Golden labrador with front paws
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Why is my dog limping from his front legs?

By Dawn Parrish Content Writer

Updated on the

Is your dog limping and unable to place any weight on his front legs? Various factors can be the cause either over a period of time or as a sudden occurrence.

Front leg limping in canines

Any injury to a dog’s front legs can vary in severity but in the majority of cases, requires medical attention. Trauma as the result of an accident, repetitive strain injury or even leg paralysis can all cause your pet to limp. Likewise, the lameness could also be due to developing arthritis or a shoulder injury. This is one reason that the problem must be diagnosed and treated correctly. Any decreased range of movement in your dog’s shoulder or leg is classed as a serious ailment that requires further medical assessment.

Symptoms of your dog limping on his front legs.

There are several signs that your dog has restricted movement but the most obvious symptom is lameness in his front limbs and the need to limp. Any swelling, bruising, muscular pain or muscle weakness can all attribute to this condition. Your pet will most probably have a decreased motion range in his shoulder or leg with possible pain and discomfort.

Injuries associated with front leg limping

The canine front leg is susceptible to numerous ailments and injuries. The complex anatomy has several ligaments and bones that can easily be twisted, stretched or broken. When your dog exercises, any impact resulting from jumping, running or even accidental injury can develop as a limp in your dog. Of course, equally important is any trauma that results in a young puppy limping on his front leg. These are just some of the possible front leg injuries your pet can sustain:

  • Fracture of a bone
  • Torn tendons or ligaments
  • Dislocation of joints
  • Injury when nerves, blood vessels or muscles are torn from the leg
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Infection in the bone following an animal bite or injury
  • A torn, worn or bruised muscle

Diagnosis of a dog limping on his front legs

Due to the complexities of any injury to a canine’s front leg, it is not advised to take a wait and see approach. An early diagnosis and bringing an end to the pain is of paramount importance. A medical diagnosis will possibly involve one of the following practices:

Leg manipulation – to check for a possible range of motion comparing it to the other, uninjured leg

X-ray imaging – to display any breaks in the bones, abnormal movement of the joints or a dislocation

Fluoroscopy – similar to an x-ray image but with movement and motion of the leg displayed

MRI or CT scan – often used in more serious cases of dog limping and lameness, to show brachial plexus avulsion (forelimb illness) or a ligament sprain. A scan will also make known any spinal cord injuries or neurological issues related to the limping.

Care and treatment of canine lameness

Treatment will be advised and given depending on the complexity of the injury. The most common treatment is to bandage the front leg to protect it from any further trauma. Anti-inflammatory medication can be prescribed to reduce any swelling. In a more critical case, if the injury is life-threatening, an amputation of the limb may prove necessary.

Management of dog limping on front leg condition

Medical monitoring will be required to follow up on any treatment prescribed. Often you will be advised to confine your pet so that it will not complicate the recovery. To regain muscle strength as the leg recovers, some form of physical therapy might help. Your dog will probably attempt to bite the limb to alleviate the pain but as a result of this gnawing, this may result in further infection. In the majority of cases, the injury will heal within just a few weeks or months.

Warning – examine your dog with caution

If you suspect your dog is in pain with a front paw or leg injury, take extreme care when carrying out an initial examination. A dog in pain will revert to his basic instincts that can involve biting anyone or anything that approaches him.

Hills Vet – Veterinary Professionals suggest care when approaching an injured pet “Remember that when injured, dogs can get scared or be sensitive to the pain. This may cause them to act in ways that they are not prone to like snapping at you or yelping when you go near the injured area. Keep in mind that he is in pain and doesn't mean it. If he is particularly aggressive, you may need to ask for assistance in restraining him, and possibly putting a muzzle over his nose temporarily. Just continue to use a soothing voice and reassure him he'll be okay.”

If your dog or puppy is limping on his front limb, of course, you need to examine him to find the probable cause, then take whatever steps are necessary to help the situation.

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