9 Reasons Your German Shepherd Is Limping

Nobody wants to see this man’s best friend in pain. That’s why when our playful furry pals are limping, we often go into crisis mode, trying to solve the issue as soon as possible. After all, dogs are supposed to be energetic and active pets, and seeing them limp around can be quite painful in and of itself. 

This is why it’s very important to know why your German Shepherd is limping. If you can nail down the cause of your dog’s limp, it will be that much easier to figure out how to treat it and get your dog back to being healthy. 

There are a number of issues that can be causing limping in your German Shepherd, including injury, hip or elbow dysplasia, arthritis, infection, and more

With so many possibilities and such a possibly time-sensitive issue, it’s important to know what’s wrong with your German Shepherd and how to fix it as soon as possible. Read on to find out everything you need to know about why your German Shepherd is limping. 

What Is Causing Your German Shepherd’s Limping?

Many different factors could be causing your German Shepherd to limp, and knowing is half the battle. Trying to diagnose your dog’s problems on your own can be difficult, and being wrong could be dangerous, so seeing the vet is encouraged. However, it’s good to have some kind of idea of what’s going on.

See below for a list of the most common reasons why your German Shepherd could be limping.

Below is a list of things that cause lameness, which is a persistent limp caused by a non-trivial injury. 

Trauma to Leg

Any sort of leg trauma could be causing your German Shepherd to limp. This includes things like broken bones, torn ligaments, dislocations, and other injuries. Just like in humans, these limit the leg function and are quite painful, so it is pretty obvious why they would make your German Shepherd limp a bit. 

You can only really be certain this is the case after a trip to the vet, but if you saw your dog get hurt, you might have a pretty idea that this is the case. Either way, it should be followed up by advice and treatment from a qualified vet.

Hip or Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia are extremely common conditions in dogs. It’s a genetic condition that affects the joints in dogs’ legs, causing them to become malformed. This causes pain and lameness, resulting in a limp. Being a genetic condition, this can start from a relatively young age and is often an explanation for lameness in younger dogs. 

Unfortunately, there is often no cure for this. Sometimes, surgery or lifelong medication can be helpful, though. A vet’s guidance can help make your dog’s dysplasia more manageable daily, should this be the cause of the limp in your German Shepherd. 


Older dogs, just like older humans, can often experience arthritis. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints from years of stress. It usually affects the shoulders, knees, and hips. This is very difficult to avoid, as it’s just something that comes with age. If your older dog is limping, you should probably consider this to be the most likely cause of that lameness. 

There are medications and nutritional supplements that can help with arthritis symptoms. Consult your vet to see your best course of action to make your dog a bit more comfortable with this condition. 

Congenital Abnormalities

Sometimes, a limp or lameness can be the result of a congenital abnormality. This is some kind of abnormality in your dog’s body (probably in a hip, shoulder, or part of the leg, if it’s limping) that it was born with. 

These can often be skeletal or muscular abnormalities, which would explain limping. Hip and elbow dysplasia are often considered congenital abnormalities and are the most common type. 

Bone Cancer

Unfortunately, as with all living things, cancer is a possibility with dogs as well. Although rarer than the other things above it on this list, bone cancer is a possibility when it comes to why your German Shepherd is experiencing lameness in one or more of its legs. 

This is one of the best reasons why taking your dog to the vet if it’s limping is important. Cancer is as lethal to dogs as it can be to humans, so make sure to have it identified quickly, as that’s the best way to try and beat it.

If your German Shepherd is limping and you can’t figure out why bringing it to the vet is probably the smartest decision. 

German shepherd dog

When to Call the Vet

If you can’t quickly identify the source of the limp as something trivial, then you should probably at least give your vet a call; if not, bring your dog in for a visit. After all, when it comes to the life of your furry best friend, it’s better safe than sorry!

Your vet is a fantastic resource whose job it is to know what’s best for you and your pet, so it can’t hurt to at least hear their opinion on your German Shepherd’s limp.

Common Causes of Limping in Dogs

Although there are some serious diseases and conditions that might be the reason your dog is experiencing lameness, you may also be able to attribute it to some fairly trivial, common things. Read on for a short list of common things that might be causing your German Shepherd to keep weight off of one of its feet. 

Wounds On The Footpads

One of the most common reasons that a dog may be limping is that it has some kind of wound in its footpad. This can be the result of many things. Perhaps an ingrown toenail dug its way into your dog’s footpad or a loose thorn from a brush or thicket in your yard! Either way, it’s going to hurt your pet to be walking on a wounded footpad.

Pulled Muscle

Oftentimes, very active dogs can over-exert themselves and pull a muscle. This could cause the dog to develop a temporary limp as the area where the muscle was pulled becomes tender and painful to use. Since the German Shepherd is a large, athletic breed, this could very well be the cause of your dog’s limp.

Look out for this if it seems like your German Shepherd’s limp came out of the blue or after some rigorous walking, running, or playtime. You may not see the moment the dog’s muscle was pulled, but you should still consider this a possibility if your dog is active.

Insect Sting

An insect sting or bite on your dog’s foot or lower leg may also be the cause of a limp. If your German Shepherd was bitten by a spider or stung by a wasp or hornet on its footpad, ankle, or anywhere near its paws, it may try to avoid walking on that as it would cause pain.

This is quite common for dogs who are outside often, so make sure to check your dog’s paws after it spends some time outside. 

Broken or Damaged Claw

A broken or damaged claw could be quite painful to walk on for a dog, especially such a large one. Since there’s a lot of weight coming down on such a tender spot, a heavy dog like a German Shepherd would surely favor its other legs if one of them has a chipped claw, ingrown toenail, or similar condition.

This is easy to see and check for, so just make sure you’re looking at your dog’s claws from time to time. Claw care is standard pet maintenance anyway, so you shouldn’t have too much of a problem looking out for this!

Diagnosing a Limping Dog

Although you shouldn’t try to do it all by yourself, it may be helpful for you to try to pin down the cause of your dog’s limp very quickly. If it’s a trivial cause, you can probably handle it from the comfort of home. On the other hand, if you suspect something more serious, it’s probably time for a trip to the vet. 

Either way, trying to figure out what’s wrong is the first step, so let’s go over some ways that you can try to diagnose what’s making your German Shepherd limp. 

Wait 15 minutes

When you notice your dog is limping, the first thing you should do is wait and watch. A lot of limps are extremely trivial injuries like a paw that got stepped on or legs that may have been banged into something. Injuries like this will usually wear off for a bit.

Wait and watch your dog for about 15 minutes. Do not coax it into walking or try to bring it for a walk, as too much movement could injure it further if it were to be something serious. Simply see if your dog gets up and walks around. Once it does, see if the limp persists for more than 15 minutes. If so, it’s time to figure out what’s wrong. 

Many minor limps will simply resolve themselves with time. It’s important to look out for your dog, but don’t overreact. This is why the 15 minutes rule is a good rule of thumb to follow to make sure you aren’t panicking over just minor injuries. 

Look For Injury

If the limp persists, you should first look for any injuries on the outside of your German Shepherd’s body. These include bug bites and stings, paw pad wounds, damaged or cracked claws, and similar injuries that you can see physically.

With many of these minor injuries, you can treat them yourself at home. Perhaps call your vet for tips on how and when to treat these injuries, but no major action is needed. 

Bring Your Dog To The Vet!

When in doubt, bring your dog to the vet, or at least give them a call. This is the best and most accurate way to diagnose your dog, as your vet has the know-how and access to tools that can pin down exactly what is bothering your German Shepherd and causing its lameness.

This is most often the right course of action when you can’t find any obvious external injuries or you find a very serious external injury. If you’re unsure of what’s wrong, the vet is your best option. It’s man’s best friend’s best friend!

Check For Swelling

If your dog is trying to avoid putting weight on one of its legs, it might be smart to check for swelling in that leg. Look at the leg that’s been hurt for any visual signs of swelling. If you can see it swollen, it’s probably a fairly serious injury such as a sprain or something worse. That is a sign that you should go to the vet. 

If you can’t see the swelling physically, try very lightly touching around the leg that your German Shepherd is avoiding. What you’re looking for is an area that feels warm, tender, or swollen to the touch. If you find any of these, you’ve probably found the answer to why your dog is limping. This will be very helpful information for your vet should you decide to bring your dog in. 

Move Your Dog’s Legs A Bit

If you can’t find a reason why your dog might be limping, you can try very, very slightly moving each of its legs. Your dog will most likely stop you if you cause any pain, meaning you’ve found the joint that is acting up.

If you already have some idea what’s wrong, this should be avoided, as you don’t want to move a hurt limb unnecessarily. You should only do this if you really don’t know what’s wrong and feel like it’s urgent. 

How Can I Treat My Dogs Limping at Home?

There are a number of at-home remedies that can solve some of the less serious issues that are causing your German Shepherd to limp. Read on to find out how you can treat your dog’s limping at home!


For many causes of limping, such as pulled muscles and open wounds, rest is the most important thing. If your dog is limping, try to scale back playtime and exercise to allow it time to heal. You should only really be going on walks to allow your dog to use the bathroom and allow your Shepherd to spend the rest of its time resting up its injured leg or paw.

Treat Minor Wounds

One of the things you can do at home is to treat minor wounds such as scratches, thorns, and other wounds in your dog’s leg or footpad. This is usually a simple process, similar to how you’d treat a human’s minor scrapes, scratches, and splinters. If you’re insecure about your ability to treat your dog, call your vet to walk you through it!

Make sure to use clean tools and wash your hands before and after to protect your dog from infection and cover any would well. 


The best “cure” for any ailment is prevention! Keep your yard clean of bees, spiders, other biting insects, thorny bushes, loose sticks, and other injury-causing materials. Keep your dog active and healthy to avoid injury that might come from weak bones or muscles. 

Obviously, some causes of lameness can’t be avoided, but keeping a clean yard will help avoid a lot of injuries that will affect your dog’s ability to walk. 

Weight Management

If your dog is overweight, that extra load on your dog’s joints can cause a lot of damage over time. This can lead to joints and bones experiencing damage that causes swelling.

In order to avoid or treat this kind of damage, you should make sure your dog is having its weight managed. Try to stick to a healthier diet with fewer carbs, red meat, and more lean proteins and vegetables. Make sure your German Shepherd is getting plenty of exercise between walking and playing daily. This is an athletic, active breed and should be treated as such!

Bring Your Dog to The Vet

The best way to treat any limp is to simply bring your dog to the vet. Your vet will be able to diagnose and treat any limp your dog is experiencing far better than you can. It may seem like a short, simple answer, but it is the best available in most cases. 

Want To Train Your Dog With Peace Of Mind?

If you haven’t trained your dog properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether it’s barking at night or other bad behaviors, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases, it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally be able to trust your dog completely and never worry whether they’ll be naughty or not. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT.

And the best part is it also has a 60-day money-back guarantee! So there’s no reason not to give Brain Training For Dogs a try!

So if you’re tired of your dog’s bad behavior or how they react around other people and pooches, then give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

(You can also check out a full review here to learn exactly what the course has to offer!)


Q: What to Do if Your German Shepherd Is Limping but Not Crying?

A: You should still call your vet and/or bring your dog in, even if it’s not crying. It could be used to the pain by now, and you don’t want to ignore a serious problem. 

Q: Is It Normal for German Shepherds to Limp?

A: No. A limp is a sign that something is wrong. It may become normal as the dog ages if it develops arthritis or a similar condition. However, a limp is always a sign of some wound or condition. 

Q: Why Is My German Shepherd Limping but Still Running Around?

A: In many cases, a dog can get used to the cause of the limp and still run around if it feels it needs to during playtime or on a walk. This doesn’t mean your dog’s condition isn’t serious or should be ignored, so don’t take it as a sign of such!


So, there are many reasons that your German Shepherd could be limping. Whether it is some trivial wound or issue, or a more serious condition, you need to make sure you’re taking care of it right away!

Treat it at home if you can, but at least give your vet a call and get some advice. In more serious situations, bring your pup to the vet to make sure that it’s getting the best treatment it can get. That’s what it deserves, after all!