Help! My dog is limping, what should I do?

Limping is a common sign of pain in dogs. Our Mooresville vets explain some reasons why your dog could be limping, what you can do to help your dog, and when a vet appointment is needed.

Why is my dog limping?

As with people, there are countless reasons why your dog may be limping. Unlike people, however, your dog isn't able to explain how they are feeling or why they are limping. Which means that it's down to you to assess the cause of your pup's limping and whether your pet requires veterinary care. Below are a few common reasons why dogs limp, as well as more serious causes of limping in dogs that require urgent veterinary care. 

Common Reasons for Limping in Dogs

  • Something painful stuck in one of their paws
  • An insect bite or sting on a leg or foot
  • Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
  • Trauma, such as broken bones
  • Osteoarthritis joint pain in hips, legs or feet
  • Infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Vascular conditions such as aortic thromboembolism

Veterinary Emergencies 

The following situations require urgent emergency care for your dog. If your veterinary emergency occurs outside of standard vet hours, take your pup to the nearest emergency animal hospital so that your pup can receive the urgent critical care they require!

  • 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
  • Sudden paralysis and pain in rear legs

How to Help a Limping Dog

When you first notice that your dog is limping, if it isn't severe try to rest your pup as best you can. That means limiting their mobility to avoid causing further strain on the injury. Exercise should be limited to short on-leash walks for bathroom breaks until your pooch has healed.

Never give your dog any medication without consulting your vet first! Many pain meds that work well for people are toxic to dogs. Your vet will recommend any treatments you that can do at home and will prescribe proper medication and dosage information for pain relief.

Check the sore leg and foot for any signs of bleeding, and to look for swelling, bee stings, cuts, or anything stuck in the pad of your pup's paw, between their toes, or an injured nail bed. Bee stings can be iced and monitored, any cuts will need to be cleaned with soap and warm water and kept clean. If your dog has a cut paw, it's a good idea to visit the vet to have the wound thoroughly cleaned and bandaged if necessary. Your vet will be able to examine the cut to look for signs of a foreign body lodged in the wound.

If you notice swelling, alternating between heat and ice packs may work to reduce swelling and discomfort. Swelling is a symptom of an injury or other condition.  Painful joint conditions, as well as ligament or muscle tears can all cause swelling to occur. Consult with your vet's office for recommendations on whether your dog is showing symptoms severe enough to require an examination.

If your dog's limp isn't severe, you can monitor your pup's progress at home over 24-48 hours. That said, it's typically better to be safe than sorry, and scheduling an appointment with your vet may help to pinpoint the cause of your dog's limp so that the underlying condition can be treated effectively.

If the limp doesn't resolve itself within 48 hours, becomes worse, or if your pup is whining or yelping, it's time to call your vet to book an examination for your pet.

Your veterinarian is best equipped to determine the cause and severity of your dog's pain. Depending on what your vet spots during a physical examination of your dog, further diagnostic testing may be required. Tests can include blood work, tick testing, and x-rays.

Your dog's overall health, age, breed, and medical history will 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.

If your dog is limping contact our Mooresville vets right away. Our compassionate vets are here to help your pet feel better.

My dog is limping. What should I do? Mooresville Vet

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