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Dog Limping

Limping is one of the most common reasons owners bring their dogs to the vet. Today, our San Diego vets discuss why your dog may be limping, what you can do, and when to seek professional veterinary care.

Why is my dog limping?

Dogs can suffer from countless issues that can leave them with a limp. The trouble is that dogs aren't able to tell us what happened or how severe the problem is. It's up to you as their parent to figure out what is causing your dog's discomfort and how you can help.

If your dog is limping could be caused by something minor like a small stone caught between their toes, but it could also be the result of a serious health concern. Some of the most common causes of limping in dogs include:

  • Foreign object stuck in their paw
  • Insect bite or sting
  • Strains or tears (ligaments, tendons, muscles)
  • Trauma, such as broken bones 
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Infectious diseases, such as Lyme
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Vascular conditions

When to See Your Vet

While it's not always necessary to go to the vet if your dog is limping, there are cases in which a vet appointment is more than necessary for your dog. If your dog is showing any of the signs mentioned below, it's time to contact your veterinarian or head to the nearest emergency veterinarian clinic.

  • A broken limb (will be at an irregular angle)
  • A dangling limb (this indicates dislocation)
  • Any moderate to severe swelling
  • Limbs that feel hot to the touch
  • Limping in combination with a fever

How can I help my limping dog?

If your dog is limping, treatment options can vary depending on the severity and underlying cause. If you think your dog's limp is the result of inflammation, try alternating between heat and ice packs to try to reduce swelling and discomfort. Your vet can advise you on which to apply, when, and for how long.

At the first sign of your dog limping, do your best to limit their movement, as any additional movement can cause further damage. Exercise should be put on hold until your dog has healed, and it is ideal to leash your pet to walk them outside for bathroom breaks, as they may try to run if let out into the yard. Thoroughly examine your dog's paw for any signs of injury, such as cuts. Contact your vet if you notice something painful.

If the limp doesn't seem too extreme, monitor your dog's progress over the next 24 - 48 hours, watching for other symptoms or see whether the limp becomes more severe.

If you are unsure of what to do, it is better to schedule an appointment with your vet than hope it will resolve on its own. If the limp doesn't begin to go away itself, is becoming worse, or is accompanied by whining or yelping, call your vet or visit your nearest emergency vet.

Your veterinarian has the training and knowledge to best determine the cause and severity of your dog's pain. A thorough examination may include blood work, tick testing, or X-rays. Your dog's breed, history, age, and general health will all be considered in the diagnosis and the prescribed treatment plan.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your dog have a limp that doesn't seem to be going away? Contact our San Diego vets to book an examination for your pup.

New Patients Welcome

Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Diego companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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