My dog is limping, what can I do? Every dog owner has this question as they frequently see their dog limp. The natural instinct is to take the dog to the vet, which is the best option, but, this is only necessary when the injury is severe. Now you are probably wondering – How to treat a limping dog at home?
Well, firstly it’s important to recognise the limp.
A limp is typically characterised by a dog favouring one leg over the other. The affected leg may not bear as much weight as the other. So, it’s important you pay attention to both legs. Because the increased pressure on the non-injured leg could potentially cause an injury.
Further, limps can have a gradual or sudden onset. A gradual limp may be a sign of an underlying chronic condition or disease, such as arthritis or hip dysplasia, while a sudden limp is often a result of an injury, such as a sprain, strain, or fracture.
How To Treat a Limping Dog at Home?
Once you understand the limp, you can work on formulating a treatment. However, it’s crucial to identify other causes and symptoms as well. The distinction between a gradual or sudden limp is just a basic step. You need to overview as many underlying causes as you can.
The general causes include injury or illness, but, you also need to consider the following instances:
- Cuts and abrasions
- Insect bites and stings
- Joint dislocations
- Bone fractures
- Nervous system conditions
- Autoimmune conditions
- Torn nails
- Ligament sprains
- Tick-borne diseases
- Joint disease
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Muscle strains
- Inflammatory conditions
- Foreign objects and paw pad trauma
Symptoms and Cause
These causes and symptoms are arranged into different categories. Let’s analyze each of them.
- Paw Injury
Paw injury happens very often. There are many things such as thorns, stones, and other foreign bodies getting stuck in your dog’s paw, that can transpire significant discomfort.
Hence, you’ll see your dog limping and licking its paws. Several other injuries like insect bites or stings can also cause limping in your furry friend.
- Bone disease
In general, studies have shown that conditions like hypertrophic osteodystrophy and panosteitis ( normally commonly affect puppies), of larger breeds, can result in limping. Further, there are specific types of bone cancer, like osteosarcoma, that can cause limping in dogs.
- Trauma or injury
Instances your dog has broken bones, sprains, dislocations, and ligament injuries, among others. These types of injuries can result in moderate limping and also elevate into severe limping. At times, your dog may not put any weight on the leg at all, such a situation needs immediate medical attention.
- Joint disease
Here you will observe conditions like osteoarthritis, hip, and elbow dysplasia. At times, you may even see intervertebral disk disease which can cause limping. In addition, other infections such as Lyme disease also fall within this category and can trouble your dog with limp issues.
Treating Limping Dogs at Home
While the majority of the cases will require you to take your dog to the Vet, there are few instances where you can address the issue at home itself. Below is a breakdown of the approach which you can consider at home for treating your dog suffering from a limp:
1. Identifying the Cause of Limping in Dogs
- One of the first things you should do when you notice that your dog is limping is to identify the underlying cause.
- Start by examining your dog’s limb, paw, and nails for any visible signs of injury or swelling. Carefully inspect the paw for any foreign objects such as thorns, glass shards, or rocks that may be stuck between the toes.
- If there are no visible signs of injury, gently feel your dog’s limb to check for any tender spots or swelling. Also, if you suspect a more severe issue, such as a broken bone or torn ligament, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately.
- Additionally, limping can also be a symptom of underlying health conditions such as arthritis or hip dysplasia. So, it is important to have your dog checked by a vet to determine the root cause of the limp.
2. Rest and Restriction
- If your dog is limping due to a minor injury, the best course of action may be to restrict their movement and allow them to rest.
- This means keeping your dog in a confined area such as a crate or a small room. This prevents them from running or jumping because both activities could aggravate the injury.
- Limit their activity to short walks on a leash, and avoid any rough play or vigorous exercise.
- Additionally, if your dog is in pain, talk to your vet about pain management options such as over-the-counter medications or prescription painkillers.
3. Hot and Cold Therapy
- Hot and cold therapy can be effective in reducing pain and swelling associated with limping in dogs, depending on the underlying cause of the limp.
- For the first 24-48 hours, apply a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area for 10-15 minutes, several times a day, to reduce swelling and inflammation.
- After 24-48 hours, switch to a warm compress or heating pad to promote blood flow and speed up the healing process.
- Be careful not to overheat the area and always monitor your dog during therapy to prevent burns.
- You can also try soaking your dog’s paw in warm water mixed with Epsom salt to provide relief from pain and inflammation.
4. Supplements and Diet
- Along with rest and therapy, you can support your dog’s healing process by ensuring that they have the right diet and supplements.
- Choose a high-quality dog food that is rich in protein and nutrients to support muscle and bone health.
- Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin can help reduce joint pain and inflammation, and Omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
- It is essential to talk to your vet about the best supplements for your dog’s specific needs.
- Additionally, make sure that your dog is getting adequate hydration, as dehydration can slow down the healing process.
- Finally, ensure that your dog gets plenty of rest, as proper rest is crucial for the healing process.
This was a basic approach, but, at times it’s possible you may not have identified the right cause for the limp. So, How do you identify different causes of limp?
Identifying Causes of The Dog’s Limp
Normally, you can tell about the dog limping, but, knowing the exact root cause is difficult. In fact, you need to have a keen observation to get a rough idea.
It’s hard to tell whether your dog is limping because of an injury or a condition, so, the following are some ways to identify what’s causing the limp.
This condition is one of the root causes. If you see your dog limping then it’s possible they are suffering from arthritis. They find it difficult to get up from a horizontal position. In fact, you will observe the limping after they work or perform an exercise.
Further, you will notice they are not able to walk long distances and are also moving slower than usual. In fact, they can’t even go up or down the stairs while suffering from this condition. They are irritated for no reason and show hesitation to lay down on command. Also, while suffering from arthritis will find it difficult to hop or jump into the car or onto furniture.
Thus, to verify the symptoms, you need to consult a veterinarian to get more insights and start treatment if necessary.
- Sprained leg
This is one of the common causes, and normally, you’ll observe your dog limping after an exercise or playing session. So, if your dog does have a sprained or strained leg, it suggests that they have overexerted its muscles.
You’ll also see that dog suffering from severe pain. The majority of the time it’s the swelling of the paws or joints which makes the pain unbearable. Also, if your dog is constantly licking the area where the pain is occurring you need to take a look at it.
Further, when your dog doesn’t want to exercise or play, it can suggest a sprained leg, especially if it’s a highly active dog. So, in such a situation, it’s best to avoid any activities and if the pain is extreme, a vet consultation is a must.
- Hip dysplasia
This condition happens when a dog’s hip joints are not properly developed. As a result, it causes a partial dislocation in the hips. In this condition, you will notice stiffness in your dog. They will have a tough time while walking, especially on the stairs.
Further, it’s possible that you may hear a cracking sound while your dog is walking or running. In such cases, you need to make them rest and if the pain is severe, consult your vet.
CCL i.e. Cranial cruciate ligament is an injury that occurs inside the knee. To be more specific, the stifle joints of your dogs. In humans, this condition is known as ACL i.e. anterior cruciate ligament. CCL happens in the mid-ligament region in dogs and is linked with progressive fatigue.
It’s important to note that complete ruptures can cause immense pain to your dog. Don’t panic, they are easily diagnosed and treatable, but, you have to ensure they are detected or diagnosed early.
These were some of the major causes indicating why your dog is limping. However, there are several other issues or conditions which can cause the limping. These are – nerve injuries, tumours, degenerative conditions, infectious diseases, and so on. The list is quite long so, it’s important to keep a close eye on your dog when you observe the slightest uneasiness while they are walking.
Dog limping on the front or back leg
Many dog owners often wonder- why is my dog limping on the front leg or my dog is limping on back leg, why? There is no precise answer for both instances but, here are some of the aspects one can observe to determine the probable issue:
Dog limping front leg
- Inflammation or injury in the biceps
- Elbow dysplasia
- Shoulder instability or injury
- OCD i.e. Osteochondritis dissecans – is a condition where cartilage doesn’t develop into a bone
Dog limping back leg
- Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture
- Muscle injury
- Fracture or dislocation
- Hip dysplasia
- Achilles tendon rupture– a condition where all five tendons of Achilles tendons are torn
Taking Your Limping Dog to a Vet
Now, that we know different causes or injuries which result in dogs limping, it’s important to consider the situation when you cannot treat them at home. So, when should you take the limping dog to a vet? Here are some of the emergencies that suggest your dog requires immediate Vet assistance:
- The dog is bleeding continuously
- Impulsive behaviour – unwillingness or incapable of moving or getting up
- Signs of trembling, fear, aggression, vocalising, or extreme pain
- Visible fracture
- Inflated swelling in one or more limbs
- Dragging of the limbs, or an appearing paralysed condition
- High fever, extreme vomiting, or some significant illness
These are the emergencies or instances where you need to take your dog to the vet. While you take your dog in such a condition, it’s important to handle them with care. Because any movement or touch can worsen the injury.
Vet treatment for limping dog
When you take your limping dog to a vet, you will be inquired regarding limping to estimate a timeline. This helps them determine whether the dog picked it up early or late. Once they have a peek at the medical history of your dog, they will conduct a physical examination.
Afterwards, the vet will recommend getting X-rays to see the fractures and observe the limbs. In some cases, you may also need to get the lab testing done. The treatment will mainly start with medication. In fact, if the limping is not because of a severe symptom the vet will suggest you provide rest to the dog. The limping will resolve on its own.
Further, if it’s mild or heavy limping, the vet may suggest some extensive treatment. For instance, a fracture or CCL may need surgery or physical therapy at least.
The treatment for a dog limping on its front leg depends on the underlying cause. In cases of injury, the dog may need rest, medication, or surgery. Arthritis or neurological issues can be managed with medication. If an infection is suspected, antibiotics may be prescribed. Regardless of the cause, it is important to take the dog to a veterinarian for early diagnosis and appropriate treatment to help them recover faster and prevent further complications.
A dog may be limping but not in pain due to several reasons, including muscle strains or sprains, arthritis, hip dysplasia, ligament or tendon injuries, or bone fractures. However, it is important to take your dog to the vet to determine the underlying cause of the limping and receive proper treatment. Ignoring a limp can lead to further complications and pain for the dog.
No, the majority of the dog won’t walk if their leg is broken. The extreme pain of having the swelling or a severe fracture makes their leg orientation awkward. They are willing to walk but won’t, and even if they do walk, it’s likely that they won’t put the injured leg on the floor. This means they’ll walk keeping the broken leg above the ground.
Generally, the common causes for front leg lameness in dogs are- bone fractures, injury to joints, soft tissue injury, or dislocation. Dogs suffering from front leg lameness are probably suffering from osteoarthritis or hip dysplasia. In addition, this issue is known to affect both puppies and adult-age dogs.
If your dog is limping on the back leg, you need to consult a vet instantly. The limping in the back leg may indicate osteosarcoma, ruptured CCL, fracture, and iliopsoas muscle injury.
We hope you found the answers to the query – How to treat a limping dog at home? While these are just suggestions, it’s recommended that you consult with your vet before starting any home treatment. The reason is simple, you may end up making the injury or their condition worse.
Hence, one should also avoid using any sort of medication for treating limping of their dog. For instance, acetaminophen and naproxen if given without a vet’s prescription may prove toxic for dogs.