August 2019

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Limping (lameness) in dogs can be subtle or very obvious. You may see your dog holding up his/her paw or hopping on three legs from time to time, or you may see your dog consistently not putting any weight on his/her paw at all. Severe lameness needs prompt veterinary attention, as your dog is likely very uncomfortable and in need of medication to relieve pain. Do not give your dog any pain medication without consulting with a veterinarian.

Signs that Your Dog Needs to See a Veterinarian

  • Limping persists for more than a few days
  • Swelling of the affected limb(s)
  • Inability to walk or run normally
  • Reluctance to perform an everyday activity, like jumping up on a couch
  • Unwillingness to bear weight on the affected limb(s)
  • Affected leg(s) are at an unnatural angle
  • Vocal behavior (e.g., whining, yelping), suggesting that your dog is in pain
  • Limping is accompanied by other signs of illness (e.g., fever, decreased appetite, vomiting, lethargy)

What You Can Do

  • Limit your dog's activity. Do not allow him/her to run, to jump on/off furniture, to go up/down stairs, or to play with other pets. You can do this by confining your dog to a pen or a small bathroom.
  • Allow your dog to rest quietly without being disturbed by people or other pets.
  • Remember that dogs who are in pain may try to bite you. Handle your dog with caution.

Common Causes of Limping

  • Wounds or cuts on the paw or leg
  • Broken or overgrown toenails
  • Broken bones
  • Arthritis
  • Torn ligaments or tendons
  • Strained or sprained muscles
  • Lyme Disease

Treatment of Limping

  • If your dog is uncomfortable, pain medication that is safe for a dog will be prescribed.
  • Antibiotics are given if there are wounds or cuts, or if your dog has Lyme Disease.
  • Any foreign bodies (e.g., broken glass, plant awn) stuck in the paw or limb will be removed.
  • If your dog has a fracture, a torn ligament, or a dislocated hip, he/she may need to be placed under anesthesia for splint placement, for surgery, or for reduction of the dislocation.
  • If your dog has arthritis, joint supplements may be helpful.
  • Physical therapy may be indicated.

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