Just like us, dogs limp for a variety of reasons. Unlike us, dogs can’t tell us what happened or where it hurts using words, which makes us struggle to figure out why a dog is limping.
Your most valuable resource in determining why your dog is limping is your veterinarian. however, before calling to make an appointment, most of us want to know a little about the common causes of lameness in dogs, what to expect from a visit to the vet, and when a dog lameness is a veterinary emergency. /p>
gradual onset vs sudden lameness in dogs
There are two types of lameness in dogs: gradual onset and sudden onset. Gradual-onset lameness happens slowly over time. Sudden lameness occurs quickly, as the name implies, usually after an injury or trauma. Knowing if your dog’s lameness is sudden or gradual can help your veterinarian narrow down the possible causes of your dog’s lameness and can help you determine if your dog’s lameness is a veterinary emergency.
Gradual-onset lameness in dogs is usually caused by an underlying, chronic, or degenerative condition, such as osteoarthritis or dysplasia. Sudden-onset lameness, on the other hand, is usually caused by injury or trauma.
Just because your dog is gradually limping doesn’t mean you should postpone the appointment. Some causes of gradual lameness, such as bone cancer or hip dysplasia, can be treated more effectively if detected early.
when to call the vet if your dog limps
In general, it’s best to play it safe and call your vet if a dog’s lameness lasts more than a few minutes. But just like with people, dogs seem to have a knack for hurting each other outside of normal office hours. So how do you know when your dog’s lameness can wait until the next morning and when you should go to the emergency vet?
Gradual-onset lameness or sudden-onset lameness that doesn’t seem to be bothering your dog too much can usually wait a few hours, and in some cases may even resolve on its own during the waiting period. in other cases, however, your dog can’t wait.
Broken bones or dislocated joints require immediate attention, and nerve damage can be a sign of a more serious neurological condition or spinal injury. You should take your dog to the vet or veterinary emergency room right away if he shows any of the following signs of an emergency:
- hanging member (dislocation)
- hot member
- obvious break or unnatural angle
common causes of lameness in dogs
Lameness in dogs is a common veterinary complaint and there are a wide variety of possible causes, from chronic conditions to trauma. This may seem overwhelming, but these causes can be broken down into a few categories.
If you’ve ever stepped on a piece of glass, then you know how it feels to have something sharp lodged in your foot. Foreign bodies such as glass, nails, sticks, thorns, plant matter, or anything else that shouldn’t be in your dog’s paw hurts. they make walking uncomfortable and can lead to infection. insect and animal bites or stings can also cause tenderness and lameness, as can lacerations, broken nails, burns, frostbite, and bruising. One sign that your dog may have something stuck in his paw is that he licks his paw incessantly.
Some conditions cause gradual wear and tear on the joints and musculoskeletal system. this leads to a limping dog. Osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, ligament disease, intervertebral disc disease, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) can all cause lameness in either affected limb. Infections like Lyme disease can also cause joint pain and lameness, which is just one more reason why it’s important for your dog to take effective tick preventive treatment.
If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis or dysplasia, your veterinarian will most likely recommend a veterinary-grade glucosamine and chondroitin joint supplement. Joint supplements are often used as an early intervention and during the progression of osteoarthritis because they are safe for long-term use in most patients. Although research is still limited, joint supplements may help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia.
Some diseases affect the bones in your dog’s legs and can cause him to limp. Younger dogs, especially large breed puppies, can develop conditions like hypertrophic osteodystrophy and panosteitis, which make walking painful. certain types of cancer, such as osteosarcoma, also affect the bones and require early diagnosis for the best prognosis.
injury or trauma
Injuries and trauma are the most obvious answer to “why does my dog limp?” From car accidents to sports injuries, our dogs are exposed to almost as many types of injuries as we are. Broken bones, fractures, sprains, dislocations, ligament tears, joint trauma, and spinal injuries can all cause moderate to severe lameness in dogs, and in some cases, the dog may not be able to put weight on the affected leg. Proper conditioning can help reduce the risk of some sports injuries, but an athletic dog that limps should get plenty of rest until the cause of the limp is identified and treated.
If your dog becomes very lame (especially if it’s a puppy), wait about 15 minutes and try to keep your puppy still and still. they are like children and will probably scream and cry for about five minutes. you may find them acting perfectly normal after that time and save yourself a trip to the ER.
However, if they are still lame or not weight bearing after 15 minutes, you should have them seen by your vet.
diagnosing a limping dog
Sometimes the cause of your dog’s lameness is clear, like a broken bone or piece of glass in a paw pad. other times, the cause is a bit more elusive.
Your vet may need to run some tests to determine why your dog is limping. X-rays can help identify broken bone, joint disease, and other skeletal abnormalities. Biopsies and joint fluid collection can help identify cancer and other possible causes, and blood tests may also be needed to check for infectious diseases such as lyme or immune-related diseases.
Before the test, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam on your dog to check for tenderness, pain, and range of motion in his limbs. You can also do your own exam at home before calling the vet. however, without proper training, testing range of motion and manipulating your dog’s leg is a bad idea and could hurt your dog even more. You can gently run your hand down your dog’s leg and paw to check for swelling, warmth, and determine where your dog is tender. This information can help your veterinarian determine whether or not your dog can wait for a vacancy or if he needs to come in in an emergency.
treat a limping dog
Treatment for your dog’s lameness will vary depending on the cause. Your dog’s treatment plan could be as simple as a few days off, or it could involve surgery, medication, additional tests, and a lengthy recovery. While this may sound intimidating, in most cases, the sooner you get your dog to the vet, the better the prognosis.
While waiting for your appointment, try to keep your dog as calm as possible and refrain from exercising or playing to prevent the dog’s limp from getting worse, and if necessary, put your dog in a crate in the car to avoid further injury.
If you have any further questions about why your dog is limping, contact your veterinarian and make an appointment.
Note: Never give dogs any over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers for humans, including ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as they can be toxic or fatal. always consult your veterinarian.