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Why is My Dog Limping?

dog limping


Limping in dogs can be caused by many things. Usually, dogs get a little too rowdy and hurt their leg, but sometimes it can be caused by a medical condition that requires immediate medical attention. Limping in dogs can be caused by anything from a tick bite to simply jumping off the bed. It’s important to be aware of the possible causes of your dog’s limp. In this article, we look at some common reasons for your dog’s limp.

Here are a few signs your dog is experiencing limb discomfort:

  • Pulls leg away when touched
  • Holding up a paw
  • Shifting weight away from a specific leg
  • Always sitting on the same side
  • Stumbling
  • Taking small steps

These signs could indicate that your dog has untreated arthritis, fractures, infections, unkempt nails, overweight, tick bite, paw pad damage, torn ligaments, or even a tumor. We know that’s an intimidating list. Let’s go through some of them to see if your worry is warranted.

Some Common Causes for Your Dog’s Limp


Untreated arthritis can cause your dog to develop a sudden limp because of the excessive pressure on the joints. 1 in 5 dogs will deal with arthritis in their lifetime. Although more common in old dogs, it’s something to keep an eye out for if it looks like multiple joints are suddenly bothersome, causing your dog to limp around the house.

Fractured or Broken Limbs

Fractures or dislocated limbs are a serious source of pain and cause a very noticeable limp in your dog. If your dog is avoiding pressure on a certain leg, you should inspect it for obvious damage. Generally, if the leg is fractured, your dog will pull its leg away when you try to touch it.

There are two types of fractures – closed and compound.

Closed fractures leave the skin intact, but the bone is damaged and causes severe pain.

Compound fractures are immediately visible because the break pierces the skin. These types of fractures are much more serious and requires immediate medical attention. If left untreated, compound fractures can lead to infected wounds.

Infections that lead to reduced mobility

Untreated infections can also cause limping in dogs. If you suspect your dog has an infection, make sure there are no signs of punctures, breaks, or scratches on the skin of your dog. If the skin around the dog’s leg is excessively irritated, it might be a sign of infection. If your dog’s’ leg is hot to the touch, it can also indicate an infection.

For minor cuts and scrapes, you can clean the wound at home; just be sure to keep an eye on your dog’s health. If there is a large open wound, you should get to the veterinarian’s office as soon as possible. If the vet suspects an infection is likely, they will prescribe antibiotics and painkillers to help your dog fight off infection.

Long Nails

We’ve all let our dog’s nails get a little crazy. But, if the nail grows too large, it can irritate the paw pad and cause your dog to limp. This is easily avoided by regularly grooming your pup.

Regular walks also help keep nails short because they are filed down by walking on hard surfaces. But again, if you schedule time each month to make sure your dog’s nails are properly groomed, you can avoid making them uncomfortable.


An obese dog’s joints are put under more stress than a healthy dog. If your dog is overweight, simply jumping off the couch can lead to injuries that leave them limping around the house. Obesity is a problem that takes a while to develop, and a while to fix.

Usually, your vet will tell you if your dog’s weight is unhealthy. At a minimum, they will tell you to increase activity by taking more frequent and longer walks. They may also suggest adjusting your dog’s diet.

However, you should not simply reduce the feeding schedule because this can lead to malnourishment over time. If your veterinarian suggests adjusting your dog’s diet, they will recommend a specific food that is less calorie dense but maintains adequate nutrition levels to keep your pup healthy.

But again, consult your veterinarian if you think obesity is the reason your dog has developed a limp.

Foot Injuries

If you notice your dog limping, check their footpad for any cuts or splinters. Very often, sticks or small rocks can get caught in between your dog’s pads while they’re outside and get lodged in a painful spot. Most of the time, they fall out, but sometimes it can be the cause of their limp. During extreme cold or dry weather, dog’s foot pads can form painful cracks that also result in limping.

Ligament Injuries

Ligaments hold your dog’s legs together and stabilize their movement. If your dog has a partial or full tear of the ligament, their mobility will be severely limited. You’ll notice them limping around and unable to put much pressure on the knee. Jumping on the couch or bed will suddenly be much harder for them.

Unfortunately, the road to recovery is long for ligament damage. The issue is only made worse because your dog doesn’t understand that decreasing activity will help the joint heal.

When Should I Take My Dog To The Vet?

It’s normal for dogs to get themselves into trouble. They might explore your neighborhood or just your backyard, but they have a knack for finding problems. If your pup suddenly starts limping, check their paws for any visible damage because they most likely stepped on something sharp. If there is nothing in their paws, and no apparent damage to the leg, they may have just tweaked their leg running around.

However, if limping gets progressively worse and your dog is in obvious pain, we recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. If they broke a bone or lose control of both hind legs, we recommend taking your dog to the nearest emergency veterinarian hospital.

Once you’re there, the doctor will try to locate the source of the pain with a basic exam. If there are no signs of physical damage, they may suggest running blood work to test for infections or neurological diseases.

Sadly, these vet visits can be expensive. Just running the tests alone can cost thousands of dollars. And if the vet needs to hospitalize your dog for monitoring until they find the source of the issue, you’re going to be faced with a tough financial choice.

But there is help. When your dog needs you most, and when you’re uncertain about their health, pet insurance can cover most of the expenses.

With so many pet insurance companies out there, you can find a plan that works for your family and covers your dog when their health is on the line.

We’ve compared dozens of companies and reviewed them for you. Find out if pet insurance is right for your family with our easy comparison tool.

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