Limping – Identify the Cause of Your Limping Dog

At some point in your dog’s life, they will limp. They all do! Our first reaction is to either brush it off, or panic! One or two explanations don’t require following up with your vet. However, there could be a serious reason for your dog’s condition.

Signs to watch are:

· bob their head when they walk

· cautious going up and down stairs

· taking shorter steps

· sitting or lying down more often

· favoring one side when sitting or lying down

· shifting the weight off one of their legs

· stumbling

· unsteady

· excessive panting

· drooling

· lack of appetite

· flinching when touched.

· holding up a paw?

Here are a few possible causes for that limp:


The added stress on the joints of overweight dogs can cause them to limp and eventually cripple them. Trauma from jumping or falling with the extra weight can also severely injury your dog. Cut back on how much you are feeding them. Watch the number of treats you give. Go easy at first, but more exercise could help your dog lose weight and limber up those muscles and joints. Speak to your vet about a possible change in diet. There are a number of excellent weight control dog foods available for our full-figured furry friends.


Long nails can be uncomfortable and could cause your dog to walk with a limp. Trim their nails. It may be as simple as that!


Limps may be caused by infection. Check for any punctures, scratches or breaks in the skin that are red, tender, runny, crusty and/or foul smelling. Check the pads of their feet for cuts, slivers, stones, nails, glass, or thorns.

Your dog may be feverish. A good indication of infection is if there is heat felt at the sight of the wound. Clean and disinfect the area. If it is a serious wound, take them to the vet immediately. Even if it does not appear to be a serious wound; consider taking them to the veterinarian. The vet may prescribe antibiotics and hot compresses to prevent secondary infections.


Sprains and strains are soft-tissue, damage. It may be a tendon or muscle pull. It may be a bruise. They appear suddenly and most often heal in a few days. If it’s a minor injury, rest is probably all they need. To prevent them from re-injuring themselves; confine them in their crate or in a small area for a day or two.

If it’s more serious, put an ice pack, or even a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel, and compress it on the location of the sprain for 10-20 minutes. Do it 3 times a day.

If your vet tells you a buffered aspirin is OK for your dog, give them a dose according to their weight – usually 10-25 milligrams for every 2.5 pounds. Typically they can get a dose 2-3 times per day. Between the cold compress and the aspirin, the inflammation should be reduced, and your dog will be more comfortable.

After treating a soft-tissue injury with cold compresses for a few days, it is recommended to apply hot compress to the area, to get the blood re-circulating at the sight of the injury. Never apply a hot compress to the groin or armpit area!


Arthritis is only one of the degenerative joint problems many dogs suffer with. Because it comes on gradually, frequently we don’t notice it right away. Most degenerative joint problems are caused by genetics, specific breed, or aging. Consult with your veterinarian for the line of treatment they recommend.

Hip dysplasia, a degenerative condition where the joints in the hips no longer fit together properly. It is a crippling condition that can found in any breed; most commonly, large and giant dogs.


Spinal cord and nerve pain can appear gradually from degeneration. They can also appear suddenly due to trauma. DO NOT USE BUFFERED ASPIRIN! Seek veterinary help immediately!


There are two crippling diseases dogs can get from tick bites. The first is Lyme Disease. It causes the joints to swell gradually, most often in more than one leg. Don’t be fooled. Even if your dog stops limping or limps on and off, without long-term antibiotic treatment, your dog cannot be cured.

Your dog may be limping from Rickettsial Disease. It is contracted from flea, tick or lice bites. It affects the joints and muscles. See your vet immediately if you suspect it.


Fractures and dislocations cause severe pain. If your dog is not putting any weight on their leg, check for bruises, discoloration, deformed areas, or bone protrusion. Get your dog to the vet immediately!