- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
The Mysterious Causes of Limping
The Natural Desire to Heal Suffering
A Difficult Diagnosis
Only a vet or physician can tell for sure why a pet or person might be limping. I've learned from veterinarians and doctors that diagnosing the cause of a limp can be extremely challenging many times, because there are so many different possibilities.
Minor things are what we would hope for, because they can heal quickly. Such injuries as the normal sprains or bruises that occur in the life of a pet or human can result in a limp. But the good news for younger patients especially is that this would not be too serious, and should not cause a problem after the healing process takes place naturally.
However, worse matters could arise, such as when deep bruising takes place and injures the bone itself, or when joints are damaged and take on a different shape making it difficult to walk. A careful x-ray reading could reveal such serious problems.
Animals get into fights. People have accidents. As a result, cuts are sustained. If not cared for, bacteria can enter and cause infection.
People go barefoot. Pets don't wear shoes. Paws and feet can be punctured by glass or nails.
Toenails can get out of hand. They can be overgrown, crooked, or strangely ingrown or otherwise misshaped; and this also can result in a limp.
Elbows, shoulders, knees, and hips are factors. All of these various bone structures can develop problems, such as arthritis or injuries to ligaments and tissue inside or around the joints.
Ticks and insect bites may even cause painful areas on legs and feet that can result in limping.
While we might be able to inspect for some causes at home by using our common sense, many of the causes of limping are diagnosed only by expert medical professionals. One thing we shouldn't try to do is medicate ourselves haphazardly. Medications often are either going to cause a bad reaction (such as the case with some pain killers) or could even poison us.
We are warned against giving our pets normal pain killers that we use such as aspirin or Tylenol.
This article is not meant to take the place of the advice of a physician, but is just a caution that a simple limp might not be so easy to explain.
When limping continues with a pet for more than two weeks, it may be appropriate to see a vet. But many minor limps resolve themselves within a two-week period or so. It usually is not necessary to seek medical attention right away.
Strains, minor injuries, and bruises will heal on their own. But where there is trouble connected to a joint, a doctor may be needed to make the right diagnosis. For example, there are several joints that could affect legs. It is not obvious always which joint is the one causing the limping.
The first step in figuring out what's causing a limp is a physical observation of the patient. But if that does not reveal the cause, an x-ray may be required.
Pets often limp because foreign objects are caught between their foot pads. Cuts on their paws naturally will cause a limp. Also, on hot, sunny days, they may burn their paws on the hot pavement.
Toenail irregularities many times are a source of pain. When nails are either too long or too short, they are likely to interfere with walking.
Arthritis never should be overlooked as a possible cause of limping. The problem many times is that the arthritis seems to be in one joint, such as the shoulder, when in fact it's another joint, such as the elbow, that really is the problem.
Tendons and ligaments also can become sore and torn. This surely will be painful enough to result in a limp. Many times, resting the affected area of the body is the only way to heal such internal injuries.
Of course, there may be the possibility in some cases that a major problem exists that is causing the limping, such as a tumor or a serious disease perhaps caused by an insect bite that infects the blood. For such reasons, there is no substitute ultimately for a thorough medical exam, after limping persists for an abnormal amount of time.