Why is my dog limping?

Limping is a common sign of pain in dogs. In this post, our Madison vets explain some of the causes of dog's limping, what you can do to help them, and when to seek care from your vet.

There is an array of health issues that can cause a dog to start limping. Unfortunately for dog owners, their furry friend's are unable to tell them exactly what the issue is. If you notice this alarming behavior in your dog, your first question will be, "Why is my dog limping?" You'll likely want to know possible reasons they could be limping and how you can help make them more comfortable.

Common Reasons for Limping

Some of the most common reasons for limping in dogs include:

  • Something painful stuck in their paw
  • Insect bite or sting
  • Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
  • Trauma, such as broken bones
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Infectious diseases, such as Lyme
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Vascular conditions

Is my dog limping an emergency?

If your dog is limping, it is typically classified as an emergency only if the following apply:

  • 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

If any of the above symptoms are present in your limping dog, seek veterinary care immediately.

What You Can Do About Your Dog Limping

At the first sign of your dog limping, try to get them to rest as much as possible. You'll need to limit mobility, as any further strain can cause a more serious injury. Exercise should be put on hold until your dog has healed, and you should leash your pet to walk them outside for bathroom breaks as they may try to run if let out into the yard.

Alternating between heat and ice packs might reduce swelling and discomfort. Consult with your vet's office for recommendations on which to apply and when.

Check for bleeding. This will usually provide insight into whether your dog has suffered an injury, puncture, or bite.

In general, if the limp isn't severe, you can observe your pup's condition over the next 24 to 48 hours. It is better to be safe than sorry and we recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet to rule out any more serious conditions. If the limp isn't resolving on its own, is becoming worse, or is accompanied with whining or yelping, it's definitely time to call your vet.

Ultimately, your veterinarian is best equipped to determine the cause and severity of your dog's pain. A thorough examination may include blood work, tick testing, and x-rays. Your dog's breed, history, age, and general health will be considered in the diagnosis, as well as the prescribed treatment plan.

Remember to never give any medication to your pets without consulting your vet first. Your vet will recommend any treatments you can do at home and will prescribe proper medication and dosage information for pain relief.

If you notice your pup limping, please contact our Madison veterinary clinic today to book an appointment so we can find the cause of your dog's discomfort.