Why Is My Dog Limping?
If you have a cuddly canine companion of your own, you want to look out for them as best as you can. By knowing all about health conditions, allergies, and dietary requirements you can greatly minimize the risk of health conditions in your precious pooch. Sometimes we can’t prepare for these things, however, and we need to learn ‘on the job’. Just like us, dogs can have accidents during regular daily activities which might cause them to limp. In this article, we’re going to discuss some of the many reasons why dog limping occurs and what you can do to help your poorly pup.
Noticing Dog Limping
If you notice your dog suddenly limping, then there could be many possible explanations and treatments. Assessing the severity of the problem should be your first task before taking any drastic measures. It’s important to know that limping mostly occurs without any accompanying symptoms so if your dog is limping with no other signs of harm, the problem is likely to be less severe. If, however, a poorly pup can’t put any weight on the affected limb or if there is swelling or protruding bones, it could indicate a more severe accident has occurred. In this instance, you’ll need to immediately take your pooch to the vet.
Causes of Dog Limping
Just like humans, dogs can limp for a large variety of reasons including medical conditions, muscle sprains, torn ligaments or fractured bones. In most cases, limping is brought on either by injuries during daily activities (such as muscle sprains from running) or through medical conditions (such as skin infections or diseases). Dogs can also suffer from arthritis (often called osteoarthritis) which is a chronic disease affecting movement. Another common reason for limping is a medical condition know as Patellar Luxation which is found in many dog breeds. This condition (sometimes called a luxating or floating patella) occurs when the kneecap is dislocated from its natural position, causing the kneecap to ‘float’ in position. While this condition affects many dogs, it rarely requires medical intervention as dogs don’t typically feel pain from a luxating patella.
Regardless of the cause of limping, you should seek professional advice from your vet. In more severe cases where significant damage has been done to cause limping, you’ll need to be prepared to take your poorly pup to the vet right away. Here is a step by step guide on how to check your dog for trauma and how to safely carry them to your car if necessary.
- Keep your dog still as best as possible, using a family member or friend to restrain your dog if necessary.
- Gently check for trauma by examining the affected area, looking for broken bones, noticeable lesions or swelling. If your dog can bear weight on the affected limb then it isn’t likely to be a broken or dislocated bone.
- If the event of persistent pain, swelling, or other symptoms, you’ll need to take your dog to the vet. If the area is inflamed, you could apply a cold compress to reduce the symptom.
- When preparing to take your dog to the vet, you’ll need to carefully transport them to their crate or the car. If the limping isn’t severe, allow them to walk gently or carry your dog if they are small enough to be handled carefully. In other cases, you’ll need to carry your pup to the car. Do this by gently cradling them, using your arms to support their abdomen and head to prevent causing or worsening other symptoms.
Now you know how to respond if your dog is limping, it’s time to discuss what the diagnosis and treatment processes might look like.
Diagnosing a Cause
Diagnosing limping in dogs can be a quick or immediate procedure in some cases while in others it might be more complex. Initially, a vet will carry out a physical exam, observing the affected area(s) for signs which might indicate a reason for the limping. If a physical or orthopedic exam isn’t conclusive, an x-ray, CT or MRI scan may be necessary to fully understand the root of the problem. If the vet notices symptoms on the limb, particularly the paw, which might coincide with skin problems as opposed to muscle or bone damage, they may have to run diagnostic tests on the skin or blood.
Just like diagnosis, finding the best course of treatment for limping in dogs can be straightforward or a more complicated task. The treatment a limping dog receives entirely depends on the reason for their limping, the severity of the condition and the presence of accompanying symptoms. To simplify the process, we’ll discuss treatment options for a straightforward case and one for a more severe case.
- How to Treat a Limping Dog at Home
In this section we’ll discuss some of the ways you can treat a limping dog in your home, using the vet’s instructions and guidance of course. In most cases, the dog will have to rest for a few days or longer depending on the severity. They should also be discouraged from exercising as this could significantly worsen the condition and delay recovery time. Of course, the dog will need to walk to eat, drink and to relive itself but it shouldn’t do much beyond this. You may have to make some lifestyle changes during this time. These could include moving your dog’s food and water to its bedside so it doesn’t have far to move, altering the daily food intake (only with a vet’s recommendation) to prevent weight fluctuation and spending more time with your poorly pup to ensure they are well. As each case is unique in several ways, you’ll need to seek advice from your vet but this could be a possible treatment for minor injuries such as a dog limping on its front leg.
During or after the recommended recovery time, the precious pooch should slowly be reintroduced to light exercise through longer walks. Any exercise should be reintroduced with a vet’s approval to ensure the pup is healthy enough to handle it. Slowly over time, the duration should increase as the dog becomes stronger and can bear more weight on the affected limb. Although this process is simple and can be done with relative ease, it isn’t necessarily a quick process. In fact, some pups may take several weeks or months to fully recover.
- How to Treat a Severe Case of Dog Limping
In severe cases, such as broken bones, sprained muscles, damaged ligaments or osteoarthritis, medical intervention may be required as lifestyle changes aren’t likely to heal these cases. For severe breaks, muscle or ligament damage, a vet may have to perform corrective surgery. After this process, the vet might also splint the leg, attaching instruments to the limb to help straighten it and to improve recovery speed and effectiveness. In these and other severe cases, drugs may be used to reduce pain, inflammation, swelling or other symptoms. A course of antibiotics could be administered through creams or pills to reduce the risk of infection and relieve symptoms like swelling, redness or inflammation. Antihistamines are also used for this reason, with the added benefit that the can usually be purchased over the counter. Steroids work similarly but are typically reserved for severe cases as they can have negative side effects after prolonged use. If your pup is prescribed with steroids then they may require regular blood or urine tests and checkups to ensure negative side effects are not an issue. As with any condition which requires drug treatment, it’s essential to understand and strictly follow the vet’s instructions. If over the counter drugs are administered to a dog to help relieve the effects of limping, they should only be done after consultation with a vet. The daily recommended dose should never be exceeded and the treatment should only be used for as long as necessary.
For those poorly pups that require surgery or those suffering from osteoarthritis, a vet might recommend various forms of physical therapy, such as swimming, massage or range-of-motion exercises. These forms of therapy are often recommended alongside drug treatment and can last a few weeks to several months depending on the case. So, for an average case, 2 to 16 weeks might be enough for a poorly pup to recover. However, if physical or drug therapy is stopped prematurely then the recovery period can double.
In this article we’ve discussed some of the many reasons why dogs limp, how to notice limping and the diagnosis and treatment processes. While this has been somewhat of a general overview, we’ve highlighted some of the best and worse case scenarios to show the range of differences possible in treating this condition. Hopefully, you’ve learned lots of useful information and that, if this unfortunate situation affects your perfect pooch, you’ll be fully equipped with knowledge of the condition and you’ll know exactly what to do.