Limping is one of the most common reasons that our Santa Barbara vets see dogs at our animal hospital. Today we look at some causes of limping in dogs, what you can do to help and when to see a vet.
Dogs, like people, can suffer from a number of issues that cause 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 a 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 sharp/painful stuck in their paw
- Insect bite/sting
- Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Trauma (e.g. injury, broken bone)
- Infectious diseases (e.g. Lyme disease)
- Inflammatory conditions
- Vascular conditions
Do I need to head straight to the vet?
Although you don't always have to head to the vet right away 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 (likely held at an irregular angle)
- A dangling limb (this could indicate a dislocation)
- Moderate to severe swelling
- Limbs that are 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 have your dog rest as much as possible. You'll need to limit their movements and activity level, 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. If you notice something that seems painful, contact your primary vet.
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. Schedule an appointment with your vet to help both you and your dog feel better. If the limp doesn't resolve itself, worsens, or is accompanied by 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 during the diagnosis, as well as a prescribed treatment plan that may include surgery if necessary.
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.