A limping puppy is very concerning, especially if it happens all of a sudden without any obvious reason.
I know what I talk about because our Rottweiler girl started limping around at around 6 months of age and we worried a lot about her health as Rotties are prone to hip issues.
We took her to the vet for a quick check-up, avoided any straining activity for a couple of weeks/months and it disappeared. However, your case might be entirely different.
Why is your puppy limping?
A puppy that suddenly starts limping could indicate mild muscle sprains, whereas gradual onset limps indicate serious diseases like hip dysplasia, but keep in mind that asymmetrical growth in puppies is also possible and often causes lameness.
In this article, you’ll also learn how to spot if your puppy’s limping is serious, and if you should take your limping dog to the vet. Last but not least, you’ll learn more about home remedies for your limping puppy.
7 Puppy Limping Causes
“Luckily” the most common cause for limping in puppies is a muscle strain that can be treated with rest. Try to disengage him from being active and running around too much. Also, skip puppy class if you are enrolled in one.
Their young bones and joints are still growing and can cause a funny walk. You don’t need to be concerned if he is just walking around wobbly.
You have to differentiate between sudden limping and gradual onset.
Gradual onset limps are caused by an underlying chronic disease such as hip dysplasia. Sudden limps imply a trauma or an injury.
Pay attention to how your puppy is handling the limping. If he is in pain, he will only take small steps with the hurting leg and refuses to put weight on it.
Poor nutrition will cause him to shift the limping from one leg to another or might result in lameness in more than one leg at a time. This disease is called osteodystrophy and develops from a lack of minerals or an all-meat diet.
You should speak to your vet about how you can improve his nutrition and read this to feed a proper raw diet.
Puppies can quickly recover from limping, so if it doesn’t improve after a short time, your puppy should be taken to the vet. The following causes are more serious and will also need veterinarian care to heal:
Developing and soft bones are prone to even mild trauma that can quickly result in fractures, dislocations, tears, and breaks. It can happen after a fall or in a car accident.
If he suddenly started limping, wait for 15 minutes and see if the problem resolves by itself. He could have just tripped and fallen on the wrong paw. Lameness that persists for a longer time should be checked by a veterinarian.
If your dog was involved in a car accident, take him to the vet immediately. He could be suffering from fatal injuries leading to inner bleeding and fractures.
2. Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease
Legg-Calvé-Perthes is a condition in which the growing bone cannot be sufficiently supplied with blood, causing the head of the femur to deform. Disrupted blood flow to the hip weakens the bone and it starts to deteriorate.
The lameness and limping often progress gradually over the course of several weeks until your dog’s leg can no longer bear any weight. Degeneration will cause the hip to collapse eventually and leads to arthritis.
The further the disease progresses the more painful it will become for your dog. Because the disease only affects one hip joint, he will lose muscle mass in the limping rear leg.
It’s commonly seen in small and toy breeds under 20 lbs. It mostly affects puppies between the age of 5 to 8 months but it may also start as early as 3 months.
Multiple x-rays will be necessary to monitor the disease ofter time as it progresses. Surgery may be necessary to remove the head of the femur. Therapy is then used to manage the pain.
3. Asymmetrical Growth
Usually, joints and bones grow simultaneously and if one leg is growing faster than others, it will result in limping. It often happens to one leg, so the body moves around the growing leg which results in limping.
This is probably what happened with our puppy and is no cause for concern. However, if your puppy doesn’t grow out of this lameness, a vet visit will be necessary.
4. Wobbly Kneecaps
Luxating Patellas also called wobbly kneecaps is a disease that causes the knee cap to dislocate, leading to sudden lameness in one leg that resolves after a few minutes.
The patellar ligament’s purpose is to connect the large thigh muscles to the shin bone. Small and toy breeds like the Bichon Frise or Maltese have a genetical predisposition for luxating patellas because the connection point of the ligament is not centered.
When your puppy starts moving, the ligament is pulled to the inside of the leg causing the groove in the femur to wear down. The patella is then free to move out of location and can snap back at any time.
Despite what this dislocation may sound like, your dog will hardly feel any pain. Depending on the severeness of the condition your dog may be able to tolerate this condition for the rest of his life but it will eventually lead to arthritis.
Grades II-IV patellar luxations can be surgically repaired, followed by post-operation pain management.
5. Hip dysplasia
When the hip joint doesn’t fit into the socket, it will cause limping. This condition can be treated by non-surgical interventions through medication and stem cell therapy or hip modification surgeries.
6. Elbow dysplasia
Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is caused by an anatomical misalignment.
7. Bone disease
Large breeds are the most prone to bone diseases like bone cancer. Your dog will experience walking as very painful and will refuse to put weight on the leg. A fast diagnosis will get you the best treatment.
Dog Limping But No Pain When Touched
Is your dog limping but has no pain when you touch him?
A dog that shows no pain but limps could indicate that your canine is either a pro at hiding the pain or he is not seriously injured.
A limping dog with a serious injury would be in great pain and would yelp or even get aggressive when you try to touch it.
If he refuses to put any weight on it then you should take him to the vet soon. Do not give him any painkillers or medication that is for humans and not prescribed by your vet.
Puppy Is Limping but Not Crying
Similar to a dog that seems to have no pain when being touched, your puppy not taking a step with his leg paired with you being able to touch it without him crying – that is actually a good sign.
This could indicate a simple muscle sprain. Wondering if a dog’s sprained leg will heal on its own?
Yes, a sprained leg should get better after a few days if he doesn’t seem to be in pain. If not, you should consult your vet.
Puppies tend to get confused by the situation and are not as good at hiding the pain as adult dogs are, which simplifies a preliminary diagnosis.
Should I Take My Dog to the Vet If He’s Limping?
It’s important to determine if the issue can wait for the next morning or if you have to call the vet right now.
If your dog acts normal, drinks and eats and doesn’t seem to be in abnormal pain, then you can probably wait for the next day.
Examine the leg, if it is either swollen, hot, dislocated or cracked into another angle, then you will have to bring your dog to the emergency room to avoid further complications such as infections or internal bleeding.
How Do I Know If My Dog’s Limping Is Serious?
The vet will start by palpating the bones and joints to see if the dog experiences pain or swelling.
He will also examine if the paw is simply hurt or something got stuck in it. Nails can also be broken and cause pain and limping.
As I said, often the cause of limping cannot be found without some tests that need to be run by the veterinarian. If bone and joint issues are assumed, an x-ray or even an MRT will help clarify things.
How Can I Help My Limping Dog at Home?
Give your puppy some rest and see if the limping goes away. Provide him with a comfortable and chew-proof dog bed.
Look if he has some visible injuries or something stuck in his paw.
Do not give your dog over the counter medicine or pain killers for humans as they are dangerous for your pet and will cause some serious side effects. Your dog won’t be able to get some real medication from the vet before the pain killers are washed out.
If you notice that the limp is persistent, take a video of your dog limping, so your vet can easily see the issue. Keep your dog calm to prevent further injuries.
Disclaimer: This blog post doesn’t substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. If your dog shows any signs of illness, call your vet.
Recommended Reading: Why your dog is twitching in his sleep + seizure risks