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My dog is limping: What should I do?

Limping is one of the most common reasons why dogs come to see us at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital. In this blog, our Poway vets discuss some possible causes for your dog's limp and when you should seek veterinary care.

Why is My Dog Limping?

Similar to people, dogs can encounter various issues that can cause limping. However, unlike humans, dogs can't say what happened to them or how much their leg hurts. It's up to you as the dog owner to determine why your dog's limping on their front or back leg so you can know how to help. 

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 are typically caused by overexertion in exercises like running and jumping. Certain dog breeds, such as German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, rottweilers, and Newfoundlands, are more vulnerable to this injury than others.

Luxating Patella

This injury is most common in small breed dogs such as Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers, but it can occur in any breed of dog. It happens when the patella (kneecap) of a dog shifts 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 this is more common in larger breeds.

Canine Carpal Hyperextension

This condition is more common in larger breed dogs that are active, but it can also affect smaller breeds. It appears in the forelimb just above the dog's paw and occurs when a dog applies too much force to the carpus joint, causing it to collapse. This injury causes symptoms such as favoring one leg over the other, swelling in the forelimb, and joint instability.

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 issue. The following are some of the most common injuries that cause limping in dogs:

  • Trauma, such as broken bones
  • Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
  • Something painful stuck in their paw
  • Insect bite or sting
  • Osteoarthritis
  • 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 is limping, there are some instances when he does. If your dog exhibits any of the following symptoms, contact your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal clinic for treatment.

  • 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 To Help a Limping Dog

As soon as you notice your dog limping, do everything you can to help them rest. You must restrict their mobility because any additional strain can aggravate the injury. You should also refrain from exercising your dog until they have recovered, and keep them on a leash when taking them outside for toilet breaks because they may try to run.

Examine your pup's foot for signs of injury, such as cuts. Call your vet if you notice something painful.

If you believe your dog's limp is being caused by inflammation, try alternating between heat and ice packs as a way to help reduce swelling and discomfort. Contact your vet for recommendations on which to apply and when.

Look for bleeding. This should give insight into whether your dog has experienced an injury, bite, or puncture.

Generally, if your dog's limp isn't severe, you can just monitor your pup's progress at home over 24-48 hours, watching for more symptoms or seeing if the limp becomes more pronounced.

Most of the time it's best to err on the side of caution and schedule an appointment with your vet. Your veterinarian may be able to help both you and your pooch feel better. If the limp doesn't start resolving itself, is getting worse, or is accompanied by whining or yelping, it's time to call your vet or visit 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. Your dog's breed, history, age, and general health will all 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.

Contact our Poway vets immediately if your dog is limping and in pain.

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

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