Health Topics  >  Musculoskeletal  > Limping (Lameness)

How do vets diagnose a limping dog?

It’s always a good idea to take a video of your dog’s limping in action, so that your vet can clearly see what’s going on. You’ll also want to plan your trip to the veterinarian and proceed carefully, since transporting a limping dog can worsen their injuries. In the meantime, limit the amount of exercise they get and keep them comfortable at home.

Your vet will perform an initial physical exam to check for tenderness, pain and range of motion in your dog’s limbs. They will also consult with you about your dog’s medical history and ask about your observations, such as how long the limping has been going on for, any specific situations where the limp is worse, and how severe. It can be helpful to take a video of your dog’s limp to show your vet, especially if the limping is intermittent. 

In addition to a physical exam, they may need to run some medical tests to determine the cause and arrive at a diagnosis, such as X-rays (especially to determine any fractures or other injuries to the limbs), ultrasounds and MRI scans (if the problem isn’t bone-related, but muscle, tendons or ligament) and blood tests (to rule out potential illnesses or diseases causing the limp).

Surgery may be required if the situation doesn’t get better or if the injury returns, or if your dog has a torn tendon or ligament.

To examine your dog’s lameness, your vet will perform an orthopaedic examination, and possibly other tests like diagnostic imaging.