When your dog develops a limp, it’s impossible to miss and heartbreaking to watch. Unfortunately, helping out is not always as easy as an icepack, so what can you do? Today we’ll take a comprehensive look at reasons why dogs limp, why they might limp when walking but not running, and what you and your vet can do to help get your dog back to walking and running normally.
A little knowledge can go a long way, so let’s start things off with the most common reasons why dogs limp.
Table of Contents
What Causes Limping in Dogs?
There are many things that can cause a dog to limp, but the best thing to start with is that limps come in two types. There are ‘sudden limps’ and ‘gradual onset’ limps. With the former, it’s generally an injury –minor or more pronounced — and with the latter, it’s going to be a disease or another medical condition.
Let’s look at some of the most common causes for limping in dogs.
Something in Their Paw
One of the most common reasons is that your dog has stepped on something sharp which may or may not still be stuck in their paw. This is, of course, the easiest to identify and to remedy.
Trauma or Injury
This is actually the most common reason that a dog will start limping. Car or bike collisions aside, dogs are quite active, and sometimes they get injuries just like a human does. This can include sprains, breaks, torn ligaments, and the like.
Joint conditions such as osteoarthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia, and ligament disease are conditions more common in older dogs but which may occur in younger dogs as well.
Conditions such as panosteitis, which is an inflammation of the legbones, are actually more common with younger dogs and can them to walk with a limp.
Tick-bites can cause Lyme disease, which in turn can cause your dog to limp. If you spend a lot of time with your dog in wooded areas, then this is a definite possibility.
Why Does My Dog Limp When Walking But Not When Running?
In some cases, a limp can seem a little puzzling. Why on earth can a dog run just fine, but when they are walking, then they limp? There are a few possibilities for this. The first explanation is that it might be some localized nerve damage.
Another possibility is arthritis. This is especially true if the issue is occurring with an older dog. Hip dysplasia is a third possibility, and finally, adrenaline might be the reason why your dog can run just fine but limps when they slow down to walk. Let’s take a closer look at these reasons to give you a better idea of what’s behind them.
If nerve damage is localized to a very small area, it is possible that it only feels painful when walking. The stretched-out running gait is quite different from a standard walking one and thus does not excite the nerves in the same fashion.
Arthritis is another possibility where the movements involved in walking and running must be considered. It is quite possible that running doesn’t hurt or that it hurts less enough at this point that your dog is happy to push through it and keep playing.
With hip dysplasia, the ball and socket of the hip are misaligned, and it is painful for your dog when they rub together. This is a genetic condition that is more common in large dogs, but small dogs suffer from hip dysplasia as well.
Dogs love to play, and that excitement can generate adrenaline. Adrenaline, in turn, generates endorphins, and so these endorphins may be merely blocking out the pain that causes the limp during sessions of play.
What to Do If The Dog is Limping
If your dog is limping, then there are a few things that you may try on your own. It’s all going to depend on the type of injury, so let’s take a look at some common limping first-aid tips that you can use.
Something Stuck in the Paw
If you suspect your dog has something in their paw and believe you can remove it easily, then go ahead and do so. You can then clean the wound with antibacterial soap and clean it with antibacterial cream and use either a cold pack for 2 -3 minutes or a soak in warm water and Epsom salts for swelling.
For doggy sprains, alternating sessions of an ice pack and a warming pad can quickly help to heal a sprain. Just find a comfortable place in front of the television and alternate between the warm and cold on the afflicted area for about 5 minutes each for a period of up to 30 minutes.
Broken Nail or Cut Paw
With a broken nail, you can use a little antibiotic ointment, but if it is still bleeding, then a little flour or cornstarch should stop it (if not, then you will want to see the vet). For a cut paw, you want to clean the wound with antibacterial soap, and if it is still bleeding, then you can apply pressure with a clean washcloth.
Apply a bandage and change it every day until it the wound is healed.
VCA Hospitals advises that for abscesses, either soak in warm water with Epsom salts, or you may apply warm compresses to see if this helps. Should the abscess rupture, your vet can help to properly clean the wound and prescribe some antibiotics to prevent infection.
For swelling from bruising or tendonitis, an ice pack can do the trick. Just use twice a day for 15-minute sessions, and the swelling does not go down, then go ahead and bring your dog in for a checkup with your vet to take a closer look.
What Are The Treatment Options For Dog Limping?
Your veterinarian has a lot of methods at their disposal for helping to get your dog back to walking and running comfortably. We’ve compiled a few examples of the treatments which your vet is likely to suggest in the sections below.
Veterinarian Jennifer Coates advises that for mild cases of limping that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Deracoxib, Etodolac, Carprofen, and Meloxicam are regularly prescribed. These are specialized versions of these drugs which differ in dosage from the human versions, so be sure to only use vet prescribed medications if you happen to have these in your medicine cabinet already.
Joint supplements are also a common treatment, such as Glucosamine and Methylsulfonylmethane, and Green-lipped mussels. The last is a common ingredient in some dog treats, so this is something that you can stock up on at home.
Cold Laser Treatments
Laser therapy is gaining popularity in the treatment of arthritis and other effects of aging for dogs. Humans have been using this themselves for a while, but many veterinarians now offer this treatment for arthritis, sprains, strains, and more.
Surgery is another option in more extreme cases. Conditions such as an unstable knee joint or subluxation are sometimes too severe to correct in any other fashion, although cold laser treatment in conjunction with chiropractic care has been used with some success in subluxation.
In some cases, an assistive device may be required to take pressure off the limb so that low-impact impact exercises such as swimming may be employed instead of walking until the muscles can heal. In more extreme cases, braces or wheelchair support may also be required.
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!)
How Can You Tell If Your Dog’s Limp Is Serious?
There are a few scenarios where an immediate vet visit is called for when your dog is limping. If the limb is hot to the touch or has extreme swelling, both of these symptoms warrant a visit to the vet right away.
This is also the case if the limb appears to be dangling or at an unnatural angle, indicating a break. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, then you should get to the vet immediately for emergency care.
In this article, we’ve explored the most common causes of limping in dogs and the reasons why your dog might limp when walking but not running. Limping is broken down into ‘sudden’ and ‘gradual’ limps, with the former being mostly play-related injuries that may often be treated at home.
If your dog is limping and home first-aid is not helping, then be sure to bring them in for a vet visit as soon as possible. With ‘gradual’ type limps, the damage is degenerative, and so it’s important to get a diagnosis early so that the treatment is going to be at its most effective. Finally, don’t forget those regular vet checkups.
Early detection is always going to be your best line of defense!