Causes of limping in dogs

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dog limp
A limp can have many causes
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The causes of limping in dogs are typically diagnosed by veterinarians

A dog is often a pet owner's best friend, closest confidant and favorite snuggle buddy, so when the pooch starts limping, it's often a cause for concern. Sometimes the limping is due to a minor issue; however, it could also be a serious problem that could require surgery.

There are a variety of causes of limping in dogs, and you will likely need to take yours to a veterinarian to determine what is ailing your pet.

Painful Toenail

One of the most minor causes of a dog favoring one leg over another is a broken toenail. Nails that get too long can break off close to the foot, which is extremely painful. The canine may limp because of this.

Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medication for your pup if it is very uncomfortable. The medication may make your dog feel better and cause it to leave the injury alone, which can speed up the healing process. Some medications do require blood work before the pet can take it, so the veterinarian may need to run those types of tests, as well.

The doctor may also tell you to simply keep an eye on it. Keeping your pet's nails nice and short may prevent such an injury from occurring.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is spread to canines through tick bites. The disease causes inflammation in the joints, which can lead to lameness. Lyme disease is often tricky to diagnose, because your four-legged friend may not limp all of the time. One of the most common symptoms of this tick-borne disease is on and off again limping. The tenderness can even occur in different legs.

Lyme disease can also cause fever, stiffness in the back, swollen lymph nodes, depression and lack of appetite, among other symptoms.

Tell the veterinarian if you have noticed any ticks on your pup in the past. Additionally, inform the doctor if you live near a wooded area or one that deer frequent. Doing so can help the doctor diagnose the problem.

The vet will likely take blood from your canine, which can determine if it does have Lyme disease. This disease can be quite debilitating and often has a serious effects on Labrador retrievers.

Oftentimes, the issue can resolve with the help of antibiotics. However, not all dogs return to their normal selves.

Keeping your canine on a tick-preventative can often keep it from having to experience such a painful disease. You should also look at your pooch daily to check for any ticks.


Arthritis is one of the main causes of limping in dogs. This disease can be extremely painful and prevent your pooch from enjoying life. Arthritis can occur in just about any joint, including the hips, knees, elbows, back and neck.

Arthritis takes place when bone touches bone. Ligaments and cartilage typically prevent bone from touching other bone; however, injuries and other problems can cause them to disappear, causing the arthritis to form.

The pet's doctor will perform an examination and likely take x-rays to determine if arthritis is the reason your pup is in pain.

A variety of treatments are available to take away the pain and make your canine more comfortable. Physical therapy, swimming and even acupuncture are often used to treat arthritis, along with pain medication and glucosamine.

Even giving your pooch a comfy bed to lay on can make it feel better. Laying on a soft surface is much more comfortable than a cold, hard floor, which can improve your pet's quality of life. Heated pet beds are even better.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an unfortunate condition that dogs are born with. Dysplasia occurs when the ball portion of the top of the thigh bone doesn't fit inside the hip. This issue is extremely painful and typically affects large-breed canines.

The doctor can often diagnose hip dysplasia by giving an examination and taking x-rays. Unfortunately, the only treatment for this condition is surgery. However, you can make the dog feel more comfortable by giving pain medication and glucosamine.

Keeping an animal comfortable when it is in pain is often the goal of pet owners. With the help of your veterinarian and a few treatments, you can likely help your pooch get better.


PetMD: Lyme Disease in Dogs

PetMD: Arthritis in Dogs Symptoms and Causes

WebVet: Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

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