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Why is My Dog Limping?

Limping is one of the most common reasons dogs visit Newark Pet Clinic. Our Fremont vets discuss some possible causes of your dog's limp and when you should seek veterinary care in this blog.

Why is My Dog Limping?

Dogs, like humans, can experience a variety of issues that can result in limping. Dogs, unlike humans, cannot express what happened to them or how much their leg hurts. It is your responsibility as a dog owner to determine what is causing your dog's limp and discomfort so that you can help.

Common Dog Injuries That Make Dogs Limp

Here we discuss some common injuries dogs can experience in their legs that make them limp:

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears

CCL ruptures and tears are the most common leg injuries in dogs, and they are typically caused by overexertion in exercises like running and jumping. Certain dog breeds, such as German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, rottweilers, and Newfoundlands, are more vulnerable to this injury than others.

Luxating Patella

This injury is most common in small breed dogs such as Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers, but it can occur in any breed of dog. It happens when a dog's patella (kneecap) moves out of alignment with the femur (thighbone). When this injury occurs in small dogs, it usually occurs on the inside of the limb or medially; it can also occur laterally, but this is more common in larger breeds.

Canine Carpal Hyperextension

This condition is more common in active larger breed dogs, but it can affect smaller breeds as well. It appears in the forelimb just above the dog's paw and occurs when a dog applies too much force to the carpus joint, causing it to collapse. This injury causes symptoms such as favoring one leg over the other, swelling in the forelimb, and joint instability.

If you believe your dog is experiencing any of these injuries call your vet immediately. 

Other Causes of Limping in Dogs

Your dog's limping could be due to something minor, such as a small stone caught between their toes, or it could be an indication of a more serious health issue. The following are some of the most common injuries that cause limping in dogs:

  • Trauma, such as broken bones
  • Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
  • Something painful stuck in their paw
  • Insect bite or sting
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Vascular conditions
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Infectious diseases, such as Lyme

Do I need to head straight to the vet?

While it is not always necessary to take your dog to the vet if he is limping, there are some instances when he does. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms listed below, it is time to contact your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal clinic for treatment.

  • Limping in combination with a fever
  • Limbs that feel hot to the touch
  • A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
  • Any moderate to severe swelling
  • A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation

How can I help my limping dog?

As soon as you notice your dog limping, do everything you can to put them to rest. You will need to restrict their mobility because any additional strain can aggravate the injury. You should also avoid exercising your dog until they have fully recovered, and keep them on a leash when taking them outside for bathroom breaks because they may try to run.

Look for signs of injury, such as cuts, on your dog's foot. If you notice anything painful, contact your veterinarian.

If you suspect that your dog's limp is due to inflammation, try alternating between heat and ice packs to help reduce swelling and discomfort. Consult your veterinarian for advice on which products to use and when.

Look for signs of bleeding. This should reveal whether your dog has been injured, bitten, or punctured.

If your dog's limp isn't severe, you can simply monitor his or her progress at home for the next 24-48 hours, looking for new symptoms or seeing if the limp becomes more pronounced.

It's usually best to err on the side of caution and make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may be able to make you and your dog feel better. If the limp persists, worsens, or is accompanied by whining or yelping, contact your veterinarian or go to your nearest emergency pet hospital.

Your veterinarian has the training and knowledge needed to diagnose the cause and determine the severity of your pup's pain. A thorough examination may include blood work, tick testing, or X-rays. Your dog's breed, history, age, and general health will all be considered in the diagnosis, as well as the prescribed treatment plan for your limping dog.

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.

Contact our Fremont vets immediately if your dog is limping and in pain.

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