Dogs limp for a wide variety of reasons; sometimes, things happen that are obvious, like a broken bone or a dislocation. Although they can suffer from either of these issues, it may not be so obvious. Let’s look at more possibilities as to why your dog may be limping and what you can do to assess the limp and determine your next move.
A Small Stone or Splinter in Your Dog’s Paw
While a dog’s paws may be the strong foundation for a good game of chase, they are also quite tender and sensitive. A dog with a paw issue may seem as if they are skipping taking a step on one of their paws. However, they may also walk with a less noticeable limp. A sign there is a paw problem could also be revealed through a pet licking their paw(s).
Let’s take a closer look at some typical paw issues dogs experience.
Sometimes your dog can get a small stone caught in their pad or between their toes. If you notice your dog licking at their paws, start by looking at their paws carefully. If your dog does have a stone in their pad, you don’t want to push it farther into the skin. Gently rub a finger over their pads to see if you feel a tiny hard stone stuck in there.
Because there are different types of stones, you will need to carefully move the hair around the dogs’ pads and between their toes. It’s common for dogs to get many different types of tiny stones caught, especially if they have big feet. One other type of stoning issue your dog could be dealing with is a mud impact. This happens if they spend time playing or digging in soft or muddy ground. Most dogs do an excellent job themselves of cleaning their feet, but if it dries and they don’t, it causes problems.
Your dog can also get thorns stuck in their paws. Thorns may be visible and quickly plucked with a pair of tweezers, while stones may need a bit more coaxing. A soaking wet washcloth that is not too hot or too cold will offer relief to your dog’s sore paw. Sometimes you may need to put your dog’s paw in a brief soak to help the stones come out.
Broken nails, and Dry or Cracked Paws
Broken nails and dry or cracked paws can have your dog limping. Your dog’s pads should feel soft and smooth all the time. While your dog’s nails are strong, they can still break. The only thing is they may not completely break them, leaving an opening for irritation and pain. Always look over their nails carefully and don’t forget about the dewclaw.
Your dog could also be limping because they need a nail trim. Active dogs who spend a lot of time running on hard surfaces manage to do an excellent job of wearing their nails down. Dogs who are less active and are on softer surfaces do not wear their nails down as much, so a simple nail trim could be the key. Also, keep in mind that the dewclaw does not get as much direct contact as others, so it could be as simple as trimming one nail.
If you notice that your dog has a dry pad or a broken nail causing pain, gently rub traditional Vaseline with no fragrance into your dog’s foot to moisten their skin.
Continue to keep an eye on your dog’s paw to ensure that there is no ongoing irritation or infection.
Hip, Shoulder, and Elbow Dysplasia
If your dog has a dysplasia limp, it looks much different than them trying to hold a paw off the ground. It may appear more like weakness or even stiffness in one or more of their legs. While it is most common to hear of a dog getting hip dysplasia, dogs can also get this in their elbow joints and shoulders.
Dysplasia is not a simple diagnosis you can make at home but knowing what it is and what the signs are will help you determine if it is time to visit your vet.
This degenerative disease causes a hip, shoulder, or elbow deformity in dogs. Dysplasia often occurs in large breed dogs, and factors like growth rate, exercise, improper nutrition, and weight play a role in your dog experiencing this issue.
Some of the early signs of dysplasia are decreased activities, a noticeable change in a pet’s range of motion, and a reluctance to climb stairs, run or jump. They may appear stiff or limp, unsteady on their feet, and appear to be in pain. If you suspect this could affect your dog, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your vet to let them do x-rays to confirm the disease is present.
While there is no cure, you and your vet can do things to help your dog find comfort. Dogs that experience dysplasia can live long, healthy lives. You and your vet will make a treatment plan that may include reaching an ideal weight, exercising to strengthen the weakened muscle, dog massages, and even medicine to ease the immediate pain.
Muscular Sprains and Strains or Joint Trauma
Sometimes we have very active dogs who can injure themselves if they overdo it.
If you suspect that your dog injured themselves, gently examine your dog. If your dog yelps or growls in pain, it’s a good idea to see the vet right away. If your dog does not appear to be bothered, allow your dog to rest between 12 to 24 hours.
If 12 hours go by and they are clearly uncomfortable, contact your vet. If 24 hours pass and your dog is still limping but seems to be improving, give your dog more time to rest. If your dog’s condition worsens, you need to take your dog to the vet.
Never doubt yourself when it comes to your dog’s health. If you feel like they should be checked, make that appointment or if you notice your dog is improving, give them time to rest. Your vet will always be willing to consult by phone, giving you their best advice.
Dogs can get spinal injuries that cause them to limp. Small dogs who like to jump from high areas are more susceptible to this type of injury than a large breed dog. However, larger dogs can also get spinal injuries as well. Limping is one sign, but you may also notice a stiff, hunched position on your dog’s back, or a lack of coordination.
If you suspect that your dog has injured their spine, your dog must see the vet immediately.
As you can see, there are many reasons your dog may limp. Taking a moment to assess the situation could provide your dog with quick relief and provide you with knowledge for your vet. Your vet will always be happy to help you and your dog and will always guide you with their advice.
If your pet is limping, please schedule an appointment with us so we can be sure your pet is in good health!