6 Reasons Why Your Dog Might Be Limping

dog limping
dog limping

We love our dogs. They are certainly another member of the family. So, when they’re hurting we want to help them. Yet it’s often quite difficult to know exactly what’s wrong since they can’t speak to us directly. (So jealous of dog whisperers!)

Your dog limping is an obvious sign that he or she is in pain, however.

What causes limping and is there something you can do about it? We talk about 6 common reasons why your dog might be in pain and give suggestions for how to find relief for your fur baby.

1. Sudden Injury

The sudden onset of limping could be the result of an injury. Examine your dog and try to assess the cause of the pain.

  • Is there blood or swelling in one or more limbs? 
  • Do you see signs of a fight or a bite from another animal? 
  • Are there signs of an infection? 
  • Signs of a fracture? 
  • Is there an injury to the paws or pads of the feet?

Be careful as even the gentlest dog can bite when it’s in pain. If you’re really worried, go ahead and bring your dog to the vet for a professional examination.

2. Joint Pain or Arthritis

Like humans, dogs can suffer from degenerative joint conditions due to age, developmental problems, or overuse. There are many causes of arthritis, including infections, immune-mediated disease, trauma, metabolic issues, and obesity.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD) involves the deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints.

Signs of Arthritis

So now that you understand a little more about doggie arthritis, what are the signs that your dog might be suffering?

  • Swollen joints
  • Popping and cracking when the joint moves
  • Muscle wasting (muscles by the joint become smaller)
  • Licking or chewing the (sore) joint area
  • Slow to rise from a resting position
  • Loss of appetite or unusual weight gain
  • Unwillingness or reluctance to walk, jump, or climb stairs (or jump into the car)
  • Accidents in the house
  • Whining, panting, or whimpering
  • Yelping when touched
  • Depression or increased irritability
  • “Bunny-hopping” when running
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Slower to get up in the morning
  • Stiffness, limping or slowing down
  • Sleeping more
  • Not enjoying games and walks like he/she used to

Now that you know the signs, what treatment options are available?

Treatment for Arthritis

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that treating arthritis in dogs is similar to what your doctor might do for human joint pain. 

Here are some ways to alleviate joint pain:

  • Ensure your dog’s bed is well padded and that his or her sleeping spot is away from cold/damp areas or drafts
  • Massage
  • Cold laser treatments
  • Joint supplements containing ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, grape seed extract
  • Prescription medications
  • Losing weight
  • Physical therapy
  • Complementary treatments such as acupuncture, regenerative techniques, herbal therapies, and chiropractic techniques 

In severe cases, surgery might be needed to alleviate pain.

3. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is another common problem. It’s a developmental condition that is caused by a malformation in the hip joint. It leads to chronic inflammation and eventual degeneration of the cartilage.

Prescription medications and joint supplements can help ease mild to moderate pain. Dogs with severe dysplasia may require surgery to permanently fix the malformation.

4. Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a hereditary condition where the bones do not develop normally. It causes a misalignment of the elbow joint, which leads to inflammation, damage to the cartilage, and even chipping of the bone. 

As with other developmental joint conditions, elbow dysplasia is more common in larger dogs. You can treat mild cases with medication or supplements, but again, surgery is sometimes needed for severe cases.

5. Knee Dysplasia

This third condition is more common in small dogs, especially toy breeds. It’s an inherited, conformational defect that leads to arthritis. In many cases, the kneecaps will actually pop in and of position, something called luxating patella.

A vet may recommend surgery to help hold the patella in place, but only if the condition is severe enough (Grade 3-4). A more mild case (Grade 1-2) can be treated with medication and supplements that support joint health. 

6. Lameness

Lameness is caused by an injury or debilitation of one or more parts of the leg, including the joints, bones, muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, or even the skin. Often there is a visible cause such as a broken bone or swelling. The affected limb might also lie at an awkward angle.

Lameness may also be caused by something called interdigital pyoderma, which is a type of skin infection. Signs of infection include red, moist lesions between the toes. With deep infections, abscesses can appear as warm, soft, movable swellings under the skin. 

If there is an infection, antibiotic therapy may be required for 8-12 weeks. If the cause of the infection is resistant bacteria, enrofloxacin (Baytril®) may be needed. Other therapies can include sprays and medicated shampoos that contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur with salicylic acid, or chlorhexidine.

If the lameness is caused by chronic arthritis, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) may help. Other drugs and supplements can improve joint health and control pain.

Which Breeds are More Likely to Have Joint Problems?

Certain breeds are more likely to have joint problems and therefore limping due to joint pain, arthritis, lameness, or developmental/inherited conditions.

The most common include:

  • Beagle
  • Bulldog
  • Dachshund
  • French Bulldog
  • German Shepherd
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Great Danes
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English Sheep Dog
  • Poodle
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard
  • Sheltie
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Small breed dogs that are more susceptible to knee dysplasia include:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Maltese
  • Miniature and toy poodle
  • Papillon
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranian
  • Yorkie

If you own one of these breeds, there is a higher chance that he or she will develop or have an inherited joint condition. 

Find Relief For Your Dog’s Joint Pain

A dog limping is a sign that there’s something wrong. Whether the pain is due to osteoarthritis, joint dysplasia, or lameness, there are treatments available. Consult your veterinarian to talk about your options.

Be sure to also consider joint care supplements to help relieve chronic inflammation, pain, and increase the quality of life for your dog.

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