to give him as much rest as you can. You'll need to restrict their mobility because any additional strain could result in a more serious injury. Exercise should be avoided until your dog has recovered, and you should walk your pet outside for bathroom breaks on a leash because they may try to run if left alone in the yard.

Look for signs of injury, such as cuts, on your dog's foot. If you notice anything that hurts, contact your veterinarian. If you suspect inflammation is causing 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 will usually reveal whether or not your dog has been injured, punctured, or bitten.

If the limp isn't severe, you can usually just keep an eye on your dog's progress at home for the next 24-48 hours, looking for new symptoms or whether the limp gets worse.

In most cases, it's better to be safe than sorry, and making an appointment with your veterinarian can benefit 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 an emergency veterinarian.

Your veterinarian has the training and knowledge to best determine the cause and severity of your pup's pain. A thorough examination may include blood work, tick testing, or X-rays. Your dog's breed, history, age, and general health will all be considered in the diagnosis, as well as the prescribed treatment plan, which may include physical therapy.

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.

If your dog is limping or showing other signs of pain or discomfort, contact our Gaithersburg vets right away to book an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Referral Associates is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Gaithersburg companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact (301) 926-3300