A limping dog is scary but you can often check a few things out to see if it might be something you can deal with. It always helps to wet or wash the leg and foot first to get a clearer view of swelling, cuts, bumps, bruises, wounds, splinters, or foxtails. Washing or wetting down the leg makes all of those problems easier to see.
Always proceed with CAUTION: Any dog will bite if they feel pain. Use restraint and get help for everyone’s safety. Do not mess with a sore leg unless you know the dog’s temperament. Even “nice dogs” will bite when hurt.
Nails that have grown too long can catch on things and become cracked, red, infected, bruised, broken or painful. Check the nails for breaks and the nail bed for infection. Keep the nails trimmed to prevent problems
The toes can hide cuts, wounds, growths, or infections. A swollen toe may mean a sprain, a broken one, or an infection from a wood splinter, nail or wire puncture, bite, or plant. You should clean up any wound or infection with warm water and mild dishwashing detergent. Your dog may need treatment for painful or infected wounds.
Underneath the foot, around the pads, you may find a cut, wound, infection, or just really red skin. Red inflamed skin often results from allergies to grasses causing itching and chewing to the feet. Sometimes running on rocks or asphalt can bruise or blister the pads. Apply cortisone and Neosporin to soothe the itch and skin infection. It always helps to wash the foot and area around the pads.A sock, light bandage, or cone is helpful to keep dogs from chewing the area.
If the foot does not seem painful or involved, move up the leg to check for bumps, bruises, or swollen joints. If gently bending a joint causes discomfort, you may be dealing with a mild sprain or arthritis in the joint. Arthritis is really common in older dogs and may cause a bit of limping off and on when they over do it. Coming up lame after playing could mean a pulled muscle. Arthritis in the neck, spine, or hips will also cause limping that looks like it is coming from the foot or one of the legs.
If your dog is putting some weight on the leg, but limping a bit, it could be any of the common problems above. If your dog can’t support any weight, is extremely painful, and you can’t determine the cause of the discomfort, get it checked out. If you want to try and relieve a bit of the pain try a dose or two of aspirin.
Sometimes poodles, yorkies, maltese, lhasas, and other toy breeds will hike up a back leg because their kneecap is going in and out of place. The kneecap can rub on the joint and make it painful. In some dogs it is just the pressure of the kneecap in the wrong place that makes things feel different. Holding their leg up relieves the pressure. Some dogs grow out of it. Others can be exercised to tighten up the knee joint. A few may need surgery to make things right.
For any of the above problems you can aspirin to help with pain and discomfort. The dose for dogs is 1 adult aspirin per 30 pounds twice daily or 1 baby aspirin per 5 pounds twice daily. If the situation gets worse or doesn’t improve in a day or two, get it diagnosed and treated. Do not use Tylenol or ibuprofen in dogs. Both can have side effects.
Dr Greg loves to give people common sense medical advice. His book, Dog Dish Diet has nutritional tips that will help you pick the right food and treats to help with hotspots, ear infections, fat dogs, and even seizures!