Lameness in Dogs: Possible Causes & Treatments

by | Apr 29, 2021 | Dog Health

Your dog could limp when you least expect it. Determining the cause of your pet’s limp is challenging, making the situation scary and alarming. That’s why we’ve put this guide together to help you understand canine lameness and how to treat it.

What is Lameness in Dogs?

Lameness or limping happens when your dog can’t use one or more of his legs properly. Pain and injury are usually linked to this condition.

Limping can happen gradually or suddenly. Gradual limping affects your pup over time, while sudden limping occurs after an injury or trauma. Chronic or degenerative disorders will result in gradual lameness, and injuries or trauma could lead to sudden lameness in dogs.

If you’re able to tell whether your dog has a gradual or sudden limp, your vet can easily identify what’s making your pet hobble. That knowledge could also help you decide whether to take your pup to your vet.

Dog lameness can also be acute or chronic. Your pet could experience an acute limp if he’s beginning to hobble. Meanwhile, chronic limping can happen if your dog limps constantly. This limp can occur for two weeks or much longer. Recurrent limping is possible, as well.

What are the Causes of Lameness in Dogs?

Canine limping can stem from a variety of causes, with several issues being more severe than others. Common causes for dog limping include the following:

Foot Injuries

Limping can be a sign of an injury to your dog’s foot. For example, small objects like glass or thorns could puncture the foot and make your pet hobble, especially if the wound becomes infected. Your furry friend could also get a painful paw and experience limping from the following causes:

  • Insect and animal stings or bites
  • Lacerations
  • Broken or overgrown toenails
  • Burns
  • Frostbite
  • Bruising

If a small object gets caught in your dog’s foot, watch out for constant licking of the area.

Joint Conditions

Like their owners, dogs can also be diagnosed with joint conditions. Several of these disorders could damage your dog’s joints and musculoskeletal system over time, which can cause chronic or recurring limping. Canine lameness can occur if your dog has any of the following conditions:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Hip or elbow dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation (dislocated knee)
  • Ligament disease
  • Intervertebral disk disease
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)
  • Infection

Bone Diseases

Your pet can also experience lameness due to bone disorders. Bone conditions that could change how your dog walks include hypertrophic osteodystrophy and panosteitis. Younger canines can be diagnosed with any of those conditions.

Apart from typical bone diseases, several forms of cancer can occur in your dog’s bones. Osteosarcoma is one of these conditions — irregular production of bone cells forms this tumor. In cases like this, early diagnosis is key. Have your furry companion checked once you notice limping or a decrease in performance or activity.

Injuries & Trauma

Injuries and trauma are the most evident causes for canine lameness. Like you, your dog could experience most of these conditions. Moderate to severe limping can stem from the following injuries:

  • Broken bones
  • Fractures
  • Sprains
  • Dislocated joints
  • Torn ligaments
  • Spinal cord injuries

Any of these injuries could leave your pet unable to move the affected leg, too.

What are the Options for Dog Limping Treatment?

The reason your dog is hobbling will determine treatment options. Acute limping could call for a few days’ rest. But for persistent limping, your vet could recommend surgery, additional testing, and a lengthy recovery. A prompt checkup will lead to a better prognosis.

Let’s take a look at the various treatments your pet can get for a limp.

Treatment for Mild Lameness

If your fur baby experiences acute lameness, just soothing his pain and having him rest could help with recovery. Your vet could prescribe the following nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to relieve your dog’s discomfort:

  • Carprofen
  • Meloxicam
  • Galliprant

Treatment for Lameness Caused by Joint Pain

If your pet is hobbling due to joint pain, your vet could prescribe nutritional supplements. The following supplements will help promote your dog’s condition recovery:

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
  • Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASU)

Other Treatment Options

Your vet could also recommend and perform further treatment to address dog lameness. The chosen treatment method will depend on the cause of your pet’s limp.

Here’s a list of the additional treatments your dog could need:

  • Added medications for pain, swelling, and infection. Your vet could prescribe medicine for a better immune system, as well.
  • Bandages, splints, braces, or casts
  • Surgery on the affected leg
  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer
  • Acupuncture
  • Physical therapy
  • Stem cell therapy
  • Cold laser treatment
  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation
  • Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS)
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT)
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Assistive devices like harnesses or slings
  • Weight management

How Do I Treat a Limping Dog at Home?

If you see your pet hobbling, look for signs of injury or pain in his paws. You could find a small object or feel an injury within any of your furry friend’s feet. Should you encounter any of these cases, the steps below will help you give first aid to your dog.

Small Objects

  • Remove the object completely from your dog’s foot.
  • Scrub antibacterial soap on the wound to clean it.
  • Wet the wounded paw in warm water if it swells. Make sure to mix Epsom salts with the water.
  • Dry your dog’s wound with a clean towel after the salt bath
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound.

Injured Paw Pads or Cracked Nails

  • Control bleeding from the affected area if necessary.
  • Apply pressure to the wound with a clean towel.
  • Apply ice to the affected paw to help blood vessels compress.
  • Take your dog to the vet if bleeding persists after 10 to 15 minutes.

Bruising or Sprains with Swelling

If you cannot afford a trip to the vet you have two options for treating bruises or sprains with swelling:

  • Apply ice to the injured leg.
  • Put your dog in a tub and wet the injured limb with a hose.

You can do any of those steps for 15 minutes twice a day.

Mild Limping

  • Apply a cold compress to the inflamed joint. This step could help the swelling go down.
  • Check if your dog’s joint will still swell or if his pain will persist within 24 hours. Otherwise, apply a warm compress to the affected joint and contact your vet.


  • Limit your dog’s movement and check if any of his legs has sustained trauma.
  • Go to the vet right away if your pet feels extreme pain or swelling.

Give Your Dog the Best Care for Limping

Canine lameness can be a challenge for you and your furry friend. But by understanding the condition, you can help your pet move normally again. Save our guide for future reference and don’t hesitate to ask your vet for extra help.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This