A Guide to Why Your Dog is Limping: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

A Guide to Why Your Dog is Limping: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

  • Kirsten Thornhill - 25.01.2021

It’s always a good feeling knowing that you'll be greeted like no other by your furry best friend the second you walk in your door after a long day of work. A loving fur baby brings such joy and excitement into a paw parent’s life, helping ease your stressful day away. 

Unfortunately, old age, sickness or disease can cripple you pup’s quality of life and well-being without notice. If you doggo suddenly starts walking differently, for example, it can quickly effect their usual playful energy and daily exercise routine. 

When your pup starts limping it can get worrisome, fast. There are so many different things that may trigger their limp, thus, paw parents should address it quickly. If left unnoticed or unexamined, the small issue could escalate into big problems in no time. But, as a responsible paw parent, you can help get your pup into an ease of discomfort with a treatment plan in no time. 

How Do I Know if my Dog is Limping?

Have you noticed that fido is licking his paws more frequently or not putting pressure on a paw when he/she walks around the house?

When walking around becoming a difficult task for your pup, they may be limping. Much like us humans, if your dog is limping they may be favoring a leg, putting more weight on one versus the other. 

Your canine’s legs are made up of many many nerves, muscles, joints, blood vessels, and bones - any of which can be the source of pain.



Several other symptoms can commonly accompany limping, including:

  • Fracture or break
  • Weakness or numbness in legs or feet
  • Difficulty standing, walking up stairs, or running
  • Hip pain
  • Bunny hop gait
  • Yelping when touched or pet
  • Swelling
  • Imbalance
  • Inability to move leg, knee, or feet correctly 
  • Narrow stance

If you are able to recognize, assess, and understand your pupper’s limping, you can act quickly towards a treatment plan with your vet.

Once you’ve noted how your dog has been walking and acting, you can consult with your vet for an appropriate plan of action to get your best friend feeling better faster. 

A Sudden Limp vs A Gradual Limp: The Difference

When talking to your veterinarian, they’ll most likely ask you when the limping again and if any accident or injury led to the limping. 

There are two different types of limps: a sudden limp and a gradual limp. Distinguishing these two will help your vet determine whether an acute injury happen or if a medical emergency or disease is developing. 

If your pup was recently injured or in an accident of some sort, this may trigger them to have a sudden limp. 



If you can see a physical break in their skin or fur, a visible fracture or swelling, or signs of blood, then your sweet, little friend may have been involved in an acute accident, resulting in some type of limp. 

On the other hand, if your pup is developing a gradual limp, this may worsen and come on over time. It may start with occasional slowing during exercise or a slow decrease in activity. If your paw friend’s limp continues to worsen, this may be a sign of an underlying condition beginning to develop. However, not to freak out yet, this may also mean that it could go away on its own if it’s a simple ligament tear or sprain. 

However, if it is more serious, a vet visit may be necessary in your near future. 

Why is my Dog Limping?

There are several possibilities as to why your pup may be limping. Let’s get into it. 

Chronic Diseases and Conditions

Unfortunately, your pup may develop long-term conditions as they age. Here are some of the most common conditions/diseases they your four-legged friend may be limping into:

Osteoarthritis: occurs over time as dogs age, the synovial fluid in joints and cartilage wear down, causing inflammation and pain and stiffness

Hip Dysplasia: this is an orthopedic disease affecting the hip joint, common in large and giant dog breeds

Intervertebral Disc Disease: a herniated disk or slip in the spine ruptures, causing damage to the spinal cord

Cruciate Injury: ligaments in the knee joint tear, causing the tibia to move freely under the femur, causing inflammation and pain

Degenerative Myelopathy: spinal cord disease that onsets in middle aged to older dogs, causing a progressing paralysis



Surface Injuries

Random Accident: If your dog stepped on a foreign object or was stung by something, this could cause him/her to start limping. This can include broken toes or toenails, burns, or lacerations too. If you see them constantly licking their paws, this may be a quick sign that something is hurting them. 

Bone Fractures: If your pup has an exposed bone, call for emergency assistance ASAP. 

Dislocation: There may be a separation between bones causing the limp

How Can I Diagnose Dog Limping?

First and foremost, offer your pup some lovely cuddles to help ease their pain and discomfort. Getting to the source of any health issue may take time. 

Some surface wounds can be treated at home, keeping your dog’s pain levels down can be treated too with holistic care options in the meantime. 



Our potential causes we discussed above should help give you some insight as to why your doggo is starting to limp. 

Of course, if you’re worried and want a professional’s opinion, we highly recommend taking fido into the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Better safe than sorry here!

How to Care for Your Dog at Home

Once you and your veterinarian have solved your pup’s limping concern, you’ll need to help your furry friend recover in numerous ways.

Follow your vet’s healing and medication instructions to the T, as your pup’s well-being and health greatly depend on it. 

1. Post-Surgery Care is Key

If the limp was extreme and there were any bone or joint damage and your pup may have needed surgery, then your at-home medical care instructions are super crucial!

To ease your paw friend back into full health, rehabilitation and therapy can serve great wonders to help strengthen and heal the joints and bones safely. 

You may also be recommended to alter your dog’s diet to avoid any weight gain or lack of exercise. 

2. Mental Health and Stimulation

If your dog is no longer physically able to exercise due to their limp, this can be super frustrating for them. Your furry friend is bound to get bored and lazy, especially since you can’t take them for their usual walks or playtime dates. 

Bored dogs can develop bad habits, including barking, ruining your items, or howling obsessively. However, you can curb this unwanted boredom with fun activities!

Interactive puzzle toys can help ease their boredom and distract them with a yummy treat. 



3. Pain Management

Once your pup has been fully examined by their vet, a treatment plan is bound to be discussed. 

If it just so happens that your doggo is experiencing joint discomfort associated with aging, a pain management plan may be in order to maintain their healthy living.

There are a whole slew of options for holistic wellness that comes to supporting bone and joint health in doggos and humans alike!

One of our favorite options is cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD. 

CBD is derived from the hemp plant and is non-psychotropic, meaning it won’t get your dog high. 

CBD works by interacting with your doggo’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), helping regulate different organ systems and their processes, including their appetite, sleep, mood, and pain responses and regulations. 

CBD is great for doggos because it can come in different forms! Here, at Petly, we take great pride in having a variety of CBD products for your dogs (+ cats too)! 

Our Pet Hemp CBD Oil is a pooch favorite, featuring a beautiful blend of naturally occurring compounds and terpenes. 



If you’re looking to ease your pup into CBD with a method that’s familiar to them, our Pet Hemp CBD Dog Treats are just the right amount of beef flavored CBD bites! These tantalizing CBD treats not only host a wealth of health benefits, but will have your pup begging for more!

 Dog Limping: Final Thoughts

No paw parent wants to see their four-legged friend in pain or discomfort. It can be extremely heart throbbing seeing your doggo limp in distress.

There are multiple potential causes for sudden and gradual dog limping, so it’s important to take note of your dog’s normal behavior, so you’ll be able to better detect when an issue comes up. The last thing you’d want is for his/her limp to go unnoticed for days on end, which may cause the issue to worsen. 

Once you’re able to recognize the issue, seek appropriate vet help, and create a treatment plan for fido, you’ll be on your way to canine recovery in no time!

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