Treating a Dog With a Swollen Leg

A dog with a swollen leg may have a mild injury or illness, or it could indicate a more serious medical problem. Dogs are naturally active, often romping, running and jumping throughout the course of a day. Sometimes they may land improperly on a leg and injure it. Usually these bruises, sprains or strains mend on their own with the proper amount of rest. Sometimes a swollen leg can be an indication of a medical condition more serious, such as cancer or an infection.

Anatomy of a Dog Leg

A dog's leg has a forearm, elbow, lower leg, wrist and paw. The paw has 4 toes and a psuedo thumb up high on the leg. The nails are actually claws that work well for digging. The front legs are designed more for movement and weight bearing, rather than lifting and carrying. Because of this, dogs can run faster and jump higher, which means that they're also more susceptible to strains and sprains.


It is very important to determine if the swelling is due to an injury, trauma or other medical condition. What was the dog doing just prior to the onset of the swelling? If there was activity such as running and jumping, an injury can be the culprit.

Swelling can indicate injury or infection. If the swelling is accompanied with red streaks or fever, then an infection has taken root. Whether the swelling is due to injury or infection, consult a veterinarian to prevent further injury or damage to the leg structure or surrounding tissues.


Besides bed rest, administration of an anti-inflammatory or pain relief medicine may be necessary. A veterinarian should determine the type and dosage of any such medication. If the swelling is not the result of an injury or infection, careful testing by the vet will determine the underlying cause.

Sometimes swelling and a limp can indicate bone cancer, especially if the limping is gradual and prolonged. Immediate attention will often prevent further progress of any cancer and a better chance of stopping the spread to other tissues and organs. Treatments of radiation or chemotherapy have a better success and survival rate when started early, not to mention less misery for the dog.

Dog Care

Careful monitoring of any dog is an important responsibility for the owner. Many medical conditions have early warning signs. If acted upon early enough, it can prevent further injury, damage or the spread of most diseases. The use of any medications should be used after consultation with a veterinarian.