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Why is My Puppy Limping? Your Question Answered

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

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Adopting a precious little puppy is the most heartwarming experience in the world. You bring back your cuddly ball of fur and want to devote all your care and attention towards it. However, just when you think everything is going as planned, you suddenly find your puppy limping. It is important to note that your dog may be limping due to various reasons.

The range of causes that leads to limping can either be benign, severe, or even fatal. When you are aware of the diseases that causes limping in dogs, you start to think of what your puppy might have. For any dog owner, this can be worrisome especially the fact that your dog is still just a puppy. Fortunately, often times you can easily take care of the limping in dogs at an early age without putting them through intense veterinary treatment.

If your puppy suddenly begins to limp, it is most probably an indicative of a muscle sprain, which will eventually wear off with time and your puppy will start to show signs of improvement.  Alternatively, limping in dogs may also be result of more serious conditions, which includes hip dysplasia or a degenerative joint problems.

The hints that you should be looking for in this case is the gradual build-up of the limp. A  gradual and progressive onset of a limp occurs due to the irregular skeletal growth of the puppy. You must be aware of and recognize partial lameness in the dog and sign the puppy up for veterinary attention early so that you can treat the lameness before it transpires into something worse.  

How to Examine Your Puppy’s Limp?

To comfortably examine your pup for an examination, make sure that the little dog is laying down and relaxing in a nice and comfortable spot. This inactivity is not just important at the time of examination, but it is also pivotal for a dog to stay rested for recovery in  the instance of a muscle sprain. Once the dog is laying down and resting, you need to locate the area that is causing the pain, which is leading to the limp. In other words, you need to indicate the pain. You can do this by lifting it’s limbs, and gently pressing your hands across maybe the front leg, back leg, hip joint, and other areas that may be causing the pain.  If any of these regions is the source of pain, the dog show a reaction. This is an effective method that a vet will also perform to examine a dog’s limp. Another thing that you must examine in a limping dog is the paws, especially if they are at a young age. 

Common Causes of Limping in Puppies

Small dogs are little balls of restless energy. They are in the puppy stage where you can expect them to wander off into the yard and get their paws into everything that they can. Thus, if your puppy is limping after long hours of playing in the outdoors, then one probable reason could be in the form of a splinter, or thorn stuck in their toes, causing discomfort. This is why you should make sure to examine their toes to check for any spiky source of discomfort that may be leading to the limp. In pups that have long fur, their own hair can get stuck in between their paws causing a limp.  Moreover, a dog may also show signs of limping because of a cracked toe nail. Therefore, before you side your concerns towards joint diseases and major trauma, make sure that you have ruled out any superficial issues that maybe causing your dog to limp.  Make sure to carefully observe your puppy and how it limps. A limp that truly stems from a serious condition will be a great source of pain and restrict the mobility and movement of your dog. It prevents them from putting pressure or weight on the affected leg. Often times, it is the result of poor nutrition that paves the way for other causes of limping. A limping dog that does not have the nutritional requirements to recover is likely to experience even worse limping as they age. Lack of sufficient nutrition can contribute to osteodystrophy that can develop when you do not provide the puppy with a diet that contains adequate minerals. In this instance, you can always speak to your vet as they will guide you on meals and supplements. Generally speaking, it is important that you give your dog a diet that is rich in proteins, since they are macronutrients that help generate new muscle tissue in the instance of damage. The recovery of puppies from limping can be rather quick, which is why you must take them to the vet as soon as possible if recovery is taking longer than expected. The following are some of the serious causes of limping that need immediate veterinary care. 

Trauma

Dogs at a very young age have softer bones, that still require the proper nourishment and slight wear and tear to grow strong. Younger dogs do not have the strength and dexterity in their limbs to withstand a gruesome trauma, such as a ligament tear, dislocation, fractures and hard collisions. In the instance of an accident, wait for a couple of minutes to see if the dog recovers itself. If the dog still limps and the pain continues to persist, then you must take it to the veterinarian as fast as you can. If you puppy trips or falls and shows indications of pain, then you should not prolong treatment at all. If the physical trauma induces pain and limping in the puppy, this constitutes as an emergency situation.

Perthes Disease 

In this condition, blood supply in the dog’s body is unable to reach to a bone at the growing stage. This means, that the particular leg is not getting the nutrient supply needed to form normally, resulting in the femur to underdo deformative changes. This causes the hip and legs of a dog to weaken and become very fragile and brittle. Not treating this condition sooner will also result in the gradual deterioration of the legs. This progression of the degenerative disease will lead to a more severe case in the name of arthritis. The more this disease spreads, your dog will eventually become unable to bear their own weight, which will lead to the painful experience of lameness and limping. Not to mention, not many treatments exist for a dog limping because of a degenerative disease. 

Luxating Patella 

This condition refers to the slipping or dislocation of a dog’s knee joint. The patellar ligament connects the thigh muscles to the shin bone. This condition is more common in toy breeds because their knee joints are already no aligned correctly due to their deformed shape. This condition is more difficult to identify because a dog can stay indifferent to it for quite a long time, leaving the owners no noticeable cues to the pain.  If not treated early on, it can also lead to other complications. 

Joint Issues

Apart from some of these common issues, other problems of the joints and bones also exist that encompass a very painful process and treatment for the dog. A joint consists of a bone, ligament and fluid that keeps the limbs intact when the dog is walking. If they face any issue due to a disease, or trauma, then your puppy is likely to limp when they walk.  

How Do I Know When Limping is Serious

To check the severity of your dog’s limp, your vet will begin to examine the dog’s legs to check for any injury, swelling or signs of a broken bone. They will also make check whether the dog is squealing or biting out of anxiety when they put weight on the affected area. If the initial diagnosis hints towards joint issues or internal issues, then the vet is likely to perform an x ray to confirm and look closely at the situation. 

When to Take Your Puppy to the Vet for Limping

Deciding whether to take the puppy to the vet instantly after they show limp, or wait for a day or two is tough. The best option is to perform a self diagnosis and examine the problem.  If they have a small rock stuck in their paw, then take it out and wait 15 minutes to see if they are walking fine again. If the limping is persistent and not getting better, then this is a good indication that you need to take it to the vet. 

How to Help Your Limping Puppy at Home

Provide them with comfort, care, attention and follow the medication treatment that the vet gives you. Make sure that they are well-rested, fed and not running around. Keep them in the cattle or an enclosure until they recover. 

Do Puppies get Hip Dysplasia?

Yes hip dysplasia can occur in puppies. In this condition, a growing puppy’s hip bones do not align properly as a ball and socket joint. The treatment for this occurs along the lines of non-surgical interventions. 

How to Treat Limping Pain in Puppies?

There are many methods of pain relief, apart from the veterinary medicines.  Supplementations that help with degenerative disease also work as great pain moderators. Similar to these supplements, there is natural, holistic and therapeutic solution in the form of CBD. CBD can be instrumental for pain relief and anxiety since it contributes to anti-inflammatory effects in the dog’s endocannabinoid system.  The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the regulatory processes in the body. This also involves the sensation of pain from an injury, or swelling. Hence, it is entirely possible that you could alleviate some of the discomforts of lameness by prescribing your dog with some CBD.

Since your dog is small, be careful of how much CBD you give them, learn more about the dosage from this article. Before you do so, make sure that you consult the veterinarian. CBD can help with inflammatory pain, but it is still important to treat a broken bone or injured joints with rest first and foremost. If your puppy does not rest, they cannot heal from any injury. Nevertheless, you can learn about the harmless effects of CBD from this article. Make sure that you keep your dog from putting too much weight on their foot. You can also provide them with a paw pad, to ensure a comfortable rest. Not resting the joints and providing more pressure to them can lead to other injuries and worsen the limps. 

Our Final Thoughts

Dogs can have all the different types of problems. However, keep in mind that unlike humans, they are less likely to be victims of sudden trauma, injuries and then recover almost perfectly. Instead, their issues take time to show up, and the healing process can be time taking. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is imping in puppies normal?

No, it is not normal for smaller dogs to display a sudden limp. Thus, if your dog has just started limping then you must take it to a veterinarian. On the other hand, keep in mind that puppy bones are soft and developing. This can have them wobble and walk irregularly, making it seem as if they are limping. 

How long does it take for a limping dog to get better?

Recovery time can vary depending on the cause of the limping. If the dog limping occurs due to a serious condition, such as an elbow dysplasia then it can take long to heal. On the other hand, if it is simply an injury in the paw, then it should take a couple of minutes.