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Why Is My Dog Limping?

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Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal is the founder and lead veterinarian for Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic. Coufal graduated from State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in May of 2000.

If your beloved dog isn’t getting around like he used to, it could be a sign of a greater health concern. Limping or lameness in dogs can range in concern from a minor bruise or object stuck in paw to a serious injury or condition. If your dog limps on and off, it may be due to joint pain common in older dogs, or it could be your dog’s ability to mask pain. If your dog is limping suddenly, a sprained ankle or impact-related injury may be present. With a great deal of factors, it is important to take your dog’s limping seriously, monitor it to the best of your ability, and ultimately make a visit to your neighborhood veterinarian.

At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic in Colorado Springs, we are your friendly neighborhood vet clinic here in Colorado Springs to inform you about how you can help your dog. We have treated virtually every health concern that leads to limping or lameness in dogs. Below are common reasons why your dog is limping — as well as some advice on how to help your dog walk comfortably again.

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Why Is My Dog Suddenly Limping?

If your dog started limping all of a sudden, it could be from an impact-related injury. Oftentimes, dogs who enjoy running in fields may have accidentally injured themselves by stepping into a crevice, or running on uneven ground or sharp rocks. Before coming to see a vet, try to recall the moment you noticed your dog limping: were they doing anything strenuous or high-speed to experience sudden limping?

Keep in mind, however, less dramatic experiences can be a reason for your dog limping. Often when dogs jump off a bed and land at an odd angle or walk over a sharp object injury can occur. Identifying the the timing of your dog’s possible injury will give veterinarians important information in finding the ultimate reasons why your dog is limping.

picture of sudden limping in dogs
Sudden limping in dogs almost always is the result of a high strain activity like running.

Possible Reasons Why My Dog Is Suddenly Limping

Here are many common causes of limping or lameness in dogs:

  • Nerve Injuries
  • Bone Tumors
  • Joint Diseases
  • Degenerative conditions
  • Wounds
  • Lacerations
  • Bone fractures
  • Inflammation of muscles or tendons
  • Muscle sprains
  • Sharp object stuck in paw

When To Take Your Dog to the Vet For Limping

First of all, if your dog is injured, she will likely do anything she can to mask the pain. Due to biology, dogs never want to appear weak in order to protect themselves from prey. If your dog has a minor bruise or something stuck in his paw, he very well might hide it from you. While limping might be due to a minor injury, it is important to take every abnormal behavior seriously. This is especially true if your dog is limping and is in pain. In this case, you should immediately go into your neighborhood vet clinic for a check up.

Because we can’t tell how much pain your dog is in, and your dog is likely to mask his pain, we highly recommend that you schedule an appointment as soon as possible, especially if your dog has been limping for a long time, or has sudden lameness. Your pet will likely need a digital x-ray to understand the origin of the injury in order to administer treatment.

How to Help My Limping Dog

For immediate relief, apply a cold compress to the inflamed or swollen area. A bag of frozen vegetables, or a wet cloth work well to reduce inflammation. After 24 hours, switch to a hot compress and schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian. The issue may be beyond your control until a professional can examine the irritated or inflamed area fully. Cold and hot compresses serve only to temporarily reduce swelling.

The second best thing you can do is closely monitor your dog’s limp. Carefully recall whether your dog’s limp gradually got worse over time, or if it happened suddenly. Also note the frequency of your dog’s limping: if your dog refuses to walk sometimes, versus your dog suddenly doesn’t want to walk at all –this will be important for your veterinarian to know. After learning more about the context surrounding your dog’s limping, veterinarians will be able to move forward with the information you provide.

picture of what to do if dog is limping or dog lameness occurs
With older dogs, limping can become a common growing pain. It’s important to be aware of what to do if your dog is limping.

My Dog’s Limp Is Gradually Getting Worse

It is important to notice if your dog is limping for long periods of time. Noticing when these symptoms occur early on could mean reducing the risk of further complications. Progressive limping may occur when an injury is minor but has been exasperated over years of consistent impact on joints. Many gradual limps are caused by underlying conditions that may get worse over time if left untreated. Three of the top reasons for a gradual limp include the following:

  1. Arthritis
  2. Hip Dysplasia
  3. Cruciate ligament disease

Arthritis In Dogs

This is a very common degenerative disease in dogs 8 years and older. In fact over 80% of dogs end up with it. Arthritis is the gradual decay of cartilage that as a “shock” for weight put on joints like the ankle, wrists, and hips. Cartilage is able to withstand only so much impact after a lifetime of running, walking, and frolicking in fields. Because dogs are on their paws all the time, the years of impact inevitably wears on their joint resulting in this disease. It can be treated with arthritis supplements for dogs. Weight control is also good for dogs with arthritis.

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

This developmental orthopedic condition is a medical term that affects both dogs and humans. It basically means that the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the upper thigh bone, sometimes due to abnormal bone growth. Less common, this orthopedic disease greatly affects the quality of your dog’s life resulting in a persistent limp. In this case, surgery femoral head ostectomy (FHO) surgery may be necessary as a last resort.

Cruciate Ligament Disease in Dogs

Cruciate ligament disease is one of the most important stabilizers inside the canine knee (stifle). Similar to the ACL in humans (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), it provides cushioning between the inner parts of the knee joint. This ligament can become torn after months or years of use. This condition is most prevalent in overweight dogs. CLD surgeries account for 85% of all orthopedic surgeries done on dogs, making it a very common surgery to perform.

How Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic Can Help!

If you notice your dog’s limping getting worse, or notice your dog limps on and off, we highly recommend coming into our clinic at Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic. We offer pet wellness exams to identify the root source of discomfort, where our team will be able to safely determine if your dog is experiencing anything that is cause for concern.

As Colorado Springs vet clinic, we have done hundreds of treatments for lameness in dogs. In minor cases, we’ve simply discovered an object stuck in your dog’s paw and removed it. In more serious cases, we’ve done ACL repair, fracture and dislocation surgery, and femoral head ostectomy surgery (FHO) for hip dysplasia in dogs. Contact us today to learn more!

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