Like humans, dogs can limp for a variety of reasons. However, dogs can’t tell us what’s wrong so we are left to guess what might be going on. Here’s how to find out why your dog is limping:
Gradual Onset or Sudden Onset Limping
It’s important to know the differences between these two types of limping. Gradual onset begins slowly and you might not notice it at first. Sudden onset starts quickly.
Gradual onset of limping is most likely a result of an underlying, chronic condition like elbow dysplasia or osteoarthritis. Sudden onset limping can be due to an injury, like a sprain or tear in a ligament. Both cases are equally important and should be checked out.
3 Common Causes of Limping in Dogs
Limping is one of the most common veterinarian complaints and there can be numerous causes. Here are a few reasons why your dog might be limping:
1. Paw Injury
If you’ve ever had a splinter in your foot or stepped on glass, you know how painful walking on an injury can be. Lots of things can get stuck in your dog’s paw that can cause pain.
If they begin limping, try to check their paws for debris. If you can remove whatever foreign body you find safely, do so. If not, take your dog to a vet. Be sure to check for infection as the area heals.
Your dog also may have an insect sting, bite, or cut on their paw. Excessive licking can be a sign your dog is in pain, so if they’re licking their paws a lot, check the area for signs of injury.
2. Bone or Joint Disease
There are a few diseases that can cause limping in your dog. Joint diseases like hip or elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, or ligament disease all can cause limping on any of the affected limbs. And if they are older, limping can also be a common sign your dog might have arthritis.
Bone cancers like osteosarcoma can also cause limping in your dog. Younger dogs can develop certain conditions such as hypertrophic osteodystrophy and panosteitis. Both of these can make walking very painful for your pet.
3. Injury or Trauma
Something like a torn ligament, sprain, or broken bone will cause moderate to severe limping in your dog. These injuries can occur in a variety of ways, from car accidents to sporting injuries.
To lower the risk of sporting injuries in your dog, be sure to properly condition them as they grow. If you have a puppy, one of the best tips for exercising with your dog is to keep things low-impact until they’re fully grown. Since puppies finish growing at different rates, it’s important to wait until they’re ready for more vigorous exercise.
When to Call the Vet
It’s best to play it safe and call your vet when you notice limping in your dog. However, dogs can get injured anytime and that might be outside of regular vet hours.
In the case of gradual onset limping, and if your dog isn’t exhibiting any other signs of pain, you can wait until the office is open to schedule an appointment to have it checked. Sometimes, the limping may even resolve itself, but continue to keep an eye on your dog.
If your dog is in extreme pain, or you can tell the limb is broken or seriously injured, call your vet immediately or take your dog to an emergency veterinary clinic. If you notice a dislocated limb, swelling, or that the limb is hot to the touch, you should also get help immediately.
If you have to ask “why is my dog limping?”, hopefully, this has been helpful in assessing why your dog might be exhibiting a limp. Remember, if you have any questions or concerns, talk to your veterinarian! They are a great resource and they will always be ready to help care for your dog.