Limping and lameness in dogs is a fairly common occurrence. It’s important to discover the cause once you notice it, so that you can address any underlying issues before they escalate. Here’s a quick guide to the most common causes of lameness, and advice on how to deal with it.
Reason #1: An injury
Sudden onset limping in your will most likely be caused by an injury. Sometimes you see it happen, other times you can only guess. You will typically notice that the dog is guarding one of his legs, and in some cases, he won’t be able to put any weight on it at all.
Usually, a limp will point to a broken bone, a sprain, a torn ligament, a fracture, or a dislocation. In more severe cases, the cause might even be spinal trauma. If your dog is limping and yelping due to a fresh injury, try to get him to calm down. Get him to rest in a comfortable position. If he doesn’t stop yelping, or keeps guarding his leg even after twenty minutes, it’s time to contact your vet.
Reason #2: Arthritis
This is more common in older dogs who will often develop joint problems. Arthritis is a painful condition that will cause your dog to limp among other issues and can sometimes be recognized by the characteristic grinding sound that joints produce.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints wherein the cartilage inside the joints slowly disappears, leaving the bones to grind against each other. Larger breeds and very athletic dogs find themselves at greater risk of developing arthritis, but it can happen to any dog. In fact, around a fifth of all dogs lives with arthritis.
Reason #3: Hip or elbow dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are hereditary joint diseases that will often cause lameness. Larger breeds are generally more predisposed for this condition, as well as certain breeds like Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Great Danes. Joint dysplasia occurs when joints don’t form properly. This malformation usually causes the joint to become loose, and consequently cause your dog to limp.
This is more prevalent in rear limbs. Although the dog is usually born with normal joints, dysplasia develops gradually, due to both hereditary and environmental factors. It can occur from a very early age (a few months), or later, due to arthritis. Obesity is a risk factor, so if you own a larger breed, make sure he stays fit and doesn’t put on excess weight.
Reason #4: Disc disease
The dog’s spine consists of bones (vertebrae), and discs or cushions. These discs can sometimes swell or even rupture (herniate), causing damage to the spinal cord. Disc disease usually affects the dog’s hind limbs. Apart from a limp in his rear legs, other symptoms may include muscle spasms, hunched back, back pain, loss of bladder control, and anxiety.
Disc disease in dogs is known as a very serious condition which could even lead to permanent paralysis. Possible treatment includes medication or even surgery. A period of strict rest is required to prevent further injuries.
Reason #5: Lyme disease
Lyme disease is a serious infection that is spread in dogs through tick bites. Symptoms often include swollen and painful limbs, which will affect the way your dog moves. If your dog’s limping is followed by other symptoms such as a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a loss of appetite, contact your vet immediately.
You should also get your dog checked out for Lyme disease if he suffers from recurring lameness. The limp occurs due to joint inflammation. It normally goes away after a few days, only to appear again days or even weeks later.
Reason #6: Bone disease
Younger dogs, especially larger breeds, sometimes develop panosteitis or hypertrophic osteodystrophy. Both of these are types of bone inflammation that normally occur in puppies aged from 2 to 18 months. Both conditions are more common in the front legs and are very painful to your pooch.
Luckily, both conditions normally go away on their own, and no treatment is required in most cases. Unfortunately, sometimes the cause of the limp may even be bone cancer. If that is the case, a swift diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment.
Should You Call Your Vet?
While some cases of your dog limping may be almost harmless, others will require attention right away. If you notice that the limb in question is dangling, that points to dislocation, and you should call your vet immediately. Other emergencies include obvious broken bones, swelling, or noticeable heat in the affected limb. A fever, profuse bleeding, extreme distress that doesn’t go away after 15 minutes, unusual behavior, or inability to get up are other situations in which you need to react promptly.
Generally, if the dog starts limping suddenly, the cause is most likely an injury and you should take him to the vet. However, if the symptoms are not severe, you can wait a couple of hours to get a clearer picture and see if the issue resolves on its own. If your dog’s limp has been around for a while, that could point to a more serious condition. While it might not be an emergency, make sure you schedule an appointment with his vet as soon as possible.
If your dog is obviously hurt, but it doesn’t warrant a visit to the clinic, there are still some things you can do to make your pooch more comfortable. If there is a visible cut or scrape, wash it with water and mild soap. Afterwards, clean it with a pet-safe disinfectant. If there is a foreign object stuck in his paw, gently remove it with tweezers, then clean the spot afterwards. Apply gauze to smaller wounds to stop the bleeding and keep them clean. If there are no visible wounds, but there is minor swelling, you can try to apply an icepack.
Never give your dog painkillers intended for human consumption, as most of them are toxic to animals. There are special dog pain relief aids that will work to alleviate the pain for your Fido. After an injury, you should let your dog rest, and allow for some time to recuperate. Avoid strenuous exercise and long walks until the limp goes away completely.
When it comes to their health, dogs are like children. They can’t really tell us when something is wrong, which is why we must stay vigilant about it. Always check your dog for injuries and ailments, and react swiftly if you notice that anything is wrong.
Article by: Samantha from topdogtips.com