Why is My Dog Limping?

Have you noticed your dog limping lately? Are you worried about what might be causing this symptom? There are many potential problems that can cause a dog to limp, and it’s important to try to figure out the reason for your dog’s issue.

Some of the causes of limping are less serious than others. However, since some may be dangerous or harmful in the long-term, you should take your dog to the veterinarian if their limping doesn’t ease up after a couple of days or if you have any concerns about the cause. Read through the information below to learn more about potential causes of limping in dogs. If you still have questions, call Festival Animal Clinic in Centennial, CO at (303) 850-9393.

Broken Bone

If your dog has broken their leg, this will, of course, cause them to start limping. Most of the time, it’s fairly obvious that your dog’s leg is broken. The leg may be positioned oddly, or the bone may be visible through the skin.

Other times, however, broken bones may not be as noticeable. Breaks could be completely internal with very few symptoms other than the limping. If your dog is suddenly limping and you’re not sure what the cause is, a vet should check them out to make sure they don’t have any internal breaks.

Muscle Strain or Sprain

Just like humans, dogs can potentially sprain or strain their muscles. This can occur from overexertion, intense exercise or play, or even sometimes just from jumping a little bit incorrectly. Most dogs will recover fairly quickly from a sprained or strained muscle—again, just like humans.

In some cases, the muscle injury may be more severe and might need vet intervention to help. Your vet may give your dog pain medication or might prescribe a round of steroids to help their body heal more quickly. This is not very common, but it is a potential method of dealing with temporary limping related to muscle injuries.

Cranial Cruciate Injuries

One of the most common causes of limping in dogs is an injury to the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). This ligament helps the knee bend the way it should, while keeping it from bending the way it shouldn’t. An injury can cause the leg to become so sore that a dog may not be able to put any weight on it.

There are 3 surgical repair techniques to treat a CCL injury: extracapsular repair, tibial plateau leveling osteotomy and tibial tuberosity advancement. Speak with your veterinarian to learn more about which surgery your dog will require.

Hip Dysplasia

Some breeds of dogs are prone to hip dysplasia. This condition happens while dogs are still growing, and it causes the hips to form incorrectly. Hip dysplasia that begins during puppyhood will eventually lead to arthritis or degenerative joint disease, which can also cause limping in dogs.

There is no sure way to prevent hip dysplasia, but keeping your puppy on a healthy diet and not overfeeding them can make a difference. If your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, you’ll need to work with your vet to figure out the best way to manage their pain and keep them from limping.


Arthritis is common in older dogs and is more common in some breeds than others. If your dog’s limping has been getting progressively worse and is accompanied by stiffness or loss of mobility, there’s a good chance they have arthritis.

Although there is no cure for arthritis, you can work with your vet to figure out a management option that will work for your dog. Your dog may need physical therapy or could need to go on medication to help manage their condition. With the right plan, they will live a full, happy life despite their arthritis.

Injured Paw Pad or Toenail

Paw pads are more susceptible to injuries than other parts of a dog’s foot. They are tender and can be easily bruised, cut, or cracked. When this happens, your dog may start limping or favoring the sore paw pad.

Toenails can also become damaged or injured. If your dog’s toenail is splintered or is pulled out completely, this will hurt your dog badly and will lead to limping. Additionally, your dog will need antibiotics to prevent infection from this type of injury and may need to be carefully monitored for a few days until they start to heal.

Cuts on the Feet or Legs

Sometimes, your dog may have a cut on his foot or leg that leads to limping. You should be able to see a cut like this, and you may see blood from the wound as well.

If these cuts are not very deep, you can probably just clean the wound with soap and water and then let it heal normally. However, if the cut looks deep, your dog may need stitches and could need antibiotics to prevent an infection.

Now that you’ve had a chance to learn more about the causes of limping in dogs, you can decide when it’s time to take your pet to the vet. If your dog’s limping seems to be caused by a serious acute injury or if it lasts more than a day or two, it’s a good idea to head to the vet to find out what’s going on.

Most causes of limping in dogs can be treated, and those that can’t be cured can be managed more often than not. For more information, call Festival Animal Clinic at (303) 850-9393.

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