Why is my dog limping and what should I do about it?

Original Question: My dog is limping all of a sudden and I checked between her toes her paws checked for broken nails and I don't see anything. I checked his joints and stretched out her legs and she has no pain. I'm quite concerned, what could it be? - Sharon

Why is my dog limping and what should I do about it? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Sharon,

Thanks for your question. This is the type of scenario that can be difficult to give guidance without performing a physical exam but I believe I can give you some valuable advice.

Most of the cases of limping that I have seen in practice are due to the joints, not the paws or nails. When the paws or nails have been traumatized, it is very common for the dog to lick at them incessantly. Having said that, it’s worth having a good look for any lesions in the areas you have described. Keep in mind that your veterinarian will be much better at examining these hard to reach areas. Pets will often pull their limbs back from owners investigating them because they’re not used to you investigating them in this way.

It is very common to develop lameness from joint pain. If there is a joint, tendon or ligament that is irritated, lameness often develops. If your dog is a larger breed that is older and overweight, arthritis is a common cause for lameness. A hallmark sign of arthritis is stiffness after naps, creaking joints, avoiding stairs, avoiding jumping into the car, weakness after longer walks and recurrent lameness, especially after exuberant activity.

Any lameness that persists or recurs should be investigated by your veterinarian. They may even be able to feel the ‘crepitus’ that occurs in a joint that is arthritic or repeatedly injured. Performing radiographs is a good diagnostic test to assess the condition.

Some general home remedies for lameness may help, but if the lameness persists or recurs, I would recommend a physical exam and consultation with your veterinarian. You could start by resting your pet and limiting physical exercise to short controlled walks for a few days. Using glucosamines can have a positive effect on inflammation but they tend to work over time rather than immediately. There are over the counter anti-inflammatories you can use, but I strongly advise against this. They have a great deal of side effects that can harm your pet. Applying cold packs to a joint 2-3 times a day for 10-15 minutes can hep reduce inflammation if it exists. Controlling your pets weight and keeping them at an ideal body condition will reduce the chance of joint injury. Controlling exercise is also a key factor in preventing the trauma that can incite inflammation and joint pain.

I really encourage you to read our article and check out our video on our website about arthritis in pets. Even if this isn’t a clear case of arthritis, the treatment and management strategies discussed are valuable for any musculoskeletal injuries.

I hope this helps.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

Disclaimer: healthcareforpets.com and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.

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