Is Your Dog Limping? Causes and Treatments

In fact, there is a long list of conditions that may cause limping in your dog. Possible causes are joint pain, bone pain, a sore paw, or even a neurologic disorder. Here is a list of the conditions resulting in limping and instructions on what measures to take.

Limping is a very common problem in dogs.

Every dog owner knows to pay attention to any signs that might indicate something is wrong with their beloved pets. Dogs are unable to verbalize what they are experiencing and it’s up to us to interpret their behaviour. 

Limping and Stiffness are easy to notice symptoms and they are always a reason to take action. Remember, every time a dog is limping there’s pain involved! There’s no limping without pain. Let’s dive deeper into the topic and find out what could be the causes of it!

Causes of Limping in Dogs

There are many possible causes of limping in dogs. They can be split up into four major categories:

Joint Pain

Sore joints are probably the most frequent reason for a dog to limp. Even though a chronic inflammation of the joints called arthritis (Read more about arthritis here) or degenerative joint disease affects mostly elder dogs younger pets can suffer from joint pain too. In these cases, genetically conditioned disorders such as osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) have to be considered. In fact, OCD plays a major role in the development of elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia which occur in younger dogs as well.

Depending on your location tick-borne infections such as Lyme diseases have to be taken into consideration. The symptoms of Lyme disease vary, limping may be one of them.

Bone Pain

While bone Pain occurs less frequently than joint disorders it tends to affect younger dogs. One major cause of sore bones is panosteitis. This disease is quite common in larger breeds such as German Shepherds under the age of two. Additionally to lameness symptoms such as fever and lethargy may be evident.

Osteosarcoma is another cause of bone pain. It is the most common bone tumor in dogs which tends to affetc middle aged or elderly large breed dogs. Most of the time the affected bone is very sensitive to the touch and a swelling may be evident over the tumor site.

Sore Paw

Paw injuries happen all the time! Luckily they are the least severe cause of lameness. Acute lameness and constant licking indicate there’s something stuck in the paw. While foreign bodies account for most paw injuries, frostbite, bruises, insect bites, and burns after walking on hot surfaces can affect your dog’s paws too.

sore paws can cause limping in your dog

Neurologic Disorders

Many neurologic disorders result in ataxia, which is the lack of voluntary coordination. Even though it’s not considered limping ataxia is a gait disorder. Depending on which part of the neurologic system is affected your dog may walk like “being drunk” or paralyzed. There a wide range of disorders causing ataxia or paresis. The most common cause of paresis is disk diseases in the lower thoracic or lumbar spine. The protruded disk puts pressure on the spinal cord and the flow of information between the brain and legs is disturbed.

Acute gait disorders and paresis are always emergencies! Make sure to contact a veterinarian for further assessment as soon as possible.

What should I do when my dog is limping?

Remember: limping is always associated with pain! There’s no limping without pain.

Please do not try to treat your dog’s pain with human medications as painkillers used to treat human pain may be toxic for dogs!

Your veterinarian will examine your dog and prescribes sufficient pain medication. Make sure your dog receives the correct dose over the recommended period of time.

Depending on the cause of the lameness there is a long list of additional measures you can take to soothe your dog’s pain:

  • Acupuncture is a useful tool to provide natural pain relief without the risk of negative side effects.
  • Here is an easy to follow instruction on how to treat your dog with Acupressure.
  • Physiotherapy and Chiropractic Care can be used to treat pain and to improve mobility.

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– Felix


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