Why is my dog limping?

Limping in dogs is a common sign of pain or injury. This is why it can be scary for owners when they notice their pup limping on one paw but don't know why! In this post, our East Setauket veterinarians explain some possible causes of limping in dogs and what you can do to help.

Why is my dog limping?

Dogs, like people, can suffer from an array of health issues that lead to limping. But our poor dogs can't exactly tell us what happened, which means owners should know how to recognize this discomfort in their dogs, how to help, and when to take them to the vet for it. 

If you notice your dog limping and are unsure why they're doing it, here are some possible causes, some of which you can gently check for before taking them to the vet:

  • 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
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Vascular conditions

Treatment for My Limping Dog

Dog limping treatment varies depending on what the cause of the limp is. When you bring your dog into the animal hospital, your veterinarian will first perform a full physical exam in order to determine the cause of the limp. 

Some of the most common causes of limping in dogs include:

  • A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
  • A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation)
  • Moderate to severe swelling caused by injury or infection
  • Foreign debris lodged in the paw
  • A joint sprain
  • Arthritis (more common in senior dogs)

Depending on the severity of the limp and/or visibility of any injuries, your vet might order diagnostic tests in order to narrow down the cause of your dog's limping. Once the cause is determined, the veterinarian team will carry on with the most appropriate treatment for your pup. 

How can I help my limping dog?

There are a few first steps you can take to help your limping dog before taking them to the vet. It is key to remember, though, that veterinary attention is the best possible help you can get your pup once you notice pained behavior in them.

Once you notice your dog limping, you will first want to limit their mobility, as any further strain can cause a more serious injury. Exercise should be put on hold until your dog has healed, and bathroom breaks should be short and close to the home.

Alternating between heat and ice packs might reduce swelling and discomfort. Consult with your vet's office for recommendations on which to apply and when.

Check for bleeding. This will usually provide insight into whether your dog has suffered an injury, puncture, or bite.

In general, if the limp isn't severe, you can observe your dog's progress at home over 24-48 hours. 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 feel better. If the limp isn't resolving, is becoming worse, or is accompanied by whining or yelping, it's time to call your vet.

Ultimately, your veterinarian is best equipped to determine the cause and severity of your dog's pain. A thorough examination may include blood work, tick testing, and X-rays. Your dog's breed, history, age, and general health will be considered in the diagnosis, as well as the prescribed treatment plan.

Your vet will recommend any treatments you can do at home and will prescribe proper medication and dosage information for pain relief.

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 your dog limping and you're not sure why, contact our East Setauket veterinarians to book an examination.