Just like humans, canines can limp; but, unlike humans, our furry friends are unable to tell us what’s causing their limping. Also known as lameness, canine limping occurs when a dog is unable to walk properly. Limping can vary; for example, a pup may be unable to put all of his weight on one or all of his limbs, which results in an unusual gait, which may be subtle or quite obvious. In other cases, a dog may lift up the problem leg and will completely avoid putting pressure on it; or, he may pull the affected leg behind him. Lameness can also vary in intensity; for instance, a dog may limp sporadically or he may have difficulty walking on a constant basis.
No matter the severity or how many limbs are affected, canine limping isn’t normal. Therefore, if you notice that your four-legged friend is walking abnormally, something is definitely wrong. At the first sight of limping, it’s important to further observe your pet so that you can take appropriate action.
Causes of Canine Lameness
Just like there are several reasons why people may limp, there are multiple reasons why a dog may limp. Some of the causes of canine lameness can include:
- An injury to a paw or one of leg joints may result in limping. For example, if your pup stepped on a piece of glass or a jagged rock while he was in his outdoor dog kennel or while he was taking a walk on his dog harness, or if he rolled his leg playing fetch with his rope and tug toys or diving for water toys for dogs, he may have sustained an injury that left him in pain. If he recently had a pedicure and one of his nails was trimmed too short, limping could result. To avoid these tips of injuries, use a sturdy pair of nail clippers for dogs when trimming your pet’s nails and protect his feet with dog boots while you’re out for walks, especially in areas where jagged rocks, sticks, or glass may be present.
- Joint disease. Canines can develop degenerative joint diseases, such as arthritis and hip and elbow dysplasia. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to these issues. Obesity can also increase the risk of joint disease. Infections, such as Lyme disease, can also affect the joints. When the joints are damaged, limping can result. Offering your pup a dog joint supplement and providing him with an orthopedic dog bed can offset or minimize the effects of joint disease, as can helping your pooch maintain a healthy weight; if he’s overweight or prone to obesity, consider filling his dog bowl with a dog food for weight loss.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
If your dog is limping, a trip to the vet might be necessary. If, for example, he has sustained a serious injury, such as a laceration or a broken bone, prompt medical care is necessary. If you suspect your pup’s lameness is linked to joint disease, a thorough physical evaluation will determine the root cause of the problem. However, if the cause of limping is a small cut or something stuck in your pet’s paw, he may not need to go to the vet. The best advice: asses your pet; depending on the severity of lameness, how long it has been going on, and the suspected cause, medical care may or may not be needed. Use your best judgment and act accordingly.
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