Dog limping.

If your pup has a sudden hitch in their gait, you are probably trying to decide whether or not to be worried. There are many potential common causes of limping in dogs, and not all of them are panic-worthy. Bowman Veterinary Hospital is here to help you decide when to call the vet if your dog is limping. 

Common Causes of Limping in Dogs

Dogs limp when a limb is painful and/or has its motion restricted mechanically. There are a wide variety of conditions that may cause this. Sometimes it may be fairly obvious what has happened, but many times we humans are left out of the loop.

When our veterinarians examine a limping pet, we are assessing information from our physical examination about how things look and feel as well as orthopedic characteristics such as range of motion. Sometimes additional diagnostic testing such as blood tests or radiographs (X-rays) are needed to rule out potential concerns and diagnose the correct problem. 

Common causes of limping in dogs can include:

  • Soft tissue sprain or strain
  • Bone fracture
  • Joint dislocation or luxation (slipping out of place)
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Ligament or tendon injury/rupture
  • Pain or inflammation of the skin/paw pad
  • A problem with the toenail(s)
  • Arthritis
  • Infection
  • Foreign object in paw
  • Nerve pain
  • Tick borne disease
  • Cancer

Identifying what is happening helps us to better manage your dog’s pain and solve the problem where possible. 

When To Worry

So how is a dog-lover to know if Fido sprained a tendon or has a broken bone? Sometimes it can be hard to tell if limping is an emergency or not, but in general your pet should be seen right away if:

  • The limping is sudden (versus gradual onset)
  • Your pet is not bearing weight on the limb at all
  • There is known trauma
  • Your pet is bleeding
  • Your dog is lethargic or acting sick 
  • There is an obvious abnormality (broken toenail, fracture, swelling, etc.)

It is never wrong to contact us if you aren’t sure—we never want to leave a pet in pain. Please refrain from medicating your dog at home. Many human medications can be toxic to pets and sometimes medications can impede our ability to diagnose a problem. 

When your dog is limping, it can impart a lot of worry but we are here to help. Many times it is not a big deal, but making sure that things are okay is always a good idea!