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Help! My dog is limping -Memphis Area Pet Health

Posted 11.18.15 by Emily Lindsey

We often answer the phone saying, “Thanks for calling The Pet Hospitals, this is____, How can I help you?” The client worriedly replies with, “My dog is limping, what can I do?”

There are many reasons a dog could be limping and/or holding up one of their legs.  Once you notice this symptom, it is always best to first check your dog’s paw to make sure there are no cuts, damage to the paw pad, or foreign objects like thorns, grass seeds, or glass that could be present.  In general, if the injury is in the paw, the dog will be licking the area excessively.

If you do not notice anything wrong with the paw, you can move on up. Muscle strains and injuries to ligaments and tendons are the most common causes of limping.  Some heal easily with rest and anti-inflammatory medication, while others may require surgery.  In middle aged to older pets, arthritis is also a common reason for stiffness and limping.Hip_dysplasia_gait

But, in pets under 1 year of age the most common limping occurs from soft tissue injuries or congenital abnormalities.   Common examples include dislocating knee caps, hip dysplasia, cartilage injury to the shoulder and injury to growth plates.  Broken or fractured bones are also seen in dogs with traumatic injuries.

In older dogs sprains and strains are very common – as is arthritis.  The most common serious injury we see is a torn or ruptured ACL.  These injuries are to the hind leg and can cause extreme discomfort and loss of function due to instability and arthritis development.  In most cases, surgical correction is required although some minor tears to the ligament can heal with rest. The majority of front leg limping we see are injuries to the shoulder joint or elbow.  Most of these are related to strains of the ligaments, tendons and muscles or simply arthritis, just like humans.  230px-Patellaluxation

Take your pet in for a chat with their veterinarian who will examine the dog and try to locate a source of pain.  Radiographs are usually needed to aid in the diagnosis.   Oral medications and other treatments such as rehabilitation, therapeutic laser, acupuncture and sometimes surgery are used to correct the problem.   Rest and weight reduction are key factors to recovery as well as prevention of further injury.

An important thing to remember is that most over-the-counter medications used for pain in humans can cause serious side effects in our four-legged friends.  Always consult with your veterinarian prior to beginning any treatment.

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