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Limping in Dogs

05/05/2017 by Colleen Williams
May 5th, 2017 by Colleen Williams

why is my dog limpingAs one of the most common conditions in dogs, limping can be alarming for pet parents; no one wants to witness their best friend in pain. Whether you describe it as hobbling, hopping, or staggering, limping means your dog is hurt or in need of medical care, and must see a veterinarian.

Why is my Dog Limping?

Limping or lameness can be caused by injury or illness. Your vet will consider your pup’s age, health history, and the circumstances surrounding the limp (i.e. if your dog spontaneously started limping versus a moment of clumsiness during a game of fetch) before further investigation.  Possible causes include:

  • Trauma and exertion. Everything from broken bones to sprains to a torn ACL to muscle pulls can cause dog limping. Check paws for cuts, scrapes, or even ingrown toenails.
  • Congenital or inherited diseases. Hip and elbow dysplasia, IVDD (Intervertebral disc disease), dislocated knees, and osteoarthritis can all cause lameness. (Pro-tip: signing up for dog insurance when your pet is still a healthy puppy can help pay for the expensive therapies needed to treat congenital diseases, should they ever arise.)
  • Infectious diseases and outside factors. Lyme disease can cause lameness in dogs, as can the “Brown Dog Tick” virus, Ehrlichiosis. Infected wounds or insect bites can also cause limping due to swelling and pain.
  • Cruciate ligament disease. This common disease causes pain, inflammation, and mild-to-severe lameness of one or both knees.
  • Cancers. Any cancer that occurs in limbs and paws can cause dog limping as tumors of the bones, joints, and muscles will affect movement and overall health.

Treating A Limping Dog

After a physical exam, a vet will diagnosis your pup or run further tests which can be as extensive as in human medicine: it is not uncommon for pets to have x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs for broken bones, torn ligaments, and suspected diseases. Diagnosis can be expensive: out of the roughly 6,000 claims Healthy Paws saw last year for limping pups, x-rays ran up to $400, while CT Scans and MRIs can be very expensive – costing pet parents around $3,000 – $4,500.

Depending on the underlying cause, whether that is accident and illness, treatment then can include pain management medicines or, if it is more serious, surgery and rehabilitation such as physical therapy and acupuncture. Healthy Paws covers prescriptions as well as surgeries and alternative therapies (exclusions apply); our Cost of Pet Care report estimates that diagnosis and treatment for limping could total in the low thousands. Post-deductible and depending on your reimbursement level, however, you could pay only a percentage of that vet bill.

As your pet heals, you’ll be tasked with keeping her from rough-housing (running and jumping can injure your pup further), administering meds, and monitoring her symptoms. It’s not easy, but at least you’ll have a cuddly couch potato for movie nights and with pet insurance, your wallet won’t need recuperation too.