Limping frequently occurs in dogs treated at our Harlingen veterinary hospital. In this blog post, our veterinarians will explain why your dog might be limping, offer guidance on how to assist them and highlight the appropriate moments for a veterinary visit.
Dogs, much like people, may experience various issues leading to limping. Since they cannot communicate their pain or the cause, it falls upon pet parents to identify the source of the limp and provide assistance to their beloved pups.
Why is my Dog Limping?
Dogs may begin limping due to various reasons, ranging from minor issues like a thorn in their paw to more serious problems. Some of the most frequently encountered causes of dog limping are:
- Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Something painful stuck in their paw
- Insect bite or sting
- Trauma, such as broken bones
- Vascular conditions
- Infectious diseases, such as Lyme
- Inflammatory condition
Breeds At A Higher Risk For Leg Injury
Certain dog breeds face a greater risk of leg injuries, primarily due to Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears. The ACL ligament stabilizes your dog's knee, and it can tear when the tibia joint is excessively rotated while partially flexed. This scenario often occurs during strenuous activities such as jumping or running, when excessive pressure is placed on the hind legs. Breeds prone to these leg injuries include:
- Bichon Frise
- Labrador Retriever
- German Shepherd
When To Visit The Vet
You do not have to see a vet every time you notice your dog is starting to limp however, there are times your dog must see a veterinarian at an animal hospital to get a comprehensive examination. If any of the following situations apply to your dog call your vet or go to the nearest open emergency veterinary clinic for assistance.
- Limbs that feel hot to the touch
- Any moderate to severe swelling
- A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
- A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation)
- Limping in combination with a fever
How Can I Help My Limping Dog?
When you first see your dog limping immediately get them to rest ( the best way you can) to minimize their movement and prevent them from injuring themselves more. Also, press pause on your dog's exercise routines until they have fully healed, and keep them on a leash when taking them outside for potty breaks to stop them from running away.
Check your pup's paw for anything signaling an injury such as cuts. Contact your vet as soon as you can if you discover something painful.
If you think your dog is limping because of inflammation, alternate between ice and heat packs to lower the level of swelling and discomfort. Call your veterinarian to ask them when you should be applying the packs.
Look at the site of the limp for signs of bleeding, to help determine if the condition is from a bite, injury, or puncture.
Often if the limping isn't serious you can watch your dog at home for between 24 & 48 hours to see if more symptoms occur or if the limp gets worse.
It is recommended that you should take your dog to the vet to be safe and give both you and your dog a peaceful mind in knowing what is causing your dog's limp, even if you think it is not serious. If your dog starts to whimper or yelp and the limp doesn't get better by itself call your veterinarian immediately or go to the nearest emergency vet.
Your vet has the training and knowledge to diagnose what is causing your dog's pain and the severity of the injury. An exam to determine the source may include X-rays, blood work, or tick testing. The veterinarian will also take your pup's age, breed, history, and overall health into consideration when diagnosing your dog and creating a 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.