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Causes of Limping in Dogs?

Dog limping or lameness is walking with difficulty because of pain in some part of the body. Various reasons can cause limping in dogs.

The best resource for determining the root of the problem is your veterinarian, but we are confident that most dog owners want to know a little bit more about the condition beforehand. That’s why we are here to provide some valuable information.

Firstly you need to distinguish between the sudden onset of limping and gradual onset. Have you noticed your dog’s walk differs from what it used to but it’s still not that obvious? – The onset is probably gradual.

The type of onset is probably the first question your veterinarian will ask to narrow down the possible scenarios.

Causes of Limping in Dogs

Veterinarians frequently encounter limping dogs with anything from traumatic injury to chronic conditions as the prime reason. To explain the plausible triggers they need to be divided into a few categories.

Arthritis (Joint Disease)

Most problems affecting the joints in the dog’s body come gradually as a result of continuous wearing and tearing of these musculoskeletal parts. Once the joint becomes inflamed the dog starts limping in an attempt to reduce the pressure.

Some of these conditions include:

·         Hip dysplasia

·         Elbow dysplasia

·         Osteoarthritis

·         Ligament disease

·         OCD (Osteochondritis dissecans)

·         IVDD (Intervertebral disk disease)

·         Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease that affects the limbs along with a handful of other symptoms. Some of the diseases listed have a hereditary character so check whether your breed is predisposed to them.

Almost all health diseases affecting the joints in dogs are chronic and require lifelong therapy, weight management, and exercise management. The intensity of the symptoms is the main factor in choosing the therapeutic approach.

Traumatic Injuries

Injuries are probably the most obvious causes because they mostly appear suddenly and the owners are frequent witnesses of the accidents that led to the limping episode.

Depending on the severity of the injury you can decide whether to rush to the vet or not.  However, there have been cases when a simple trauma turned out to be something a lot more serious.

The general rule is to wait for about 15 minutes after your dog becomes lame. Every dog, especially puppies, will cry like children right after the injury as some sort of cry for help. That behavior usually lasts for 5 minutes and they start acting normal right after. 

Our dogs are exposed to many types of injuries like sports injuries, car accidents, contusions, etc. Trauma can lead to fractures, dislocations, sprains, spinal injuries, ligament tears, etc. Sometimes the dogs show moderate limping and sometimes the leg can’t take any weight at all.

Diseases of the Bones

Large breed puppies develop conditions that cause limping while they are in the active growth phase. Both Panosteitis and hypertrophic osteodystrophy make walking very painful for them so you will most likely need to get the puppy checked and treated on time.

Adult and senior dogs sometimes develop bone cancer like osteosarcomas. Osteosarcomas are very aggressive bone cancers that can prove to be fatal for all canines. The initiation of chemotherapy early on can save your dog’s life.

Cancer can go undetected for a long time. As a responsible owner, you must make regular health check-ups especially if your dog is a bit older.

Injuries to the Paw

If your dog injures its paw or gets a bindi (prickle), it’s only natural that they’re reluctant to lower their paw to the ground. Pieces of glass, nails, sticks, thorns, bindis, and any other foreign body can damage the dog’s paws in a second.

It’s especially painful when the object that caused the damage remains inside the skin and inner tissues (e.g. grass seeds). If left there the dog can develop an infection of the paw. Sometimes owners take foreign bodies out on their own when they are still visible.

Frostbites, burns, insect bites, lacerations, and broken toenails can also make a dog limp on one or more legs. Dogs with injured paws will lick the painful area intensively so that’s one of the signs to look out for.

When to Head to Your Veterinarian

It’s an unwritten rule that most injuries causing dog limping, happen out of regular vet office hours. That means that if you rush to the emergency room it will cost a lot more.

Although most limping cases don’t require immediate veterinary attention it’s best to play it safe every time. Veterinary care is necessary any time when the lameness appears suddenly and persists for more than 10-15 minutes.

Besides the timing, an emergency can be considered any case of limping when the dog has:

·         Swollen limb/limbs

·         Dangling limb (meaning dislocation)

·         Obvious break of a bone

·         An unnatural angle of the limb

·         High temperature

·         Swelling

Start with giving your vet office a call, explain the symptoms, and always listen to the suggestions of the professionals!

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