Dog Limp Causes and Treatments

If your dog has developed a limp, there are many possible causes and treatments. Limping can indicate pain, weakness, or possibly a serious condition in the affected leg.

For elderly, overweight and large breed dogs, a limp may be a sign of arthritis, elbow or hip dysplasia. These dogs are also at a greater risk for fractures than small or young dogs. It is important to note when the limping first occurred and whether the limping is continuous or comes and goes. A limp that is constant may indicate a laceration, sprain or fracture while an intermittent limp may be the beginnings of a degenerative or age related ailment.

Common Causes and Treatments for Limping

Most cases of limping are caused by mild trauma to a bone, ligament or tendon. These injuries often heal within a few days but may still cause pain and discomfort. Anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed by a veterinarian. Injuries such as a torn or ruptured ligament can usually be repaired surgically. Fractures, often caused by a fall or being hit by a car, require immediate attention by an emergency veterinary clinic. Most fractures above the knee are repaired with pins and metal plates. Breaks below the knee are immobilized using splints and casts. Amputation is usually only necessary when the leg has had multiple, significant injuries or has developed a bone tumor.

Examine Your Dog

When the cause of the limp is not clear, start by examining the affected leg. Begin with the paw and check in between the toes. Look for thorns, splinters, cuts or broken nails. Although less serious than a torn ligament or fracture, these minor injuries may still require medical attention. The area could develop an infection if not properly cleaned and sanitized. If an object is still embedded in the skin, you may wish to have a veterinarian remove it and make sure suturing is not needed.

If there is nothing obviously wrong with the foot, carefully move up the leg applying gentle pressure to the muscles as you go. Notice any signs of tenderness or swelling. If your dog reacts to your touch, he or she may have experienced a muscle sprain or strain. Most dogs will recover from a sprain or strain within a few days. If the dog continues to limp, an X-ray and examination by a veterinarian may be necessary. X-rays can pin point the effected area and help determine the cause of the limping.