Why Is My Dogs Back Leg Hurting

A torn cruciate ligament in a dog’s back leg is the most frequent reason for sudden limping (ACL). In dogs, the ACL is located in the knee, and when it is torn, the dog becomes unstable in the joint. A “toe touching” lameness is frequently present in dogs at all times. If left untreated, your dog may have excruciating pain and subsequent joint injury, such as a meniscal tear.

Thankfully, a dog’s ruptured ACL can be medically repaired. The extracapsular technique and TPLO (tibia plateau levelling osteotomy) are the two most used treatments. Based on the severity of the injury, your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best course of action for treating your dog.

Why does my dog have a rear leg limp but not cry?

Numerous conditions, such as a muscular strain or a ligament damage, might cause someone to limp. Additionally, it depends on which leg is injured and precisely where the limb is injured. It is advisable to get your pet examined by a veterinarian who can do a lameness check to pinpoint the exact location of the issue on the leg.


Dogs can develop arthritis just like people do. The hind legs of your pet may experience osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis develops when your pet’s joints are improperly lubricated. When your dog moves their joints, they may experience pain.

We advise bringing your pet to the veterinarian if they:

  • having trouble walking or climbing stairs
  • Make a rabbit hop.
  • strengthen the back leg muscles while developing large front leg muscles

Hip Dysplasia

Your pet may have hip dysplasia if their hip joints are looser than usual. Your dog may become off-balance due to unsteady hips, which also run the risk of worsening conditions like osteoarthritis.

Bigger dogs, notably those of the following breeds, frequently suffer from hip dysplasia:

  • English Shepherd
  • Canine Labrador
  • Brother Bernard
  • Large Dane

Hip dysplasia is primarily inherited, though size, weight, and overuse can all contribute to the disorder.

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy develops when the nerve sheath in your pet deteriorates. Your dog’s nerves won’t function correctly if this sheath disintegrates. If your pet displays any of the following symptoms, they may have degenerative myelopathy:

  • trembling back legs
  • standing with interlocked hind legs
  • feet in an unusual posture

Although it can affect any breed, the following breeds are more likely to get this spinal condition:

  • Boxer
  • Welsh Cardigan Corgi
  • Rough Coated Ridgebacks


Your dog’s rear legs may become weak if they have diabetes, which weakens their leg joints. When this occurs, your pet’s body is unable to create enough insulin, which may cause dangerously high blood sugar levels.

Dogs with diabetes may become more hungry and thirsty. Additionally, your pet can lose weight and become incontinent. To determine whether your dog has diabetes, your veterinarian can run a blood test on him or her.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) happens when a little piece of cartilage manages to get into your dog’s bloodstream and obstruct it. The cartilage prevents swelling in your pet’s spine by preventing blood from entering it. Your dog can only use one of his back legs as a result. FCE may also result in brief pain.

Giant and huge canines are more susceptible to this type of embolism. There are two breeds that frequently have FCE diagnoses: German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds.

Limited Mobility

Tibial plateau levelling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery is one type of surgery that can help your pet’s hind legs function correctly once more. To ensure a full recovery, your veterinarian will advise restricting your pet’s activity after surgery. In this situation, a temporary impairment might happen.

What should one do if a dog’s back leg is 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.

Why is my dog limping?

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
  • tears or strains (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
  • traumatic events like fractured bones
  • Osteoarthritis
  • infectious illnesses like Lyme
  • inflammatory diseases
  • 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.

  • 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

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.

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.

Happy Tails from Clients

“Amazing set of folks that we adore wholeheartedly. With our little Dachshund Finn who has IVDD, it has been a difficult journey. He’s now had two operations here in less than a year, and both times they were incredibly sensitive, loving, and sympathetic. They greatly improved my attitude toward his having to stay for two days. I was confident that he was loved and well-cared for. I’m really appreciative of everybody here!”

(Caitlin S.)

How can I determine if a muscle in my dog has been pulled?

Your dog starting to limp or becoming suddenly lame, which means they are unable to use their limb, could be the first indication of strains or sprains. It’s necessary to see the vet if this persists for more than a day or two or if it keeps happening.

What causes muscle tears?

Trauma or damage, whether direct or indirect, can result in muscle tears. The most frequent reason is a strain or indirect damage brought on by overstretching when engaging in sports activity like running or leaping. Damage from a shattered bone or external abrasions are examples of direct causes (deep cuts). Lacerations can also result from surgical complications.

What are the clinical signs of muscle tears?

Lameness or limping, muscular swelling, bruising, and pain on palpation (examination by touch during a physical exam) of the affected area are some clinical indications of muscle tears. The clinical indicators could be challenging to identify if the tear is moderate.

How are muscle tears diagnosed?

Certain muscles are more likely to be damaged by muscle tears than others, and each muscle can have slightly different clinical signs. Muscle tears are identified by looking at the clinical signs and by determining which muscles are involved.

Creatine phosphokinase (CPK), a muscle enzyme (a substance secreted in the body), may be measured in blood work and may be increased, supporting the diagnosis. The diagnosis and localization of the injury can also be aided by imaging techniques like radiographs (X-rays) and more sophisticated imaging techniques like ultrasound, CT, and MRI.

How are muscle tears treated?

Rest, cold compresses, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) are used to treat muscle tears very away in order to lessen discomfort, swelling, and inflammation. Depending on the afflicted muscle, mild compression bandages may be utilized initially. If the NSAID is not effective, further pain relief may be needed.

To avoid difficulties while healing, passive physical therapy can be used after two days. Physical rehabilitation advice will be given by your veterinarian. To aid in the appropriate regeneration of muscle tissue, light and controlled exercise (no jumping or running) can be resumed after 5 to 10 days.

Surgery is most likely necessary in the worst situations. Two to three days after the injury, surgery is carried out to give edema and inflammation time to subside. When surgery is necessary, activity should be tightly limited for a month after the procedure. This promotes healthy recovery and averts additional harm.

What care will my dog require after treatment for a muscle tear?

Physical treatment will probably be helpful for dogs with muscle tears. Controlled mobility is crucial during the healing process since total inactivity and immobilization of the injured muscle might result in permanent muscular contracture (tightening). No additional followup is necessary if the muscle tear is successfully treated.

How long should a dog lag before visiting a veterinarian?

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)
  • Swelling
  • 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.

Paw Injury

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.

Joint Disease

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.

Bone Disease

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.