Just like humans, dogs limp for a variety of reasons. However, since dogs are unable to tell us what happened, a pet owner who notices that their dog has started limping may struggle to find out why.
The best way to discover the reason behind your dog’s limp is to take them to the veterinarian to get them checked out. It is also helpful for both you and the vet if you come into your appointment knowing a little about what causes limping in dogs and signs that may point toward one reason over another.
While there can be many causes, most of them fall into two main categories: sudden and gradual onset limping.
These will probably be the most apparent to you. If your dog wasn’t limping before they went outside to play and they are after, that is sudden limping. Sudden limping is typically caused by some sort of injury or trauma, though these can range from a minor annoyance that will eventually work its way out to an emergency situation. Here are some common reasons for a sudden onset limp:
A broken bone is a very serious injury that needs to be treated right away. It’s also one of the easiest to spot. For bad breaks, you’ll be able to see that your dog’s injured leg is twisted at an unnatural angle, and depending on severity, you may even be able to see the bone. Other signs of broken bones are the inability to walk at all, swelling, or heat emanating from the limb. If you see any of these, take your dog to the vet immediately. Be careful, as your dog may try to protect itself by biting if it’s in pain. Show extra compassion during this time.
This can range from mild to severe and can be caused by a number of things including sharp objects like thorns, bug bites or stings, burns, or bruises. If you notice your dog licking their paw frequently, they may have something stuck in it.
Look at your dog’s paw first to see if you can remove the object by yourself. If you can’t find anything, wait several minutes to see if the problem works itself out, and if your dog is still limping after that time, schedule a veterinarian appointment.
Like broken bones, this is a serious injury that should be treated immediately. The most obvious sign of a dislocation is a dangling limb.
These can be mild or severe. If you notice that your dog is either completely unable to walk or has a bad limp for more than fifteen minutes or so, you should take them to the veterinarian.
Infections like Lyme disease, which usually come from ticks, can cause limping.
This kind of limping is typically caused by chronic diseases and may or not be reversible. This doesn’t mean that you should forego a visit to the vet if you notice a gradual limp. However, as some of these are treatable. The doctor may be able to prescribe medication or therapy to help improve your dog’s quality of life. Some of the most common problems include:
These are both hereditary disorders that are especially common among larger breeds of dogs. They can occur in puppies as young as a few months old but are more common in adolescent dogs. They usually result in mild to severe lameness over time, especially in the hindlegs.
As with humans, arthritis leads to stiff joints. Your dog may have difficulty standing up or laying down. There are some chews and other medications your vet can prescribe to help improve their mobility.
Common in larger breeds, this condition can lead to limping, fatigue, loss of appetite, and swelling. This is a very serious and aggressive disease that will have to be treated with surgery and chemotherapy.
Back problems are especially common among breeds like dachshunds, basset hounds, beagles, and shih tzus. Some of the signs might be muscle spasms, stiff or hunched walking, and lethargy.
For customers who live in Simi Valley, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, Chatsworth, or areas near Ventura County, Dr. Ron’s Animal Hospital & Emergency is here to help your pets get back to health. Feel free to give us a call or stop by if your pet needs our expert care.