Dogs hobble for a variety of causes, much like humans. Dogs are unable to communicate verbally with us, unlike humans, thus we are left guessing as to why a dog is limping.
Your veterinarian is the most useful source for learning the cause of your dog’s limp. However, most of us want to learn a little bit about the typical causes of canine limping, what to anticipate from a visit to the veterinarian, and when a dog’s limping becomes a medical emergency before making a call to schedule an appointment.
Gradual Onset vs. Sudden Limping in Dogs
Dogs might limp in one of two ways: gradually or suddenly. Progressive onset limps develop gradually over time. Like their name suggests, sudden limps occur rapidly, frequently following an injury or shock. Your veterinarian can limit down the potential reasons of your dog’s limping by knowing whether or not it is sudden or gradual. This information can also help you decide whether or not your dog’s limping constitutes a medical emergency.
In general, underlying, chronic or degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis or dysplasia are to blame for gradual onset limps in dogs. On the other hand, sudden onset limps are typically brought on by an accident or trauma.
The mere fact that your dog has developed a limp does not warrant delaying scheduling an appointment. If a cause of gradual limping is discovered sooner rather than later, it may be possible to treat it more successfully, such as bone cancer or hip dysplasia.
When to Call the Vet If Your Dog Is Limping
In general, if a dog’s limp persists for more than a few minutes, it is best to be safe and contact your veterinarian. But just like with people, pets frequently suffer injuries after business hours. How do you determine when it’s okay for your dog to limp until the next morning and when you need to get to the emergency vet right away?
It is normally okay to wait a few hours for gradual or abrupt onset limps that don’t seem to be troubling your dog too much. In some circumstances, the limps may even go away on their own while you wait. Your dog, though, can’t wait in some situations.
Nerve damage can be an indication of a more serious neurological illness or spinal injury, and broken bones or dislocated joints require rapid medical attention. If your dog exhibits any of the emergency symptoms listed below, you must get them to the vet or veterinary emergency department right away:
- swaying limb (dislocation)
- Warm limb
- obviously broken or at an angle
Common Causes of Limping in Dogs
Lameness in dogs is a common veterinary problem, and it can have a wide range of underlying reasons, from trauma to chronic illnesses. Despite how overwhelming it may seem, these factors can be divided into a few groups.
You know what it feels like to have something sharp stuck in your foot if you’ve ever walked on a shard of glass. Glass, nails, sticks, thorns, plant stuff, and other foreign objects that shouldn’t be in your dog’s paws hurt. They can cause infection and make walking painful. Along with lacerations, broken toenails, burns, frostbite, and bruising, insect and animal stings and bites can also result in pain and limping. If your dog is constantly licking his paw, he may have something stuck in there.
Some illnesses gradually degrade the musculoskeletal system and joints. As a result, the dog starts to limp. Any of the afflicted limbs may limp due to osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, ligament disease, intervertebral disk disease, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). Lyme disease and similar infections can also result in limping and joint pain, which is another another reason why it’s crucial to keep your dog on an effective tick preventative.
Your veterinarian will probably suggest a glucosamine and chondroitin joint supplement of veterinary-grade if your dog has dysplasia or has been diagnosed with arthritis. Because joint supplements are generally safe for long-term usage in patients, they are frequently utilized as an early intervention and during the course of osteoarthritis. Joint supplements may help ease osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia symptoms even though there is still little study on the subject.
Some illnesses can make your dog limp because they affect the bones in their legs. Younger dogs, particularly puppies of large breeds, are susceptible to developing painful walking diseases such panosteitis and hypertrophic osteodystrophy. For the best prognosis, it’s important to get a quick diagnosis of some tumors, such osteosarcoma, which also affect the bones.
Injury or Trauma
The most obvious response to “why is my dog limping?” is injuries and trauma. Our dogs are subject to virtually as many different forms of injuries as humans are, from sports injuries to auto accidents. Dogs may limp moderately to severely as a result of broken bones, fractures, sprains, dislocations, ligament tears, joint damage, and spinal injuries. In certain situations, the dog may even be unable to bear any weight on the injured limb. Athletes who limp should receive plenty of rest until the source of the limp is found and treated, however proper conditioning can help lower the risk of some sports injuries.
Wait for around 15 minutes while attempting to keep your puppy calm and immobile if your dog becomes acutely lame (particularly if he’s a puppy). They will probably yell and weep for approximately five minutes because they are like children. After that, you might notice that they’re acting completely normal, saving you the trip to the ER.
However, if they are still unsteady or incapable of bearing weight after 15 minutes, you should take them to the vet.
Diagnosing a Limping Dog
The reason for your dog’s limp may occasionally be obvious, such as a broken bone or a piece of glass in a paw pad. Sometimes the root problem is a little harder to pinpoint.
To ascertain the cause of your dog’s limping, your veterinarian may need to perform several tests. A broken bone, a joint condition, and other skeletal anomalies can all be seen on radiographs. Joint fluid collection and biopsies can help detect malignancy and other potential causes, and blood tests for immune-related or infectious disorders such Lyme disease may also be required.
Your dog will undergo a physical examination by your veterinarian before the test to check for tenderness, pain, and range of motion in his limbs. Before contacting the veterinarian, you can perform your own checkup at home. Testing the range of motion and playing with your dog’s limb without correct training, however, is not a good idea and could further hurt your dog. To check for swelling, heat, and to identify any sore areas, you can gently run your palm along your dog’s leg and paw. Your veterinarian can use this information to decide whether your dog can wait for a spot or whether he needs to come in right away.
Treating a Limping Dog
Depending on the reason of your dog’s lameness, several treatments may be required. The course of treatment for your dog may be as straightforward as a few days of rest, or it may involve surgery, medication, additional testing, and a protracted recovery. Despite how frightening that may sound, the majority of the time, the sooner you get your dog to the vet, the better the prognosis.
Keep your dog as calm as you can while you wait for your appointment, refrain from playing with or exercising the dog to prevent aggravating the limp, and if necessary, kennel your dog in the car to prevent further harm.
If you have any additional inquiries about the cause of your dog’s limp, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Never give dogs any human painkillers, including acetaminophen or ibuprofen, whether they are over-the-counter or prescribed since they could be poisonous or lethal. Always seek advice from your vet.
Emergency First Aid for Dogs
A sudden injury or illness cannot always be prevented, even by the most diligent pet owner. Receiving emergency medical care for your pet could mean the difference between life and death. To find out more about what to do in an emergency, download this e-book.
How should I handle a limping dog?
In dogs, limping is a typical indicator of pain. Our Mooresville veterinarians discuss potential causes of limping in dogs, canine aids, and when a vet visit is required.
Why is my dog limping?
Like with us, there are a myriad of explanations for why your dog might be limping. However, unlike humans, your dog is unable to communicate their feelings or the reason for their limp. This implies that it is up to you to determine the reason why your dog is limping and whether your pet needs veterinarian attention. Here are a few typical causes of canine limping as well as more serious conditions that necessitate immediate medical attention.
Common Reasons for Limping in Dogs
- One of their paws has an unpleasant object lodged there.
- An insect sting or bite on the foot or leg
- tears or strains (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- traumatic events like fractured bones
- joint pain from osteoarthritis in the hips, legs, or feet
- illnesses that spread easily, like Lyme disease
- inflammatory diseases
- Conditions of the vasculature like aortic thromboembolism
The following circumstances necessitate giving your dog immediate medical attention. Take your dog to the closest emergency animal hospital if your veterinary emergency happens after regular business hours so that they can get the urgent care they need!
- a mangled limb (will be at an irregular angle)
- a hanging branch (this indicates dislocation)
- any edema, no matter how extreme.
- Feeling heated to the touch in the limbs
- Combining a limp with a fever
- Pain in the back legs and sudden paralysis
How to Help a Limping Dog
If your dog is limping at first but it isn’t severe, try to give him as much rest as you can. To prevent aggravating the ailment, that entails restricting their mobility. Until your dog heals, exercise should be confined to quick, on-leash walks for toilet breaks.
Never give your dog any medication without consulting your vet first! Many pain meds that work well for people are toxic to dogs. Your vet will recommend any treatments you that can do at home and will prescribe proper medication and dosage information for pain relief.
In addition to looking for swelling, bee stings, cuts, or anything lodged in your dog’s paw pad, between their toes, or a damaged nail bed, check the affected leg and foot for any indications of bleeding. Bee stings can be frozen and monitored, while any cuts require soap and warm water cleaning and maintenance. A trip to the clinic is advised if your dog has a cut paw so that the wound can be properly cleaned and, if required, bandaged. In order to check for evidence of a foreign body stuck in the wound, your veterinarian can examine the cut.
If you experience edema, switching between heat and ice packs may help to ease your pain and swelling. A symptom of an injury or another ailment is swelling. Swelling can be brought on by painful joint disorders, ligament or muscle injuries, or both. For advice on whether your dog is exhibiting symptoms severe enough to warrant an evaluation, speak with your veterinarian’s clinic.
If your dog limps only slightly, you can keep an eye on him at home for the next 24 to 48 hours. However, it’s often better to be safe than sorry, so making an appointment with your veterinarian may assist to identify the reason for your dog’s limp and enable effective treatment of the underlying condition.
It’s important to call your veterinarian to schedule a checkup for your pet if the limp doesn’t go away on its own in 48 hours, gets worse, or if your dog is yelping or whining.
The best person to determine the origin and degree of your dog’s suffering is your veterinarian. Additional diagnostic tests might be necessary, depending on the findings of your dog’s physical examination by your veterinarian. Blood work, tick testing, and x-rays are some examples of tests.
Your dog’s overall health, age, breed, and medical history will all be taken into account when making the diagnosis and formulating the recommended course of action.
Please take note that the information in this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice for animals. Please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a precise diagnosis of your pet’s illness.
When should I visit a veterinarian with my dog’s limping?
One of the most frequent causes of dog emergency visits at our animal hospital in Matthews is limping. In this article, we’ll examine the reasons of canine limping, how to treat it, and when to take your dog to the vet.
Like people, dogs can have a wide range of problems that cause limping. The problem is that dogs can’t communicate with us like people can about what happened or how terrible their problem is. Therefore, it is your responsibility as a responsible pet owner to try to identify the source of your dog’s discomfort and determine how you might alleviate it.
Your dog may be limping due to a tiny issue, such as a small stone stuck between their toes, or it may be a sign of a more significant health issue. The following are a few of the most typical reasons of canine limping:
- They had an unpleasant object in their paw.
- insect sting or bite
- infectious illnesses like Lyme
- Vascular disorders
Do I need to head straight to the vet?
While it’s not always necessary to visit the vet if your dog is limping, there are some situations where your dog absolutely needs to make an appointment. It’s time to call your veterinarian or the closest emergency veterinary clinic if your dog is experiencing any of the following symptoms.
How can I help my limping dog?
Try your best to give your dog as much rest as you can when you first notice any limping. Mobility must be restricted since any additional strain could result in a more catastrophic injury. Exercise should be avoided until after your dog has recovered, and you should always leash your pet while taking it outdoors for a toilet break because they might try to escape if left unattended.
Check the foot of your dog for any injuries, such as cuts. In case you feel any pain, speak with your veterinarian.
If you think inflammation is to blame for your dog’s limp, consider switching between heat and ice packs to assist ease pain and swelling. For advice on what to use when and how, speak with your veterinarian.
Examine for blood. This will typically reveal whether your dog has been bitten, injured, or punctured.
If the limp isn’t severe, you may usually just keep an eye on your dog’s progress at home over the course of 24-48 hours, looking for more symptoms or to see if the limp gets worse.
Most of the time, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so calling your veterinarian to make an appointment could make you and your dog feel better. It’s important to call your veterinarian or go to the closest emergency vet if the limp doesn’t start to get better on its own, is getting worse, or is accompanied by whimpering or yelping.
Your dog’s pain can be best diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian due to their education and experience. A complete checkup can involve x-rays, tick testing, or blood work. The diagnosis and suggested treatment will take into account your dog’s breed, history, age, and overall health.
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