puppy limping

Puppy Limping 101

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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Why is My Puppy Limping?

Why-is-My-Puppy-Limping

Puppy limping can be due to a number of reasons, from congenital issues to traumatic events. The treatment for your puppy’s limping will depend on the diagnosis from your vet. We’ve listed below the main causes for puppy limping and what to do. 

Trauma

Trauma, more specifically physical trauma, is any form of injury that causes pain or stress to your dog’s body. There are many causes of trauma for dogs but the most common include falls, car crashes, too much physical exercise, and dog fights. Puppy limping injuries that result from trauma include strains, sprains, dislocations, wounds, cracked toenails, and fractures (broken bones). These can all cause great discomfort and result in a limping puppy. 

Hip Dysplasia

This is an orthopedic condition caused by a misfit between a dog’s femur (thigh bone) and the pelvic bone (hip bone). Hip dysplasia is more common in older bigger dogs due to their weight but can also affect puppies. The condition usually causes a signature puppy limping that looks like a bunny hopping. The condition may affect one or both hips.

Elbow Dysplasia

This is a joint disease that results from the abnormal development of a dog’s elbow.  It is a result of a misfit in the three bones that meet at the elbow: the ulna, radius, and humerus. The primary cause of this misfit is usually tears and lesions in the cartilage that surrounds the bones at the joint. Other causes include a poor diet, obesity, and growth abnormalities.

Luxating Patella

This is a condition where a dog’s patella (knee cap) slips in and out of its groove. When the patella is out of its groove, it becomes difficult for a dog to extend their leg fully. This can cause pain and discomfort every time your dog tries to straighten their leg. Luxating patellas are more common in small and toy breeds as they tend to have naturally wobbly kneecaps. Susceptible breeds include Poodles, Terriers, and Chihuahuas.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

Perthes disease is a condition that results from degeneration of a dog’s femoral head (the ball portion of the femur that fits into the hip). The degeneration is caused by an interruption in the blood flow to the femur. Due to lack of blood supply, the cells of the femur start to die. Usually, scar tissue forms at the joint and restores some function but it also causes arthritis. Perthes disease rarely affects both hips and is diagnosed with an x-ray.

Asymmetrical Growth

This is a condition where a dog’s limbs do not grow at the same rate. In some situations, the front legs may grow faster and the hind legs slower or vice versa. Usually, the slow-growing leg is affected by a condition like Perthes disease but it can happen to a healthy leg as well. A puppy limping due to unequal legs is not in pain unless there is an additional problem. 

Signs Your Puppy May be in Pain

Puppy limping is the telltale sign a dog is in pain. However, it is not the only one. Here is a list of the possible signs indicating your puppy is in pain: 

  • Increased aggression or anti-social behavior
  • Your dog may become quieter
  • Constant crying or whining
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy or general body weakness
  • Poor posture
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Reduced interest in playtime
  • Fever. 

What Should I Do if My Puppy is Limping?

What Should I do if My Puppy is Limping

As soon as you notice your puppy limping, you should examine their body for the possible cause. At home, a physical exam is all you will be able to do but it may be all you need to determine what is wrong with your limping puppy. 

To comfortably examine your pup for an examination, make sure that they are laying down and relaxing in a nice and comfortable spot.  Once the dog is laying down and still, start checking its body for any possible signs of injury or pain. 

The limbs are usually the source of limp-causing issues. Start by lifting the limbs, and gently pressing with your hands across the front and back of the leg. If you apply pressure on the source of pain, your pup will give a reaction.

Do not forget about the joints and paw pads. Joints may be swollen or visibly inflamed. Paws may have wounds, cuts, or objects like thorns lodged in them. 

After you have identified the source of the problem, contact your vet for assistance. In the meantime, try to make your dog as comfortable as possible. You can provide your pup with their favorite foods or apply some ice to the affected area. Whatever makes your puppy feel better. 

If you are unable to identify the source of your puppy’s limping, you should contact your vet as the problem may be internal. 

Is Puppy Limping an Emergency?

On its own, no. Puppy limping is usually not an emergency. 

Your vet should definitely see your puppy if they are limping but it does not have to be immediate. Limping is mostly a result of normal minor injuries like cuts, thorns, bruises, and splinters.

Puppy limping becomes an emergency if it is in combination with other signs that they are unwell. Some of the signs to watch out for in a limping puppy include:

  • Extreme lethargy
  • Loss of appetite, especially over many days
  • Fever. A dog’s normal temperature is between 101°F and 102.5°F (38.3°C to 39.2°C). If your puppy’s temperature reaches 103.5°F (39.7°C), seek your vet’s help immediately. 
  • Swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Extreme pain
  • Fracture
  • Unwillingness to make even minor movements

If your puppy’s limp comes with any of the above signs seek the help of emergency services immediately. 

Even if the puppy limping is not paired with other signs and symptoms, you should see your vet if it shows no signs of improving. 

Finally, you should also see your vet if you cannot identify what is causing your dog’s limp. This is usually an indication of a more serious internal disease. 

Treating a Limping Puppy

Since limping is only a sign of illness, the treatment for puppy limping will largely depend on what is causing the limp. After consulting with your vet, they should be able to tell you how best to help your puppy. 

Some of the treatment options for a limping puppy include:

  • Pain medication. A puppy limping is almost always in pain. Your vet should be able to prescribe painkillers to help ease some of your puppy’s suffering. 
  • Physical support. This can be in the form of a bandage, a cast, or a brace. It is normally done around fractures to restore the shape and function of the affected bone. 
  • Weight Management. A good diet and exercise can help dogs whose problems are from carrying excess body weight. 
  • Physical therapy. This is a form of treatment that uses touch and movement to bring about healing. Look out for a licensed physiotherapist to help your dog achieve a faster recovery.
  • Surgery. In some cases, particularly with more serious diseases like hip dysplasia, a more advanced treatment like surgery may be the best option. Surgery is usually the last resort as it is more invasive. It, however, has the benefit of more permanent results compared to other treatments.

Treating your puppy’s limp can get costly especially if it is an unplanned expense. Hip dysplasia surgery can cost up to $5000. To prepare yourself better for your puppy’s healthcare, a good pet health insurance plan is exactly what you need.

The OneVet pet healthcare plan gives you access to veterinary care for just $19.99 a month. With the plan, you also get 24-hour access to a licensed veterinarian and a $3,000 emergency fund for up to 6 puppies.

Puppy Limping Recovery

Puppy Limping Recovery

After your vet sees your puppy, you will be sent home with your pup to begin the recovery process. Recovery can either be quick and smooth or painful and stretched out depending on the limping diagnosis. 

The good news is you have the power to determine how fast and how well your puppy recovers. For the best recovery outcome, here is some of what you can do:

  • Pain management. In addition to what your vet recommends for your puppy’s pain, you can also find other alternative ways to reduce your pup’s discomfort. Therapies like CBD oil which has anti-inflammatory properties may help provide pain relief for your pup. For CBD that will work for your pup, try the Honest Paws organic CBD oil with turmeric
  • Maximum comfort. Provide a comfortable area for your dog to spend their time while they recover. A good orthopedic bed is highly recommended for dogs with mobility problems. The Big Barker Orthopedic Bed is designed to help your dog with pain and mobility in as little as 28 days. The bed is very easy to clean and has a sleek design that goes well with a modern home. 
  • Supplements can help strengthen your dog’s bones and joints resulting in improved mobility. Common supplements that improve your puppy’s limp include CBD, green-lipped mussels, fish oil, chondroitin, and glucosamine. If you do not want to put your dog on several joint supplements, an all-in-one product like the Honest Paws Green Lipped Mussel Powder is the best option for you and your pup. The powder contains many mobility support ingredients like fish oil, chondroitin, green-lipped mussels, and more all in one formula.
Mobility - Green Lipped Mussel Joint Powder
  • This bacon popcorn flavored Honest Paws Joint Powder uses a blend of ingredients that focus on all-encompassing joint health and support.
  • It works to maintain joint mobility, improve cartilage development, and enhance overall bone and joint health.
  • Green lipped mussel extract contains a nutrient-rich blend of natural proteins, minerals and omega fatty acids.