Limping is one of the most common reasons that our Novato vets see dogs at our animal hospital. Today we look at the causes of limping in dogs, what you can do to help your limping dog, and when it's time to see a vet.
Dogs, like people, can suffer from countless issues that lead to limping. The trouble is that unlike people, dogs aren't able to tell us what happened or how painful their issue is. That means it's up to you as the loving pet parent to try and figure out what is causing your dog's discomfort and how you can help.
Why is my dog limping?
Your dog's limping could be caused by something minor like a small stone caught between their toes or it could be an indication of a serious health concern. Some of the most common causes of limping in dogs include:
- Something painful stuck in their paw
- Insect bite or sting
- Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Trauma, such as broken bones
- Infectious diseases, such as Lyme
- Inflammatory conditions
- Vascular conditions
Do I need to head straight to the vet?
While it's not always necessary to head to the vet if your dog is limping, there are some cases when a vet appointment is essential for your pup. If any of the following apply to your dog it's time to contact your veterinarian or your nearest emergency veterinarian clinic for care.
- A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
- A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation)
- Any moderate to severe swelling
- Limbs that feel hot to the touch
- Limping in combination with a fever
How can I help my limping dog?
When you first notice any limping, try to rest your dog as best you can. You'll need to limit mobility, as any further strain can cause a more serious injury. Exercise should be put on hold until your dog has healed, and you should leash your pet to walk them outside for bathroom breaks as they may try to run if let out into the yard.
Examine your pup's foot for signs of injury, such as cuts. Contact your vet if you notice something painful.
If you suspect your dog's limp is caused by inflammation, try alternating between heat and ice packs as a way to help reduce swelling and discomfort. Contact your vet for recommendations on which to apply and when.
Check for bleeding. This will usually provide insight into whether your dog has suffered an injury, puncture, or bite.
Typically, if the limp isn't severe, you can simply monitor your dog's progress at home over 24-48 hours, watching for more symptoms or to see whether the limp becomes more pronounced.
In most cases, it's better to be safe than sorry, and scheduling an appointment with your vet may help both you and your dog to feel better. If the limp doesn't begin to resolve itself, is becoming worse, or is accompanied with whining or yelping, it's time to call your vet or visit your nearest emergency vet.
Your veterinarian has the training and knowledge to best determine the cause and 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.
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.