At Southborough Veterinary Hospital, our Southborough vets often encounter dogs with limping issues. In this blog post, we'll explore why your dog might limp and when to visit the vet.
Why Your Dog May Be Limping
Determining why your dog is limping can be tricky. Dogs, like people, can have different problems that make them limp. However, unlike humans, dogs can't say what happened to them or how much their legs hurt. As the dog owner, it's up to you to determine what's causing your dog's limp and discomfort so you can know how to help.
Injuries That Could Be At The Root of Your Dog's Limp
Your dog might limp due to various injuries and illnesses. Some are easy to treat, while others require immediate medical attention. Let's look at some common causes of limping in dogs.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears
Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) ruptures and tears are the most common leg injuries in dogs and are typically caused by overexertion in exercises such as running and jumping. Certain dog breeds are at higher risk of this injury than others, including German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, rottweilers, and Newfoundlands.
This injury often happens in small dog breeds like Pomeranians, chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers. However, it's seen in dogs of all breeds. It occurs when a dog's kneecap (patella) shifts out of alignment with the femur (thighbone). In smaller dogs, it usually turns inward, toward the middle of the log, while in larger breeds, it might move outward, towards the outer part of the leg.
Canine Carpal Hyperextension
This condition is often found in big, active dogs but can also affect smaller ones. It's seen in the forelimb just above the dog's paw and happens when a dog applies excessive force to the carpus joint, making it collapse. Signs of this problem include limping on one leg, swelling in the front leg, and wobbly joints.
Call your vet immediately if you believe your dog is experiencing any of these injuries.
Other Causes of Limping in Dogs
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 injuries that cause limping in dogs include:
- Trauma, such as broken bones
- Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Something painful stuck in their paw
- Insect bite or sting
- Vascular conditions
- Inflammatory conditions
- Infectious diseases, such as Lyme
Symptoms That Indicate It's Time To Head To The Emergency Vet
You don't always need to see the vet when your dog is limping, but if any of these things apply to your dog, it's time to call your vet or the closest emergency animal clinic for help.
- 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?
If your dog is limping, take immediate action to help them feel better. First, limit their movement to avoid worsening the injury. Avoid exercise and keep them on a leash during bathroom breaks to prevent running.
Examine your pup's foot for signs of injury, such as cuts. Call your vet if you notice something painful.
If you suspect inflammation, use heat and since packs alternately to reduce swelling. Ask your vet for guidance on when and how to use them.
Look for bleeding. This should give insight into whether your dog has experienced an injury, bite, or puncture.
For mild limps, monitor your dog's process at home for 24-48 hours. Keep an eye out for worsening symptoms.
Most of the time, it's best to err on the side of caution and schedule an appointment with your vet. Your veterinarian may be able to help both you and your pup feel better. If the limp doesn't start resolving itself, is getting worse, or is accompanied by whining or yelping, it's time to call your vet or visit your nearest emergency pet hospital.
Your vet can diagnose the issue, assess its severity, and recommend treatment. This might involve tests like blood work, tick testing, or X-rays. They'll also consider your dog's breed, age, health, and history to create a treatment plan that suits their needs.
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.