Limping in dogs might be common but it is not normal and is a sign that your dog is experiencing physical discomfort. Dogs can develop a limp for a wide variety of reasons, some of which are serious. Because they can’t always clearly communicate to us what is bothering them, and because some causes of limping show no external signs, it can be difficult to tell what is wrong. It is important for pet parents to understand the potential causes of limping and how to best help their dog.
Gradual vs. sudden limping
Limping in dogs can either occur suddenly or gradually. If your dog exhibits limping out of the blue, it is likely that they are suffering from either superficial or internal trauma or injury, notes the Merck Veterinary Manual. Gradual progression of limping is typically a sign of an underlying, potentially degenerative health issue. In both cases, it is best for the health of your pup to address the cause of their limping as soon as possible to prevent further discomfort.
When is limping an emergency?
When you first witness your dog limping, your first instinct may be to panic and run to the emergency room. Not all cases of limping are serious and require no more attention than rest and an icepack. Typically, sudden onset limps that do not appear to be bothering your dog significantly may be able to wait a few hours or even resolve on their own, according to experts from the Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG).
However, being able to identify emergency situations with sudden limping is crucial so you can get your dog professional veterinary care as soon as possible. VEG recommends that you should seek immediate care if your dog shows signs of:
- Fever, lethargy, or vomiting
- Excessive bleeding
- Extreme discomfort, potentially resulting in trembling, whining, or aggression
- Limbs that are warm to the touch
- Dragging limbs or refusing to bear weight
- Obvious bone break or unnatural joint angle
When transporting your dog to the veterinarian’s office, be careful not to cause further damage and discomfort to your pup. According to the Veterinary Information Network, rough handling may cause further internal bleeding, more damage to the soft tissues around a fracture, and other complications depending on the injury. You should also be prepared to share as much information with your vet as possible. Take note of when you noticed your dog start limping, what he was doing prior to limping, whether he is able to bear weight, and if they are exhibiting other symptoms. Taking a video is always a good idea so you can show your veterinarian.
Why is your dog limping?
Dogs can develop a limp for a wide variety of reasons. Potential causes of your dog’s limping include: