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Dog Limping (Lameness)

Limping or lameness is a symptom that indicates there is a problem in the locomotor system. The locomotor system, which includes muscles, bones, joints, and other parts of it, is what makes the movement possible. When there is something wrong with it, limping or other malfunctions start to express itself. The main causes of limping are different injuries, arthritis, joint dislocations, etc. The treatment depends on the causes and outcomes depending on the severity of the case. In most cases, treatment is successful.

My Dog is Limping, What Should I Do?

When you have noticed that your dog is limping, there are a few things that you can do to try to localize the problem. First, you have to determine the injured leg or legs. You can do this by monitoring the dog during a walk and seeing which leg your dog spares. If your dog can’t walk at all, there is a good chance the leg is broken or the joint is dislocated.

After this step, you have to see if there are any visible injuries on the leg such as cuts, edema, foreign bodies, burns, and in some cases broken bones. If you can’t detect any irregularities, you can palpate the limb with your hand to see if there is pain or a change in body temperature, for example, the joint is warmer than the rest of the leg. This is a sign of inflammation and in this case, veterinary intervention is required.

If you notice some small injuries like small cuts, you can clean them with an antiseptic such as povidone-iodine and observe the situation later on.

There is a big chance that the dog has severe pain, and you should be careful. You shouldn’t do anything without the help of another person, mainly for the restraining of the dog. This is very important because dogs can bite in self-defense because of the pain. In the case of more severe injuries, do not hesitate to seek veterinary help

Why is My Dog Limping (Causes)?

There are many causes of lameness in dogs. The main causes are a variety of injuries. With these causes, lameness or limping is usually sudden (acute). The usual injuries include the following:

  • Fractures
  • Burns
  • Different cuts
  • Spinal injuries
  • Foreign bodies (nails, wooden splinters, etc.)
  • Torn muscles or ligaments

Also, lameness can occur in other cases, as a result of some disease. Diseases that can cause limping are arthritis, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, other joint problems, tumors, and congenital abnormalities. In these states, lameness progresses slowly; in most cases, it is not visible at the beginning of the problem (chronic lameness).

Some of the breeds that are prone to joint problems are:

  • Rottweilers
  • Labradors
  • German shepherds
  • Newfoundlands
  • Dachshunds
  • Mastiffs
  • Saint Bernards
  • Great Danes

The condition worsens if the dog is obese, therefore it’s important to pay attention to his weight and the food he eats. Dogs that are predisposed to joint problems should consume food and supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate because these ingredients have a beneficial effect on joint health.

Lameness can also occur as a result of patellar luxation; a condition in which the kneecap moves from its normal location. Some of the signs of patellar luxation are difficulty in getting up or laying down, difficulty in running, unusual movements (kicking), etc.

Sometimes, dogs can express lameness but without the symptoms of pain. This usually happens when the dog is experiencing some kind of irritation. It doesn’t have to be serious, but you should check it anyway.

When is Limping an Emergency?

Limping is an emergency when the dog suffers from severe trauma which results in broken bones, torn muscles, larger-scale cuts or stab wounds in the limb area, burns, etc. If something like this happens, immediately go to the veterinarian, especially if there is an open fracture.

Diagnosis

After you have taken your dog to the veterinarian, it is important to give all the information about the limping, such as how long it’s lasted, if there was any injury that you witnessed, etc. After you have given your report, the vet will perform a physical examination to determine the cause of limping.

First, the veterinarian will examine the leg to see if there are any visible injuries such as cuts, burns, fractures, bruises, and sometimes diseases such as arthritis. If there are no visible problems, an orthopedic exam will be performed. The veterinarian palpates the leg from the toes to the hip by checking bones and joints.

With an orthopedic exam, fractures and arthritis can be diagnosed. In some cases, fractures can’t be diagnosed without an X-ray scan. Also, blood tests might be required because they can help with diagnosis and treatment.

How to Move an Injured Dog?

Accidents are not rare in a dog’s world. Whether it is a car accident or some other kind of trauma, it is important to remain calm and to not rush things. Moving an injured dog, especially if the dog has a spinal injury, can cause more problems.

If the dog had a bone fracture, unskilled moving can cause bones to cut through muscles and skin, and a closed fracture becomes an open fracture. By moving the dog with a spinal injury, it can lead to damage of the spinal cord, which leads to paraplegia.

The best thing to do is to call the vet at the scene of the accident. With his advice and help, you can minimize the chance of further injuries. If the veterinarian is unavailable for some reason, the best way to move the dog is on a wide wooden plank (or some other similar object that has a flat surface) without twisting its head, spine, or broken bone. You should fasten your dog with a band or some kind of strips. While in transport, make sure that someone is with the dog who will prevent any excess movement and will calm the dog until you arrive.

Treatment of Limping in Dogs

In the matter of limping, the treatment depends on the cause. In some cases, when the dog has sprained its tendon or pulled a muscle, therapy can be as simple as resting, limiting movement and using painkillers and supplements. In more severe cases, when there is a more severe injury or some disease, therapy will be more complex.

For different cuts and other similar wounds, your vet may have to stitch the wound, and you will have to dress the wound every day until the recovery.

Arthritis, as a very usual cause of limping, has to be treated with supplements that contain chondroitin, glucosamine, and MSM. Chondroitin is naturally produced in the body, and it helps with cartilage repair. Glucosamine is also an organic compound that helps with the production of synovial fluids to build tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. MSM has an anti-inflammatory effect, which relieves your dog from pain. Manganese in combination with chondroitin and glucosamine has a pain-relief effect. One of these supplements is Pup Science Hip & Joint for dogs; it comes in the form of chews, and its main ingredients are chondroitin, glucosamine, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), and manganese.

In the matter of fractures, in most cases, osteosynthesis has to be performed. Osteosynthesis is a surgical procedure where the surgeon puts the broken bone back together. After the surgery, your dog will have to be treated with antibiotics, NSAIDs, and supplements.

Unfortunately, in some cases where the leg is damaged beyond repair, amputation is the only solution.

In the aftercare, a dog needs to rest and minimize its movement. Your dog will have to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking and the contamination of the wound. There are also specialized dog beds made from memory foam that can help your dog in recovery. They are made to help your dog with the pain and to prevent decubitus.

Conclusion

Regarding the limping, it is important to act as soon as you notice the first symptoms to determine the right cause. Even if it’s something as simple as a strained tendon or a pulled muscle, you should take your dog to the veterinarian to avoid any possible complications and preserve the health of your dog. Limping or lameness can occur in dogs of any age group – whether it’s a puppy or an adult dog.

After injuries, which are the most common cause, limping can also be caused by one of the joint diseases. Supplements have a great role in the treatment of joint diseases. Pup Science Hip & Joint for dogs is one of the quality products that contain ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, which have many benefits in the treatment of joint problems and they help with pain management.

When the cause of the limping is a fracture or a joint dislocation, therapy is usually surgical. To help your dog through this period, you will have to give antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help with the pain. In this period, dogs have to wear an Elizabethan collar, to prevent contamination of the wound or dehiscence (reopening of the wound). If you have the opportunity, get your dog an orthopedic bed, because it will make his life easier.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Dog Limping

Can I Give My Dog Aspirin for a Limp?

The common use of aspirin is to alleviate the pain, but you should never give your dog over-the-counter drugs before consulting with a veterinarian. Aspirin can be given to dogs in a different dose than in humans, but it must be approved by a veterinarian first.

How Can I Help My Limping Dog?

The best way that you can help your dog is by taking it to the veterinarian. Provide all the information to your veterinarian to make the diagnosis easier and carefully follow all the instructions he gives you.

How to Treat Limping at Home?

When the limping is not severe, and if you are sure there is no serious injury, your dog might only need a good rest and maybe some anti-inflammatory drugs.

Why Do Dogs Limp?

There are many reasons and causes of limping in dogs. The main causes are different kinds of injuries, especially fractures. Also, one of the leading causes of limping is arthritis and joint dislocations. Sometimes, the cause can be as simple as a pulled muscle or a strained tendon.

Dr. Benjamin Razić (DVM)
Dr. Benjamin Razić (DVM)
Dr. Benjamin Razić is a very ambitious veterinarian, working in a busy regional vet station in Travnik. He is very interested in animal virology and is locally engaged in animal rights. Benjamin also has a certificate in surgical support, anesthesia monitoring, canine welfare, and hospitalization. He has a mixed-breed dog he has found on the streets.

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