One of the most common reasons for our canine patients' vet visits is limping. Today, our Palmdale vets share some of the causes of limping in dogs, what you can do to help, and when to visit the vet.
Unsurprisingly, there are a wide number of issues that could cause your dog to start limping. The problem is that, unlike people, dogs aren't able to tell us what happened or how painful their issue is. This means that it's up to you as the loving pet owner to try and figure out what is causing your pup's discomfort and how you can help them feel better.
Why is my dog limping?
Your dog could be limping because of something relatively harmless or minor like a pebble caught between their toes, or a sign of a more serious health concern. Some common causes of limping in dogs include:
- Something painful or sharp stuck in their paw
- Insect bite or sting
- Cuts (skin, flesh), strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
- Trauma, (e.g. broken bones)
- Infectious diseases (e.g. Lyme)
- Inflammatory conditions
- Vascular conditions
Should I take my limping dog to the vet?
Whether or not to rush to the vet right away depends on several factors. It's important to know what should be considered an emergency, although to play it safe you should get in touch with your vet to ask whether your dog's limping warrants a visit to the clinic. If any of the following apply to your dog it's time to contact your veterinarian or for emergency vet 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?
If you notice that your dog is limping, you should encourage your dog to rest as much as you can. You'll need to limit mobility, as any further strain can cause a more serious injury. Exercise should be paused until your dog has recovered, and you should leash your pet to walk them outside for bathroom breaks to prevent them from running or making sudden movements that can hurt them further.
Examine your pup's foot for signs of injury, such as cuts. Contact your veterinarian if you spot 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 the affected limb for bleeding. This will usually provide insight into whether your dog has suffered an injury, like a cut, puncture, or bite.
Typically, if the limp isn't severe, you can monitor your dog at home over 24-48 hours, keeping an eye out for more symptoms or whether the limp worsens.
It's almost always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to our pet's health, and scheduling an appointment with your vet may help both you and your dog feel better. If the limp doesn't clear up on its own, worsens, or is accompanied by whining or yelping, it's time to call your vet for emergency care.
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.