Why is My Dog Limping?

There are a plethora of reasons your pup may be limping or lifting a leg. Here are a few common things that happen to our furry friends that may cause lameness:









Muscle Soreness or Strain                                                      

Sometimes, after playing hard, running or making a sharp turn pets can develop muscle soreness or strain. When  your pup develops a muscle strain, massage, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID) (don’t use human medication for this!) and therapeutic laser treatments are excellent options along with rest.










This condition typically affects middle aged to older dogs primarily, unless there is a history of trauma to a joint. This is an inflammatory process that leads to discomfort in joints, which can include the back and hips most commonly. Your veterinarian can make this determination with physical examination findings and x-rays of the offending joint. Treatment is then aimed at knocking back the inflammation with medications such as an NSAID and therapeutic laser. Maintaining cartilage health with supplements such as glucosamine/chondroitin and omega-3s, and an injection called Adequan are also very important in slowing the progression of arthritis. There are special prescription diets that add most of these joint supplements in the food. 


Two Dogs, Running Dog, Great Dane







Knee Problems                                                                 

There are two problems that primarily affect the knees of dogs. One is called a luxating patella. Essentially, the knee cap doesn’t stay where it should in the groove of the femur (thigh bone). This ‘loose’ knee cap can go out of the groove and then the large quadriceps muscles of the thigh pull in a sideways direction. This can then mess with how the leg functions and can pull on the ligaments of the knee and lead to cranial cruciate ligament tears (similar to ACL in humans). The treatment for this condition is surgery to make the groove deeper to prevent the knee cap from ‘escaping’ the groove.

This leads us to the second problem that we can see with knees in dogs – the cranial cruciate ligament tear (ACL). Usually in dogs, it is a degenerative change to the ligament that leads to a tear as opposed to a sudden injury like we see most commonly in people. Sometimes owners will see their pup limping on and off – where they seem to get better then return to limping – until all of a sudden they won’t use the rear leg or are much worse. This is a result of a partial tear that then progresses to a full tear. The bummer is that when a dog has one ACL tear, statistically they will likely have a problem with the other ACL within the next couple of years. The best option for treatment of this condition is surgery to help stabilize the knee. Arthritis will always be present in this knee and so treatment for arthritis should be paired with surgery.


Sometimes telling the difference between these conditions and others can be difficult. An examination by your veterinarian coupled with x-rays may be needed and then your veterinarian can help you make a plan for how best help your pup.


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