Dogs may limp for various reasons, but unlike humans, they can’t communicate the details to us verbally. This makes it challenging for pet owners to understand why their dog is limping.
The best person to help you figure out the reason behind your dog’s limp is your veterinarian. Before scheduling an appointment, it’s natural to want some information about the common causes of limping in dogs, what happens during a veterinary visit, and when a limping dog requires urgent attention.
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How Get Why Your Dog is Limping?
Sometimes it’s obvious why your dog is limping, like if there’s a broken bone or something stuck in their paw. But other times, it’s not so clear. Your vet might need to do some tests to find out why your dog is limping. X-rays can show if there’s a broken bone, joint problems, or other issues with the bones. Biopsies and collecting joint fluid can help identify cancer and other possible reasons.
Blood tests may also be needed to check for infectious diseases like Lyme or immune-related problems.
Before doing tests, your vet will give your dog a physical check-up to see if there’s any tenderness, pain, or problems with moving their limbs. You can also do a basic check at home by gently feeling your dog’s leg and paw for swelling, heat, and any tender spots. This info can help your vet decide if your dog can wait for a regular appointment or if it’s an emergency. But be careful not to do anything that might hurt your dog if you’re not trained to handle these checks properly.
Common Causes of Limping in Dogs
Limping is a common concern in veterinary practice for dogs, and the potential causes vary widely, ranging from persistent conditions to injuries. While this might seem like a lot to take in, these causes can be categorized into a few main groups.
If you’ve ever had something sharp stuck in your foot, you know it’s painful. Dogs feel the same way when they get things like glass, nails, sticks, or thorns stuck in their paws. It makes walking uncomfortable and can lead to infections. Insect or animal bites, lacerations, broken toenails, burns, frostbite, and bruises can also cause tenderness and limping. If your dog constantly licks its paw, it might have something stuck there.
Some conditions cause gradual wear and tear on a dog’s joints and muscles, resulting in limping. Problems like osteoarthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, ligament disease, intervertebral disk disease, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) can all lead to limping. Infections like Lyme disease can also cause joint pain and limping. If your dog has arthritis or dysplasia, your vet might suggest a joint supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin.
Certain diseases affect a dog’s leg bones, causing limping. Young dogs, especially large breeds, might develop conditions like hypertrophic osteodystrophy and panosteitis, making walking painful. Bone cancers like osteosarcoma also require quick diagnosis for the best outcome.
Injury or Accidents:
Injuries are a common reason for limping in dogs, from car accidents to sports injuries. Broken bones, fractures, sprains, dislocations, ligament tears, joint trauma, and spinal injuries can all cause moderate to severe limping. Rest is crucial for a limping dog until the cause is identified and treated.
Dealing with Acute Limping
If your dog suddenly starts limping, especially if it’s a puppy, wait for about 15 minutes. Keep your pup quiet and still during this time. They might yelp and cry initially, but they might act normal afterward. This could save you a trip to the emergency room.
When to go to the Vet for Your Limping Dog?
Generally, it’s safer to give your vet a call if your dog has been limping for more than a few minutes. However, just like people, dogs have a way of getting hurt at inconvenient times. So, how do you decide if your dog’s limp can wait until morning or if it’s an emergency? Is surgery necessary for your dog?
If your dog’s limp came on gradually or suddenly but doesn’t seem to bother them much, you might be able to wait a few hours. Sometimes, the limp may even go away on its own during this time. However, there are situations where waiting is not an option.
Immediate care is crucial for broken bones, dislocated joints, and signs of nerve damage, which could indicate a serious neurological condition or spinal injury. If your dog shows any of these emergency signs, it’s essential to get them to the vet or emergency room right away:
• A dangling limb (dislocation)
• The limb feels hot
• Obvious break or an unnatural angle
Is it an emergency?
Usually, when a dog is limping, it’s not a big emergency. You can plan a visit to the vet after checking things out and deciding it’s necessary.
But if your dog is in a lot of pain, bleeding a lot, has an obvious broken bone, can’t get up, seems very tired, is throwing up, shaking, has a fever, or is dragging a leg and can’t move it, then it’s serious. In these cases, you should take your dog to the vet right away.
The treatment for your dog’s lameness will vary depending on the cause. Your dog’s treatment plan could be as simple as a few days of rest, or it could entail surgery, medication, further testing, and a prolonged recovery. While this may sound intimidating, in most cases the sooner you get your dog in to see the veterinarian.
While you are waiting for your appointment, try to keep your dog as calm as possible and abstain from exercise or play to avoid making the dog’s limp worse, and if necessary, crate your dog in the car to prevent further injury.
For further questions about why your dog is limping, you can contact our vets in Toronto we have the best emergency pet services.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you treat a dog limping at home?
If your dog is limping, start by making sure they get plenty of rest. Limit their activity to avoid further strain. If there’s swelling, consider applying ice (unless it’s an open wound). Check their paws for any foreign objects. If the limp persists, it’s best to consult with a vet for proper guidance.
Can a dog limp heal on its own?
Yes, sometimes a dog’s limp can improve with rest, especially if it’s a minor issue. However, if the limp persists or is severe, seeking veterinary attention is crucial to identify and address the underlying cause.
What to do if your dog is limping but you cant find anything?
Keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior. If the limp continues or worsens and you can’t identify the cause, it’s essential to consult with a vet. Professional examination may reveal hidden or internal issues that aren’t immediately apparent.