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Limping in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

At North Boulder Companion Animal Hospital, we often have patients brought in for limping. Today, our North Boulder vets look at the many causes of limping in dogs, what you can do to help your limping dog, and when it's time to see a vet.

Limping in Dogs

Dogs, like people, can suffer from a number of issues that lead to limping. The trouble is that unlike people, dogs aren't able to tell us what happened or how painful their issue is. That means it's up to you as a pet parent to try and figure out what is causing your dog's discomfort and how you can help.

Why is my dog limping?

Your dog's limping could be caused by something minor like a small stone caught between their toes or it could be an indication of a serious health concern. Some of the most common causes of limping in dogs include:

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

Do I need to head straight to the vet?

While it's not always necessary to head to the vet if your dog is limping, there are some cases when a vet appointment is essential for your pup. If any of the following apply to your dog it's time to contact your veterinarian or your nearest emergency veterinarian clinic for 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
  • A limp that does not improve with rest

How can I help my limping dog?

When you first notice any limping, try to get your dog to rest. You should limit your dog's mobility to prevent any further strain or injury. Avoid taking your dog for walks or allowing them to run freely around your yard. When taking your dog outside to go to the bathroom keep them leashed to help control their movements. 

Examine your pup's foot for signs of injury, such as swelling, foreign objects, cuts or bleeding.  Contact your vet if you notice 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.

Typically, if the limp isn't severe, you can simply monitor your dog's progress at home over 24-48 hours, watching for more symptoms or to see whether the limp becomes more pronounced.

In most cases, it's better to be safe than sorry, and scheduling an appointment with your vet may help both you and your dog to feel better. If the limp doesn't begin to resolve itself, is becoming worse, or is accompanied with whining or yelping, it's time to call your vet or visit your nearest emergency vet.

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.

If you notice a limp that requires emergency attention contact us or the nearest after-hours vet immediately. Our North Boulder vets see emergency cases during our clinic hours. 

New Patients Are Welcome At Our North Boulder Animal Hospital

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