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Help, My Dog is Limping! What Should I Do?

Limping is a common reason for dogs visiting our Bedford animal hospital. Here we discuss why your dog may be limping, how you can help them and when you should visit a vet. 

Dogs same as people can encounter many problems causing a limp. Since they cant explain what happened to them or how much pain they are in, it's up to pet parents to evaluate what is causing the problem and how to help their beloved pooch. 

Causes for Limping in Dogs

Dogs can limp for a variety of reasons from minor situations such as a thorn in their paw or other more serious issues. Some of the most common causes of limping include:

  • Insect bite or sting
  • Something painful stuck in their paw
  • Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
  • Trauma, such as broken bones
  • Vascular conditions
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Inflammatory condition
  • Infectious diseases, such as Lyme

Breeds at a Higher Risk for Leg Injury 

Some dog breeds are more at risk of developing leg injury's then others, often due to ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tears. The ACL ligament is what helps stabilize the knee which can become torn when the tibia joint is excessively rotated ( when partially flexed). This can occur when your dog is performing activities such as running or jumping with too much pressure on the hind legs. The breeds that are at a higher risk include:

  • German Shepherd
  • Bichon Frise
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Newfoundland
  • Bernard

When to Visit the Vet

You don't always have to visit the vet when your dog starts to limp but, there are certain situations when your dog has to go to an animal hospital to be examined by a veterinary professional. If any of the situations below apply to your dog contact your vet or go to the closest emergency veterinarian clinic for help.

  • Any moderate to severe swelling
  • A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
  • Limping in combination with a fever
  • Limbs that feel hot to the touch
  • A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation)

How can I help my limping dog?

At the first sight of your dog limping get them to rest (to the best of your ability) to limit their mobility and prevent further injury. Put your dog's exercise routines on pause til they have healed and put them on their leash when taking them outside for bathroom breaks to keep them from running.

Look at your dog's paw for any signs of injury, like cuts. Call your vet if you find something painful.

If you believe your pup's limp is due to inflammation, try alternating heat and ice packs to help reduce discomfort and swelling. Ask your vet when you should apply each pack.

Examine the site to see if they are bleeding, this can help you learn if your dog's limp is from a puncture, bite or injury. 

Usually, if the limp is not serious you can keep an eye on your dog at home for about 24-48 hours to look for more symptoms or see if the limp becomes worse.

Most of the time its best to take the safe path and book an appointment with your vet to give both you and your dog more comfort in learning what is causing the condition, even if you believe it isn't serious.  If the limp does not get better on it's own or you dog begins to yelp or whimper call you veterinarian or go to the closest emergency vet.

Your vet is equipped with the knowledge and training to diagnose the severity and cause of your dog's pain. An examination for the source might consist of tick testing, X-rays or blood work. The history, age, breed and overall health of your dog will be taken into account in the diagnosis and 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.

If your dog is limping and in pain contact us right away. Our Bedford vets are here to help animals in need.

We're accepting new patients! Book your pet's first appointment today.

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