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What It Means If Your Dog Is Limping on Its Back or Front Legs

Updated on May 12, 2014
Here are the common reasons that  a dog may be limping.
Here are the common reasons that a dog may be limping. | Source

If your dog starts limping suddenly or has a limp that slowly gets worse, it is important to have him or her checked out by a licensed veterinarian. Limping can be anything from a mild problem that goes away on its own to an indication of a serious condition.

Here are some common reasons for a dog to be limping. You can examine your dog and determine if it is a condition where you can give him or her some relief prior to seeing the doctor.

Something is stuck in its paw

If your dog is limping and tending to not want to put pressure on one of his or her legs, it might be a good idea to check the paws for a cut or an object lodged in the foot pads. Or the foot may have been bruised, cut or even burned.

If it is the summer or you live in an area with high temperatures, your dog may get burned foot pads if it goes out onto asphalt or concrete roads or sidewalks.

If there is a cut or an object in it, be careful about removing it as even a good natured dog may attempt to snap at its owner when it is hurting.

Your vet will likely treat an abrasion or injury with bandaging or stitches and a round of antibiotics.

To prevent foot injuries in dogs who may be prone to it or live in areas where foot injuries can be a problem, consider purchasing dog footwear or paw protectors. T

here are also waxed based creams that can be applied to a dog's foot to help protect the sensitive pads.

Soreness due to falling or running into something

Sometimes a dog may run into something or jump off of a high place when they are excited.

We've all seen dogs running in circles when they are excited and joyful. I once had a dog that was so excited to see me when I got back from a trip that she started running with all her strength towards me. As she got closer she either did not judge the distance or forgot to stop and ran straight into my legs knocking both of us over. She ended up standing up and limping.

A quick trip to the vet revealed nothing more serious than bruising, and after some rest and pain medication she was better.

When a dog gets excited they may also jump off of something such as furniture or a table and injure their legs. Small dogs with skinny legs are especially prone to injury this way but any dog may face injury by jumping off of furninture.

If a dog gets into a fight, an injury causing the dog to limp may occur.
If a dog gets into a fight, an injury causing the dog to limp may occur. | Source

Injury from a fight

Dogs are territorial and protective. They may get in a fight with another pet in the house or with a pet that they see as an intruder. When dogs instinctively fight they sometimes bite each other's legs, ears and tails.

Depending on the size of the dog, a bite to the leg may lead to injury, bruising or fracture. If your dog has been in a fight it is important to make sure that he or she is checked out by a vet and up to date on their vaccines, including rabies shots.

If they are limping, check for any visible injury or open wound and don't forget to check their paws for tears or puncture wounds.

Fights can lead to anything from mild soreness to life-threatening illnesses.

Injury from being hit by a vehicle

If your dog is limping and has been out of the house or out of an enclosed and sheltered yard, he or she may have been hit by a vehicle. Even being grazed by a car, motorcycle, recreational vehicle or bike can cause bruising and soreness or even a broken bone.

If you suspect the limp may be caused by being hit by a vehicle, it is important to seek prompt care for your pet. Internal bleeding or punctured organs may also be non-visible injuries that the dog is dealing with.

If your dog is limping, it could be a broken bone or fracture.
If your dog is limping, it could be a broken bone or fracture. | Source


If the limp has developed over time your dog may be dealing with arthritis. Just like human arthritis, the disease can target certain areas including the hips and legs. If the limp is accompanied by stiffness, if your dog is older or a very large breed, arthritis may be the culprit.

There are great products both through prescription or over the counter.

One of the best over the counter treatments for arthritis is Cosequin which comes in chewable tablets.

Improvement can be seen in just a few weeks. If the problem is arthritis talk with your vet about your options and how to give your pet relief and stop the limping.

Hip Dysplasia

One of the symptoms of hip dysplasia in a dog is limping. This is a serious condition where the dogs hip socket is not formed correctly and the joint is then loose and prone to injury.

According to the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, treatment for hip dysplasia depends on the severity of the condition in your pet.

Management of the pain, therapy and surgery are all options.

Other symptoms of hip dysplasia include slowness to get up from sitting or lying down, having trouble climbing stairs and having trouble climbing things.

If your dog's limp is caused by this condition, your vet can design a treatment plan for your specific type of dog and its condition.

If your dog has a bone tumor and is limping, find out if it is cancerous or benign.
If your dog has a bone tumor and is limping, find out if it is cancerous or benign. | Source

Cancer or Benign Tumors

According to Pets WebMD, one of the earliest signs of bone cancer in a dog is limping. This condition is serious and your dog should see a vet promptly for a diagnosis.

If you suspect bone cancer, look for other signs including:

  • swelling
  • having trouble breathing (later stages)
  • lameness that gets worse
  • evidence of pain

It is important to remember that dogs can get either malignant or benign tumors on their bones (or both), so knowing what you and your dog are dealing with will make it easier to decide a treatment or comfort measures.

Getting the correct treatment is key

Any health concerns should be discussed with your dog's vet. Hopefully this overview will give you an idea of what your dog may be facing and help you provide the dog with relief until getting to the doctor.

What do you suspect may be causing your dog to limp?

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