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Dog Limping: Causes & Concerns

Dog Limping: Causes & Concerns

Limping is a very common reason most owners bring their dogs in to the vet. In this post, our Southgate veterinarians explain the possible causes of your dog's limping, and when you should be concerned about it.

Conditions That Could Cause Your Dog to Limp

Dogs, like humans, can experience various issues that result in limping. However, unlike humans, dogs are unable to communicate the cause of their discomfort or the severity of their leg pain.

As a responsible dog owner, you will want to identify the source of your dog's limp and provide appropriate assistance. Here are a few common conditions that may lead to limping in dogs. If you suspect that your furry companion is experiencing any of these issues, it is crucial to promptly schedule an appointment with your primary veterinarian.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears

Cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) ruptures and tears are the most common leg injuries in dogs and are typically caused by overexertion in exercises such as running and jumping. Certain dog breeds are at higher risk of this injury than others including German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, rottweilers, and Newfoundlands.

Luxating Patella

This injury is most common in small breed dogs such as Pomeranians, chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers, however, it's seen in dogs of all breeds. And it occurs when a dog's patella (kneecap) shifts out of alignment with the femur (thighbone). When this injury takes place in small dogs it generally occurs towards the inside of the limb or medially, it can also happen laterally but that is usually only seen in larger breeds. 

Canine Carpal Hyperextension

This condition is most common in active larger breed dogs, but it can still affect smaller breeds. It's seen in the forelimb just above the dog's paw and happens when a dog applies excessive force to the carpus joint making it collapse. Symptoms of this injury include favoring one leg over another, swelling in the forelimb, and joint instability. 

Other Common Causes of Limping in Dogs

While your dog's limping could be caused by something minor such as a small stone caught between their toes or it could be an indication of a serious health concern. Below are some causes of limping that all pet parents should be aware of:

  • 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

When To Head To The Vet

While it's not always necessary to visit the vet when your dog is limping, there are some situations where your pup will require urgent veterinary care. If any of the following apply to your dog it's time to contact your veterinarian or your nearest emergency animal clinic for care.

  • 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

When you notice your dog limping, it is important to take immediate steps to assist them. Encourage your dog to rest and minimize their mobility to prevent further strain that could worsen the injury. Refrain from exercising your dog until they have fully recovered, and use a leash when taking them outside for bathroom breaks to prevent them from running.

Inspect your dog's foot for any signs of injury, such as cuts or wounds. If you observe anything that appears painful or concerning, contact your veterinarian for guidance.

If you suspect inflammation is causing the limp, you can try using alternating heat and ice packs to reduce swelling and discomfort. It is recommended to consult your vet for specific recommendations on when and how to apply them.

Keep an eye out for any bleeding, as this may indicate an injury, bite, or puncture.

In general, if the limp is not severe, you can monitor your dog's progress at home for 24-48 hours, observing any additional symptoms or changes in the severity of the limp.

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 of your pup's limp and determine the severity of their 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.

If you have noticed your pup limping, contact Southgate Animal Hospital right away to get your dog the veterinary assistance they need.

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