What should I do if my dog is limping? A guide to helping your pup!

Dogs are prone to limping due to various reasons like injuries, infections or chronic arthritis. It’s important to evaluate the cause of the limping and take appropriate action to help your furry friend. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on what to do when your dog is limping, how to examine your dog for injuries or infections and some common treatment options.

What is limping in dogs?

Limping is when your dog favours one limb, appears to walk with a limp or is hesitant to put weight on a limb. Limping in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors such as minor sprains or more severe injuries. The limping can come on gradually or suddenly and can be a sign of a serious underlying issue.

How to examine your dog for limping?

It’s essential to thoroughly examine your dog for limping, as it can help you identify the source of the problem. The following steps can help you examine your dog for limping:

Step 1: Look for signs of discomfort

Begin by observing your dog as they move around. Look for signs of discomfort or pain, such as wincing or hesitation to walk. Make a note of which limb your dog favours.

Step 2: Check for visible injuries or swelling

Examine your dog’s leg, paw, and nails to check for visible injuries or swelling. Look for any broken digits, bites, cuts, or bruises. If you find any, it could be the cause of the limping.

Step 3: Touch the limbs

Gently touch your dog’s limbs to check for any tenderness, unusual warmth, or swelling. If your dog flinches, whimpers or growls, it means it’s causing them pain.

What are the common causes of limping in dogs?

There are different reasons why your dog may limp, some of which are minor and easily treated, while others require immediate attention. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of limping in dogs:


Arthritis is one of the most common causes of limping in older dogs. It causes inflammation of the joints, leading to painful movement. Arthritis tends to affect the hips, knees, and shoulders of dogs, but it can affect any joint in their body.

Sprains, Strains and Injuries

Minor injuries, sprains or strains can cause your dog to limp. It can happen when your dog jumps, runs, or overexerts themselves. These injuries can occur in any limb but are common in the front legs.


Fractures can be a result of trauma such as getting hit by a car or falling from a height. It is a severe injury, and you need to take your dog to the vet immediately.

Tick Bites

Tick bites cause Lyme disease, which can cause lameness that shifts from one leg to the other, fever, and loss of appetite. If you suspect your dog has Lyme disease, contact your veterinarian immediately.

What to do if your dog is limping?

If you think your dog is limping, here’s what you can do to help them:

Step 1: Check for obvious injuries

If you can see any visible injuries such as cuts, bites or bruises, clean the area and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. If it doesn’t improve in a day or two, take your dog to the vet.

Step 2: Rest your dog

Rest your dog and restrict their activity to prevent further injury. If the injury is severe, use a sling or wheelchair to take the weight off your dog’s limb.

Step 3: Apply heat or cold

Apply a warm compress or a cold compress to help reduce swelling and ease discomfort.

Step 4: Visit the vet

If you suspect that your dog may have an injury, disease or infection, it’s time to take your furry friend to the vet. Your veterinarian will diagnose the underlying issue and provide appropriate treatment.

What are the treatment options for limping dogs?

Once your veterinarian diagnoses the cause of the limping, they will recommend an appropriate treatment plan specific to your dog’s needs. Here are some common treatment options you can expect:

Anti-inflammatory medication

Medications like steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help to promote healing and restore mobility. It may include massage, stretching exercises or hydrotherapy.


Surgery is a treatment option for severe injuries or bone fractures. It involves repairing or reconstructing the damaged tissues or bones.

How to prevent limping in dogs?

Preventing limping in dogs is essential to keeping your furry friends happy and healthy. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

Regular Exercise and Stretching

Regular exercise and stretching keep your dog’s muscles and joints healthy and strong, reducing the risk of injury.

Provide a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet provides essential nutrients and minerals that are required for good joint health. Choose a balanced diet that is appropriate for your dog’s age, breed and lifestyle.

Avoid Overexertion

Do not encourage your dog to engage in repetitive activities such as jumping or running excessively. This can lead to joint and muscle strain, resulting in limping.


Limping can be painful for your furry friend and can significantly affect their daily lives. It’s crucial to examine your dog for any signs of limping and identify the underlying issue. Once you diagnose the problem, you can take appropriate action. It’s always best to seek veterinary advice if you suspect that your dog has a severe injury or infection.

FAQs related to limping in dogs:

  • What are the common symptoms of limping in dogs?
  • The common symptoms of limping in dogs include favouring one limb, appearing to walk with a limp or hesitation to put weight on a limb.

  • Is limping in dogs temporary or permanent?
  • Depending on the severity of the limping, it can be temporary or permanent. It’s best to seek veterinary advice for proper diagnosis and treatment.

  • Can limping be prevented in dogs?
  • Yes, limping can be prevented in dogs by providing regular exercise and stretching, providing a healthy diet and avoiding overexertion.

  • Is surgery the only solution for limping in dogs?
  • Surgery is not always the only solution for limping in dogs. Depending on the severity of the issue, medication or physical therapy may be recommended.

  • What is the most common cause of limping in dogs?
  • Arthritis is the most common cause of limping in dogs.


  1. https://www.akc.org/
  2. https://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/

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