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Limping in Dogs

Injuries to the paws and legs can happen unexpectedly. It's important to tend to the injury and seek treatment quickly to avoid complications or long-term effects. Here, our Fountain Valley vets discuss limping in dogs, what the common causes are and what you can do to help your pup.

Why is my dog limping?

As with people, dogs can encounter various issues that cause limping. However, unlike humans, dogs can't say what happened to them or how much their legs hurt. As the dog owner, it's up to you to determine what's causing your dog's limp and discomfort so you can know how to help. 

What might cause limping in dogs?

Below are the top three most common conditions in dogs that lead to limping. If you believe that your dog could be suffering from any of these issues, it's time to head to the vet:

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injuries

Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) ruptures and tears are common leg injuries in dogs. They are typically caused by overexertion in exercises such as running and jumping. Certain dog breeds are at higher risk of this injury than others, including German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, rottweilers, and Newfoundlands.

Luxating Patella

This injury is common in small breeds of dogs, such as Pomeranians, chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers, but it's also seen in dogs of all breeds. It occurs when a dog's patella (knee cap) shifts out of alignment with the femur (thigh bone). When this injury occurs in small dogs, it generally occurs towards the inside of the limb or medially. It can also happen laterally but is usually only seen in larger breeds. 

Canine Carpal Hyperextension

This condition is most common in active larger-breed dogs but can still affect smaller breeds. It's seen in the forelimb just above the dog's paw and happens when a dog applies excessive force to the carpus joint, causing it to collapse. Symptoms of this injury include favoring one leg over another, swelling in the forelimb, and joint instability. 

What else could cause limping in dogs?

Your dog's limping could be caused by something minor, like a small stone caught between their toes. In other cases, it could indicate a serious health concern. As well as the three listed above, below we list other common conditions and injuries that could cause your dog to limp: 

  • Trauma, such as broken bones
  • Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
  • Something painful stuck in their paw
  • Insect bite or sting
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Vascular conditions
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Infectious diseases, such as Lyme

Should I bring my dog to see the vet?

While it's not always necessary to visit the vet as soon as your dog starts limping, there are some situations where your pooch requires veterinary care. If any of the following apply to your dog, it's time to contact your veterinarian or your nearest emergency animal clinic for care.

  • Limping for more than 24 hours without improvement
  • Limping in combination with a fever
  • Limbs that feel hot to the touch
  • A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
  • Any moderate to severe swelling
  • A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation)

How can I help my limping dog?

If your dog is limping, treatment begins with letting them rest. You must limit their mobility because any additional strain can worsen the injury.  You should also hold off on exercising your dog until they have recovered and keep them on a leash when you take them outside for bathroom breaks because they may try to run. 

Examine your pup's foot for signs of injury, such as cuts, swelling or bleeding. If you notice anything that might indicate pain, contact your vet.

If you believe your dog's limp is caused by inflammation, try alternating between heat and ice packs to help reduce swelling and discomfort. Contact your vet for recommendations on which to apply and when.

Generally, if your dog's limp isn't severe, you can monitor their progress at home over 24 - 48 hours, looking for more symptoms or determining whether the limp becomes more pronounced.

Calling your vet to schedule an appointment is often recommended either way. This is because some issues may occur beneath the surface. Without early treatment, they can worsen and lead to complications. Your veterinarian may be able to help both you and your pooch feel better. If the limp doesn't start resolving itself, is getting worse, or is accompanied by whining or yelping, it's time to call your vet or visit your nearest emergency pet hospital.

Your vet has experience diagnosing and treating various conditions, including those affecting your dog's legs. A thorough examination may include blood work, diagnostic testing, or X-rays. Your dog's breed, history, age, and general health will all be considered in the diagnosis and prescribed treatment plan.

Veterinary Care at Brookfield Pet Hospital Plus

Our veterinarians offer comprehensive veterinary care for cats and dogs in Fountain Valley and the surrounding areas.

From preventive care and surgery to dental care, our team of veterinary professionals is here to offer services that can meet your pet’s health needs in one place.

We care for Fountain Valley’s companion animals and have developed a reputation for quality, professional care with a compassionate touch over the years. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Is your dog showing signs of pain while standing or walking? Contact our Fountain Valley vets to book an examination today.

Welcoming New Patients

Looking for a vet in Fountain Valley? Brookfield Pet Hospital Plus is now accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about caring for the health of your pets. Contact us today to schedule your animal companion's first appointment.

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