Why Is My Dog Limping? 4 Common Causes

Reviewed By Tom •  Updated: 04/05/23 •  3 min read
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In the United States, our beloved pets receive emergency medical care every 2.5 seconds, and some of the most common injuries include arthritis and skin infections. Both conditions can cause your dog to limp, but there are other causes many people don’t even consider.

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Learning the most common causes of dog limping can help you determine when it’s an emergency and when you can wait until the next day to see your vet.

Keep reading this guide to learn four common reasons why your dog is limping and what to do about it!

Why Is My Dog Limping

1. Arthritis and Other Joint Diseases

Certain conditions like arthritis, hip dysplasia, or Lyme disease can cause joint pain in dogs. If you don’t see a visible wound and you notice your dog is limping, it’s best to take them to the vet for an evaluation.

If your vet suspects Lyme disease, they’ll do a test and discuss tick prevention with you. If it’s arthritis, they’ll likely suggest a dog joint pain supplement to reduce joint pain and help with symptoms of hip dysplasia.

2. Paw and Nail Injuries

If you notice your dog suddenly limping out of nowhere, a recent injury could be the culprit. A foreign body like a thorn, nail, glass, stick, or any other sharp object is common. When this occurs, the paw will swell, and an infection can quickly set in.

You’ll find that insect bites or stings can also cause swelling and tenderness.

In other cases, your dog could have a broken toenail which can cause difficulty walking. Injuries like burns or frostbite could be something to consider, depending on where your dog has been.

If your dog has just started limping and is licking its paw constantly, you should check the area and schedule an appointment.

3. Traumatic Injuries

Injuries or sudden trauma can cause moderate to severe limping in dogs. This type of injury is usually from sports injuries, car accidents, or even when you’re running around and playing.

A variety of injuries can occur, which include:

If you notice your dog suddenly becomes lame or see them injure themselves, try to keep them still and quiet. It’s best to wait for 20 minutes to see how they feel. In many cases, dogs will initially cry but will be fine soon afterward.

However, if the pain continues or you notice any deformities, you must immediately take them to an emergency vet.

4. Bone Disease

Finally, your limping dog could have problems with bone disease. Young puppies between 3 and 6 months are prone to inflammatory conditions like HOD (hypertrophic osteodystrophy). This condition usually affects larger breeds like Great Danes or Irish Setters.

With HOD, the blood vessels near the growth plates of the long bones bleed into the bone, which weakens the bone structure. Symptoms include lameness, joint inflammation, and fever.

Bone cancers like osteosarcoma can cause leg pain in dogs, often causing lameness and tenderness within a week.

Both of these conditions require prompt treatment. If you notice joint inflammation, fever, or leg tenderness, see your vet as soon as possible.

Learn the Common Causes of Dog Limping

Now that you know the most common causes of dog limping, you’ll be better able to detect a serious problem right away.

Whether your dog is limping suddenly or they have a known joint condition, you should schedule an appointment with your vet for a health checkup.

For more helpful pet health tips, make sure to check out the rest of our blog!

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Tom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer while most of his works are based on animals. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!