Limping is a common symptom we see in dogs at our Lafayette veterinary hospital. In this blog post our vets discuss the reasons why your dog may be limping, ways you can help them and when it is time to visit a vet.
Dogs are like people and can encounter many problems that can cause them to limp. Since they can't verbally tell us how much pain they are in or what happened to them, it is up to the pet parents to figure out what is causing the limp and how to help their loving pup.
Causes for Limping in Dogs
Dogs can start limping for reasons from minor issues such as a thorn in their paw or a more serious problem. Some of the most common explanations for dog limping include:
- Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Something painful stuck in their paw
- Insect bite or sting
- Trauma, such as broken bones
- Vascular conditions
- Infectious diseases, such as Lyme
- Inflammatory condition
Breeds at a Higher Risk for Leg Injury
Several breeds of dogs are at a higher risk of obtaining a leg injury than the others, often because of ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tears. The ACL ligament helps to stabilize your pooch's knee which might get torn when their tibia joint is partially flexed (excessively rotated). This situation can happen when your dog is taking part in activities like jumping or running and put too much pressure on their hind legs. Breeds at a higher risk of leg injury are:
- Bichon Frise
- Labrador Retriever
- German Shepherd
When to Visit the Vet
You do not have to see a vet every time you notice your dog is starting to limp however, there are times your dog must see a veterinarian at an animal hospital to get a comprehensive examination. If any of the following situations apply to your dog call your vet or go to the nearest open emergency veterinary clinic for assistance.
- Limbs that feel hot to the touch
- Any moderate to severe swelling
- A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
- A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation)
- Limping in combination with a fever
How can I help my limping dog?
When you first see your dog limping immediately get them to rest ( the best way you can) in order to minimize their movement and prevent them from injuring themselves more. Also, press pause on your dogs exercise routines until they have fully healed and keep them on a leash when taking them outside for potty breaks to stop them from running away.
Check your pup's paw for anything signalling an injury such as cuts. Contact your vet as soon as you can if you discover something painful.
If you think you dog is limping because of inflammation, alternate between ice and heat packs to lower the level of swelling and discomfort. Call your veterinarian to ask them when you should be applying the packs.
Look at the site of the limp for signs of bleeding, to help determine if the condition is from a bite, injury or puncture.
Often if the limping isn't serious you can watch your dog at home for between 24 & 48 hours to see if more symptoms occur or if the limp gets worse.
It is recommend that you should take your dog to the vet to be safe and give both you and your dog a peaceful mind in knowing what is causing your dog's limp, even if you think it is not serious. If your dog starts to whimper or yelp and the limp doesn't get better by itself call your veterinarian immediately or go to the nearest emergency vet.
Your vet has the training and knowledge to diagnose what is causing your dogs pain and the severity of the injury. An exam to determine the source may include X-rays, blood work or tick testing. The veterinarian will also take your pup's age, breed, history and overall health into consideration when diagnosing your dog and creating a 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.