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Five possible reasons why your dog is limping and how to help

Senior dog limping

Limping in dogs might be common but it is not normal and is a sign that your dog is experiencing physical discomfort. Dogs can develop a limp for a wide variety of reasons, some of which are serious. Because they can’t always clearly communicate to us what is bothering them, and because some causes of limping show no external signs, it can be difficult to tell what is wrong. It is important for pet parents to understand the potential causes of limping and how to best help their dog. 

Table of contents 

Gradual vs. sudden limping 

Limping in dogs can either occur suddenly or gradually. If your dog exhibits limping out of the blue, it is likely that they are suffering from either superficial or internal trauma or injury, notes the Merck Veterinary Manual. Gradual progression of limping is typically a sign of an underlying, potentially degenerative health issue. In both cases, it is best for the health of your pup to address the cause of their limping as soon as possible to prevent further discomfort. 

When is limping an emergency? 

When you first witness your dog limping, your first instinct may be to panic and run to the emergency room. Not all cases of limping are serious and require no more attention than rest and an icepack. Typically, sudden onset limps that do not appear to be bothering your dog significantly may be able to wait a few hours or even resolve on their own, according to experts from the Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG). 

However, being able to identify emergency situations with sudden limping is crucial so you can get your dog professional veterinary care as soon as possible. VEG recommends that you should seek immediate care if your dog shows signs of: 

  • Swelling 
  • Fever, lethargy, or vomiting 
  • Excessive bleeding 
  • Extreme discomfort, potentially resulting in trembling, whining, or aggression 
  • Limbs that are warm to the touch 
  • Dragging limbs or refusing to bear weight 
  • Obvious bone break or unnatural joint angle 

When transporting your dog to the veterinarian’s office, be careful not to cause further damage and discomfort to your pup. According to the Veterinary Information Network, rough handling may cause further internal bleeding, more damage to the soft tissues around a fracture, and other complications depending on the injury. You should also be prepared to share as much information with your vet as possible. Take note of when you noticed your dog start limping, what he was doing prior to limping, whether he is able to bear weight, and if they are exhibiting other symptoms. Taking a video is always a good idea so you can show your veterinarian. 

Why is your dog limping? 

Dogs can develop a limp for a wide variety of reasons. Potential causes of your dog’s limping include: 

  1. External injury – Your dog may suddenly limp due to superficial irritation or injury on their paws or legs, according to the Pet Health Network. They may have stepped on a piece of glass or broken their toenail. Animal bites or insect stings can also cause discomfort, as well as paw pad burns from walking on hot pavement. External irritants and injuries are relatively easy to identify. If you notice your dog incessantly licking, this may be a sign that something is wrong. Remember to examine between their toes and pads for foreign objects or irritation. 
  1. Internal trauma – It is very common for dogs to suffer from strained muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Bone fractures, sprains, bruising, and joint dislocation are also possible and can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog. This internal damage can be caused by traumatic events such as getting hit by a car or getting caught on a fence while trying to escape the backyard or even playing too hard with other dogs. 
  1. Joint discomfort – As your dog’s joint cartilage wears down due to age, injury, or an underlying issue, their bones start rubbing together. Your dog may stop playing with their favorite toys and hesitate before doing everyday tasks like hopping into the car. Approximately 80 percent of dogs older than eight experience some form of joint discomfort. As joint cartilage deteriorates, worsening inflammation can cause discomfort and decreased mobility. Arthritis and joint discomfort can significantly reduce quality of life. 
  1. Illness – Some illnesses can cause lameness in dogs. Lyme disease, passed on from ticks, can cause inflammation that results in limping. This limping can be temporary and recurring and can also switch limbs depending on the location of inflammation. Bone cancer can also cause limping in dogs. 
  1. Bone or joint abnormalities – Congenital developmental issues with bones and joints are common in dogs. Abnormalities in the structure of bones and joints can cause mobility issues due to loss of function and discomfort, according to Merck.  

How to help 

How you and your veterinarian go about addressing this limp and alleviating your dog’s discomfort will depend on the cause of the limp. Strategies for addressing a limp may be used independently or in conjunction with other strategies. Potential ways to help your limping dog include: 

  1. Rest – Sometimes all a dog needs is some rest and to stop using the afflicted limb. Regardless of how serious the underlying cause is, Vet Street recommends that you should limit your pup’s activity. Consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. Minor issues may resolve on their own with some time to rest. 
    In addition to quick potty breaks and minimal exercise, restricting your dog’s movement may require confinement in either a crate or smaller enclosed area of your home. Limited activity may not be easy for all dogs, potentially causing stress. If you are struggling to keep your dog calm and quiet while they recover, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA can help. CBD + CBDA truly calms without sedating, which is key to allowing your dog to address stressful situations like being cooped up inside during recovery. ElleVet’s Calm & Comfort situational use chews act quickly to provide maximum support in stressful situations like immobilization and rest following an injury. 
  1. Cast, brace, splint, and sling – Depending on the severity of the injury, your veterinarian may recommend using a cast, brace, splint, or sling to address your dog’s internal trauma. These devices can offer support while your dog recovers from bone, muscle, tendon, or ligament injury. 
  1. Physical therapy – Your veterinarian may also recommend physical therapy for your limping dog. Physical therapy with various exercises, massage, and hydrotherapy can help improve mobility and limb and joint function. 
  1. Surgery – Surgical procedures may be necessary to address limping caused by more serious underlying health issues like torn ligaments and broken bones.  
  1. ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA – CBD + CBDA is a safe and effective option for addressing joint discomfort in dogs by working to improve discomfort and reduce inflammation. CBD + CBDA helps your dog by modulating their inflammatory response and perception of discomfort. This can be very beneficial for limping. 
    ElleVet partnered with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to conduct the first pharmacokinetic study and clinical trial on the use of cannabinoids in dogs with multi-joint discomfort, using ElleVet’s proprietary CBD + CBDA blend. The results of the study were extraordinary, with over 80 percent of dogs showing a significant or dramatic positive response. In helping your dog address mobility issues and be more comfortable, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA can lead to improved overall well-being! 

As always, consult your veterinarian if your dog shows signs of joint discomfort. For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products or how CBD can help your canine companion have the best quality of life possible with less discomfort, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]).  We are here to help. 

Any health or medical information in ElleVet blogs is from a variety of public and reputable sources. This information is intended as an educational resource only and is not a substitute for expert professional care.