There could be a myriad of reasons why a dog may limp.  But as a pet owner often the greatest struggle is watching a pet you love suffer day after day with the same ailment.  Walking slows down gradually, energy depletes and what they were used to doing suddenly becomes a real challenge.  One of the biggest difficulties in having a pet develop a limp, is being able to diagnose just how severe the injury might be.

Taking a Closer Look

When you notice your dog or cat begin to walk in an unusual way, the first thing you will want to do is to examine them. Stand a little distance away from your pet and call them to you using a treat. As they move, note which part of their body seems to be avoided. Once you’ve fed them the treat, begin take a closer look. Start with the paws, checking between the toes for any lodged items, cuts or thorns they might have gotten. If the feet are clear, start working up the legs, feeling the tendons, seeing if there is any swelling or sensitivity around the joints or any lumps.  If your dog winces, lurches away, or yelps when your hand touches an area, you can guess that place is the source of pain.

Common Causes of Lameness

If your dog or cat favors his other legs over one weaker leg, failing to lean on or put weight on one limb,  keep a close eye on him.  Does this pattern continue? Is the dog or cat sleeping a lot more often than usual, or staying in one area instead of walking and exploring around?  Notice if the injured or ailing limb seems to get better, or if the problem is steadily getting worse.  Some dogs and cats strain their muscles or overextend themselves in a way that is painful and might take weeks to heal. However, in some cases a tumor might be growing,  or the cartilage might be worn down between the joints, creating a problem that will only get worse. Use observation to identify if the lameness seems to be causes by a temporary injury or a chronic problem. Here are some of the main conditions which could contribute to an animal’s limping.

  • Pulled muscles
  • Cramping/dehydration
  • Arthritis
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Cancer/Tumors
  • Damage to the webbed toes (something caught in between, torn skin, etc.)
  • Fractures
  • Congenital conditions (of the elbow, joints, etc.)

Watch your dog or cat for 2-3 days to see if the injury gets better, trying to keep your pet as relaxed as possible. Some pet owners have found ice packs or heat pads to be very soothing when an animal is uncomfortable. If the problem stays consistent, then consider calling your vet for an appointment where he can determine the exact culprit causing lameness in your precious pet.