Why Is My Dog Limping? 4 Common Leg and Wrist Injuries in Dogs

Why Is My Dog Limping? 4 Common Leg and Wrist Injuries in Dogs

Alpha Paw Sale

Jul 06, 2021


  • A dog that is limping can be due to many issues. Some happen suddenly, while some are gradual changes.

  • It is best for your vet to look at your dog, especially if they have been limping for a few days.

  • Using a pet ramp will help your dog be able to get around better while recovering.

Limping In Dogs

Many dogs will limp for one reason or another, at some point during their life. There are many reasons that your dog may be limping. Sometimes the limping in dogs go away after a few days, and sometimes it continues to get worse. If your dog has been limping for a few days and it does not seem to improve or is getting worse. It is best to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have them figure out what is causing your pet to limp.

When taking your dog to the vet, they may have a hard time getting into your car. This is when a ramp will help your dog easily and quickly get into your car.

Categories of Dog Limping

Veterinarians classify limping into two categories. 

Gradual Onset Limping

Gradual onset limping is the type of limping that develops over time. If you see your time gradually starting to limp, it’s best to bring him to the vet for a consultation. Letting a gradual limp fester can lead to complications. 

Sudden Limping

Sudden limping is the type of limping that immediately develops, usually caused by an injury or trauma. If you observe your dog suddenly limping, take them to the vet right away for a consultation to narrow down the cause and treatment. 

 

Why is my dog limping? 4 common leg and wrist injuries in dogs

Signs of A Dog Limping

Sometimes the limping starts suddenly, and sometimes your dog will gradually start to limp. If your dog starts limping gradually, this will be an indication of a degrative or chronic issue.

Your dog will show symptoms early in the disease process, and you usually can do something to help decrease the spread or sometimes even reverse the condition.

If your dog suddenly starts to limp, this usually means that there is some sort of trauma or injury. No matter if your pet is suddenly limping or this has been a gradual change, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Signs That Accompany A Limp

Sometimes the signs are very obvious that there is a problem, while others are very mild, and you may notice right away. Here is a list of signs and symptoms that accompany a limp indicating a serious problem:

  • Their leg is swollen
  • The leg is hot to the touch
  • Their leg is dangling
  • Their leg is obviously broken

Four Common Causes of a Dog Limping

There are many different reasons that your dog may be limping. These are just a few of the most common reasons a dog may be limping.

Injury to Their Paw

Your dog may have injured its paw. When they are running around outside, they may step on something and hurt their paw, causing superficial injuries. This can include a cut or scrape due to a sharp object like stepping on glass, a thorn, a nail, or running on hot pavement. Other paw injuries that can result in dog limping are bites, stings, infection, or burns. This may cause their foot to become infected and painful, causing them to limp. They can also break their toenail, which will also cause them to limp. Most of the time, your dog will also lick their paw, indicating that there is something wrong with their foot.

If you see your dog suddenly limping, your first course of action would be to check the paws and legs for any signs of injury. 

Leg Injury Or Trauma

Dogs can be very active and athletic. But there are a lot of environmental factors that could result in different injuries or trauma to their legs. Your dog may have gotten out of your backyard and possibly gotten hit by a car or maybe playtime got too rowdy for your dog to notice that hidden sharp rock buried in the grass. These could cause broken bones or other small fractures in their legs. When running and playing outside, they can also sprain or strain ligaments or tendons.

Some bigger dogs can also tear their ACL or other ligaments while playing outside, jumping from heights, sprinting fast, or making a sudden quick turn. Dislocations and for small dogs such as Dachshunds, spinal injuries can also cause them to limp. All of these injuries would be a sudden cause of limping in your dog.

As a preventive measure, help your dog avoid situations that could lead him to hurt himself. Make sure that playtime is done in a safe and fenced area with smooth ground. If your pooch is an escape artist, safeguard your yard, reinforce behavioral training, and never leave your dogs unattended outdoors. 

Image credit: canva

Joint Diseases

There are some joint diseases that can cause your dog to limp. These are considered as gradual onset limping. Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are slowly progressive diseases that will cause your dog to limp. These diseases can lead to arthritis, which can also cause your dog to limp.

Dachshunds are very commonly hurting their back and developing a disease called intervertebral disk disease. This can start with just a mild limp but can progress to not even able to move their back legs at all. Certain tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease can also cause joint problems in your dog and cause them to limp.

In the mentioned joint diseases above, only your vet can narrow down the exact cause of your dog limping and the best treatment and medication for it. 

Bone Disease

There is a certain disease that can affect your dog’s bone that can cause your dog to limp. Hypertrophic osteodystrophy is a disease seen in young, fast-growing large to giant breed puppies. These dogs will limp due to the pain of fast bone growth. Panosteitis is another disease that can cause dogs to limp. This is also a disease seen in fast-growing large to giant breed dogs. You will usually see lameness that shifts from one leg to another.

Bone cancer is commonly seen in older large to giant breed dogs. This causes a swollen area around the knee, shoulder, or wrist joints. This can be a very painful condition that will cause your dog to limp.

Why is my dog limping? 4 common leg and wrist injuries in dogs

Diagnosis and Treatment

There are many different ways to diagnose and treat your dog for limping. Most commonly, your veterinarian will take radiographs to see what the bones look like. This will show any broken bones or arthritic changes to the bone. This will also show and swollen muscles around the bone.

Your veterinarian may also recommend bloodwork to rule out any infections causing your dog to limp. They may recommend specialized testing such as joint taps, CTs, or MRI to be able to fully assess your dog’s problem.

Depending on what is causing your dog to limp, treatment can vary. It could be as simple as a few days of rest and medications or they may need surgery to fix the problem, more tests, and an extensive recovery period. Broken legs and torn ACL can all be corrected with surgery. Very rarely, a dog could break their leg so bad that there is no way surgical correction would fix the breaks, and your dog will need to have their leg amputated.

If your dog is limping because they have strained or sprained their leg, your veterinarian may send your dog home with pain medications and instructions for them to rest.

Other Things That Can Help A Dog Limping

If your dog is limping, it is not going to be able to jump on the couch or in the car to go to and from a vet appointment. Using a pet ramp will help your dog be able to get on the couch or into your car.

Alpha Paw makes two great ramps for your dog to use. The PawRamp is great for the couch or bed. This ramp comes in two different sizes, and you can easily adjust the height, making it a perfect fit for any size couch or bed.

The car ramp is also a great choice. This ramp can easily fold up and can be put in any car or truck. This ramp holds up to 200 pounds, so it is great for getting a large dog into your car. Most dogs with a treat and a little training can easily learn to walk up a ramp into your vehicle.

Final Thoughts

If your dog is limping, this may start to improve at home with just a little rest. If the limping continues or you have worsening signs, it would be best for your vet to see your dog. Also, consider getting a ramp to help your dog get on and off your bed and couch. This will help them still be able to have freedom in the house without the possibility of injuring themselves even more.

Alpha Paw Sale
author image

Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM is a board-certified, licensed, and USDA-accredited small animal and exotic animal veterinarian. Dr. Sara graduated from St. George's University in 2015 with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. Following veterinary school, she joined the team of pet experts at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she treats all species that walk in the hospital. Dr. Sara’s professional interests include surgery and exotic animal medicine. She enjoys developing positive relationships with her clients, sharing her passion for animals, and helping pet parents provide excellent care for their fur babies. She is passionate about helping our four-legged family members return to a happy and healthy life - making her a perfect fit for Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts!

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