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Why is my dog limping?

Puppy dog limping advice
© Pixabay

If your dog is limping there are several possible reasons. Lameness is not a disease, but it could be either a common cause or a more complex condition.

By Dawn Parrish

Updated on the 19/12/2019, 15:27

If your dog suddenly begins limping, you need to check out any possible reasons before you seek further advice. Perhaps your dog has an infection, a cut or even a broken nail. Certainly, there are more intricate complications that can also result in a lame dog. Cancer, osteoarthritis and even a slipped-disc will all give your dog pain and cause him to stagger. Lameness can also be produced by long-term health issues, such as torn ligaments or even stiffness, however mostly by the onset of pain. A dog is unable to tell you that he is in great discomfort and for this reason, any limping dog symptoms must be taken seriously.

How bad is my dog’s limping?

The canine medical profession grade lameness in dogs on a scale of 1 to 5 depending on how severe the problem is. This helps them when they need to review the health situation to agree if the condition is getting better or not. It also clarifies to others the extent of the lameness. These are the varying grades of the condition:

  1. No lameness noticed when the dog is walking, but can be recognised slightly when the dog is jogging
  2. No obvious limping detected when walking but certainly noticeable when jogging
  3. Lameness is noticeable when both jogging and walking
  4. Even when standing still, the dog is unable to place his foot on the ground bearing his weight
  5. The dog will hold his leg up constantly – also described as non-weight bearing lameness

Dog limping causes

A lame dog is usually suffering from some form of orthopaedic disorder. Fractures, tumours, muscle strain or sprain can all cause your dog to limp. Tendonitis (tendon inflammation) and myositis (muscle inflammation) will result in a sudden limp. Worse cases of long-term dog and puppy limping can be congenital or degenerative conditions.

Limping dog pain
Muscle strain can make your dog limp ©Shutterstock

More common reasons for why your dog is limping:

A torn foot pad

A dog can tear his pad while exercising, running after a toy or even when wrestling with another dog. If your dog is limping because of a torn pad, try to stop him from using this foot for a while and seek further medical care.

Hip dysplasia

A more widespread skeletal disorder. Hip dysplasia results when the hip joints of the dog haven’t developed correctly. If your dog limps, especially in the morning with stiff joints, or when walking or running, hip dysplasia can be the cause.

Elbow dysplasia

Appearing more often in purebred canines, this condition encompasses several developmental abnormalities of the cubital joint.

Intervertebral disc disorder as a cause of dog limping

This joint disease is the result of rupture or herniation of a disc in the dog’s spine. The contents of the disc will leak, triggering terrible pain and inflammation.

Elbow dyslasia causes limping in dogs
Elbow dysplasia causes limping in dogs ©Pixabay

Rupture to the cranial cruciate ligament

Tears in the cranial ligament (CCL) in canines, transpires in the mid ligament. As a result of a complete rupture, straightforward diagnosis is usually the norm. Early diagnosis and treatment almost always offer a cure for your dog’s lameness.

Patellar luxation

Commonly known as the kneecap popping out of place. Diagnosed in dogs of all sizes but mainly in small or toy breeds (medial patellar) or in larger dogs (lateral luxation). Both types can give rise to your puppy or dog limping.

Diagnosis and treatment if your dog is limping

If your pet is lame and the cause is not immediately recognisable, you need to take medical advice. Some limping problems in canines cannot be diagnosed without effective assessment, x-rays or blood tests. Some serious health conditions can be fatal if not treated promptly.

What treatment will be offered if my dog is limping?

Of course, any treatment given will be dependent on the cause and diagnosis. Some limping resolves by itself with no long-term issues. If a strain or sprain, or arthritis is suspected, medication and rest will normally be suggested. Other, more critical diseases and injuries causing canine lameness will need more aggressive management and even surgery.

It’s obviously never a good sign if your dog is suddenly limping. Stay calm and don’t panic as it could just be a small cut or an irritation that is causing the problem. Check your dog over and take whatever action you need to help your pet make the fastest recovery.