Why is my Dog Limping?

Limping in dogs can be a sign of something serious, or it can be a sign that your dog has suffered a minor injury that just needs a few days to heal. Dog owners are often not aware of the various reasons that their dog might be limping, and that can make it challenging to identify the correct diagnosis for your dog’s limping. The longer that your dog has been limping, the less likely it will be that your dog can get prompt treatment.

Knowing more about dog limping is important so that you can provide the kind of care that your dog needs. Some smaller concerns can be handled directly by pet owners, while others will require a visit to the vet. Knowing the difference between both kinds of problems can make a big difference in your ability to alleviate problems when they show up. If you are ready to learn more about why your dog is limping, you need to keep reading.

dog limping

Causes of Limping in Dogs

Dogs might limp for a variety of reasons. It’s important for dog owners to be able to recognize the signs of severe injury or pain compared to lesser injuries that might not be cause for as much concern.

Listed below are the main causes:

Sore Pads of the Foot

This can happen when your dog plays too hard, steps on something sharp, or goes outside with you on the hot pavement when it is too warm for dog paws to be out and about. Sore pads of the foot are often really easy to treat, and simply putting some ointment on the sore pad and keeping it clean can help a lot as your dog heals. Your vet might need to check out your dog’s feet if they have been kept indoors for a few days without seeing any improvement.

The pads of your dog’s feet can get sore from yeast infections, skin infections, cuts, and other more severe problems that might necessitate a visit to the vet to get the right medications for relief.

Broken Limb

If your dog has not completely broken a bone and has instead fractured something, they might still put some weight on their injured leg rather than holding it in the air without using it. This kind of more minor break can sometimes be overlooked at first since many people believe incorrectly that their dog would not be able to use a broken leg at all. Fractures can often be healed with a splint and some rest, but more serious breaks will often require surgery. Broken limbs take a long time to heal, and if you think that your dog has broken something, you will want to head to the vet right away.


In older dogs, arthritis is often noticed first as limping after going for a walk or after playing. Your dog might limp all the time due to arthritis or only when exerting. Early-stage arthritis can be easy to mix up with other smaller problems that might heal with a few days of rest. Make sure that your older dog goes to the vet for evaluation for arthritis if they start limping.

The sooner that you get your dog onto a pain management protocol and joint care protocol related to arthritis, the better. Older dogs can suffer a big impact on quality of life when they have arthritis, so you will want to be sure that you attend to limping related to arthritis pain sooner rather than later.


Sprains and strains can happen, and dogs can actually experience a lot of pain related to these more minor injuries. These kinds of concerns often take care of themselves with a little rest and some pain medications, but you should be wary of sprains that take longer to heal than a few days. This might mean that something more serious is going on, and a visit to the vet might be needed.

Cancer or Other Serious Illness

There are a few serious illnesses, like cancer, which can cause pain in a limb or in the joints. If your dog has not improved with other treatment modalities, you should be sure that you head to your vet. Catching cancer or conditions like Lyme Disease early can make all the difference for your dog’s long-term well-being. While not every one of the more serious health conditions can be treated readily, even when caught early, there are usually key benefits to getting on top of treatment for serious illnesses as soon as possible.

ACL Tear

ACL tears are much more common in larger breeds of dogs. These injuries can be quite sudden and can happen when playing or even just going for a walk. Your dog might immediately start limping badly, or it might take a while to see the full loss of function in the limb. The severity of the tear has a lot to do with the symptoms of this kind of injury. This kind of problem almost always requires surgery to correct, and you will need to take your dog to the vet for evaluation if you think this is the reason for their limp.

Contact Emergency Veterinary Care Centers if Your Dog is Limping

There are various reasons that your dog might be limping, and some of them are much more serious than others. If your dog is not improving after some time resting and taking pain medications, something more severe might be going on. You should never hesitate to take your dog to the vet if they have started limping and you have reason to think that there is a bigger issue going on than a sore pad in their foot.

Your veterinarian will be able to advise you about the best course of action and help you take care of your dog’s needs so they can get back on their feet as soon as possible. Limping can severely limit your dog’s quality of life over time, so you should not hesitate to get help from your vet if you need it. For more information, or if you would like to speak to an emergency vet, contact Emergency Veterinary Care Centers by calling one of our locations. Our highly skilled professionals are here for you and your pet 24/7.

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