8 Top Reasons for Limping in Dogs


It’s a rare dog owner who hasn’t noticed their pet limping from time to time. In fact last week down at the dog park, I was wondering where Debbie and her beagle, Chuck were, because they’re regulars. Chuck is the overweight beagle I told you about in Step Away From the Dish, Doggie, You are Way Too Fat! Chuck needs his exercise, and I was worried about him – had he had a weight-related heart attack? So when I got home I Facebooked Debbie to ask her if Chuck was okay. He was; he’d just cut his paw on a bit of broken glass and was resting. He hadn’t even needed stitches, and Debbie said he’d be back at the park in no time.

So, that got me thinking about the reasons why dogs limp. I think I know a fair bit about dogs – if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing about them – but when I need to know more, I do some research. And I found out that most of the time, a limp is easily explained and treated. Other times, a limp can be a real cause for concern. So, let’s talk about why dogs limp. I’ve identified eight main reasons.

1. Torn Pads

This is what happened to Chuck, and it’s one of the most common causes of limping in dogs. It doesn’t always take broken glass, either – a dog can end up with a torn pad from exercising on rough ground, or even on a surface that they’re not used to, like sand. Active dogs are very prone to torn pads. If this happens to your dog, just keep him quiet for a while, but if the pad doesn’t heal in a timely fashion, see your vet.

2. Broken Nails

You know how it hurts when you tear a nail, and dogs don’t find it any more pleasant. Long nails can be caught on things, so keep them trimmed. If your dog does break a nail, watch for infection. If the area becomes infected, you will have to see your vet for an antibiotic.

3. CCL Tears

A CCL tear is a rip in the cranial cruciate ligament. This ligament attaches the tibia to the femur. You could think of it as an athletic injury, since it is most common in very active dogs. If you have ever had a CCL tear, or know someone who has, then you have some idea of how painful it can be. This is a serious injury, and needs immediate care.

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4. Broken Bones

Bones can develop tiny fractures that are not apparent to the naked eye, or they can break catastrophically, in such a way that they are totally obvious. Either way, damaged bones are going to cause pain. If you can’t definitely attribute a limp to another cause, assume a fracture or a break, and take your dog to the vet for treatment right away.

5. Hip Dysplasia

You have probably heard about hip dysplasia, and you may have assumed that it is a death sentence. In fact, there are a good many dogs who live their whole lives with hip dysplasia, and never even experience a twinge of pain. Others may begin to show symptoms early on, and limping is one such symptom. Your vet can take x-rays that will confirm or rule out hip dysplasia, and can also offer solutions. Much of the time, even a dog with very bad hips can enjoy a long life with effective treatment.

6. Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is also often first perceived as a limp, and like hip dysplasia, it is identified by means of x-rays. And again, like hip dysplasia, even dogs with really bad elbows can enjoy a good quality of life with treatment.

7. Bone Cancer

Remember me telling you about my friend Neila, the Rottweiler person? Three years ago, she lost a dog to bone cancer. Laura was limping, and unable to identify the cause, Neila assumed it was arthritis – not an unreasonable conclusion, since Laura was nine years old. To this day, Neila is beating herself up for not taking Laura to the vet until she’d already been limping for a couple of weeks. It was bone cancer, and already spreading to Laura’s stomach and lungs. Neila took her home, along with medication for pain, and when it looked like Laura wasn’t having fun anymore, had her put to sleep.

Any time there is lameness in a leg, it could be bone cancer. They may not even be identifiable in their early stages, but they spread quickly. If caught soon enough, amputation can give the dog several more years of life. If not caught, it is a death sentence.

8. Arthritis

Okay, having hit you with that, let’s move back into more comfortable territory. Sometimes, it really is just plain old arthritis, especially in an elderly dog. Your vet may recommend pain medication. Vets also often recommend a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement. It works to reduce inflammation and cushion joints, so senior dogs can enjoy their quality of life. Often, using this type of supplement can even eliminate the need for pain medications that could be hard on the digestive system. You can even use it as a preventative measure for dogs that are getting up there in years.

You can buy glucosamine and chondroitin at any drugstore, or you could choose a preparation that is specifically formulated for dogs, like Glucosamine for Dogs Advanced Joint & Hip Supplement from Particular Paws. It also contains Vitamins C and E, Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, and hyaluronic acid, all of which are proven to encourage healthy joints and improve mobility. Ordinarily, this supplement retails for $39.99, but you can buy it at Amazon for $29.95. It also comes with a 100% guarantee – if you are unhappy for any reason, all you need to do is contact the manufacturer for a full refund.

Related Content:

Are Small Dogs More Prone to Joint Disorders?
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9 Common Household Items That Can Poison Your Dog

The Final Word

Much of the time, a limp isn’t a big deal. You can often identify the cause, and correct it easily. If you can’t be sure what is causing the limp, though, see your vet right away.



8 Reasons Your Dog May Be Limping