You might feel worried if you notice your dog suddenly limping around the house. However, limping doesn’t always indicate a serious injury.
Regardless of how badly your dog is hurt, getting things checked out by a vet is important. Here are some reasons why your dog might be limping, plus the best course of action to follow in different scenarios.
Observe your dog and see what you can learn from the limp itself. For example, is your dog limping on its back leg? How about after sleeping? Maybe your dog has a limp, but is not in pain. These types of details provide important clues in helping you figure out what might be wrong.
There are two categories of limp. Gradual onset limping refers to a dog that has been slowly developing a limp over a period of time. Gradual onset limping is generally due to a disease or chronic condition. But if your dog is limping out of nowhere, this is known as sudden limping. It’s normally caused by injury or trauma. A veterinarian will need to look at both types of limps.1
There are a number of reasons why your dog might be limping. Here are a few common issues that can lead to a limp in dogs2:
Bone disease: Conditions such as hypertrophic osteodystrophy or some cancers can make walking painful.
Injury or trauma: If your dog is limping after playing, he or she may have injured a ligament, joint, or other part of their body.
Joint disease: Conditions such as hip dysplasia and arthritis often cause gradual onset limping as the disease worsens.
Paw injury: Glass, nails, or thorns stuck in your dog’s paw are painful and might cause an infection.
Elbow Hygroma: An elbow hygroma can start as a small, moveable mass. However, they can grow and fill with fluid, which could potentially impact your dog's ability to walk effectively.
Osteoarthritis: This is the inflammation of one or more joints, which can cause pain or even a limp.
One of the most important things to do if your dog is limping is to make an appointment with your vet or emergency clinic at your earliest convenience.
In the meantime though, do your best to keep your dog comfortable at home. You can apply a cold compress to the injured area for 24 hours. Then switch to heat. This can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.3
If your dog’s limp does not resolve on its own, it’s a good idea to get things checked out. You should immediately go to the vet if you notice swelling, if there is an obvious break, or if your dog’s leg feels hot to the touch.
When you go to the vet, you will typically pay the cost of the office visit (normally in between $50-$200, depending on your vet). X-rays could add an additional few hundred dollars on top of that. If needed, a dog leg brace could cost an additional $30-$100.4
The cost of the vet visit will also depend on the treatment recommended. Depending on what is going on, your dog could need pain medication, physical therapy, or surgery. The severity of the injury or issue will determine the necessary treatment and the resulting cost.