Limping in dogs (or not putting weight on a paw) is a sign of pain, and that something is wrong. Like with humans, dogs limp for a variety of reasons, ranging from injuries to irritants to illnesses. Closely observing your dog’s limp (or lameness) and refraining from strenuous exercise such as running or jumping helps manage the situation before talking to your vet.
Taking a video of your dog’s limp will also help you observe the situation carefully, and can be very useful for your vet – especially if the limp is intermittent.
First-Aid Measures at Home
Perform some first aid at home to assess how serious your dog’s limp is – this also helps your vet help determine the cause when you consult with him/her:
- Identify which leg(s) are limping, and the specific area of the leg by watching your dog as he/she walks. Differentiating between the front or back leg(s) and which joints (elbow, knee, wrist or ankle) helps narrow down possible causes. Is it always the same leg, or is more than one leg affected?
- If you have trouble determining the problem legs(s), try a different approach: does your dog bob its head when he/she walks? Which paw is touching the ground when their head bobs upward? This is the sore leg.
- Specific situations or scenarios: Does your dog walk on the affected leg, or carry it? When standing still, does he/she balance on the leg when standing or does he/she not let the leg touch the ground? Is your dog stumbling or wobbly? Are there shorter or abnormal steps compared to usual? Does the limping seem worse on certain types of terrain/footing? Does your dog have difficulty going upstairs or downstairs? What about getting into the car or out of the car?
- Time frame: when did you first notice the limp, and how long has it been going on? Are there specific times or situations when the limping is worse, i.e. after strenuous exercise, after resting or early morning? Is it intermittent? Was there ever an acute episode where your dog yelped or suddenly started to limp?
- Medical history: Does your dog lick its paws frequently? If so, was this only in response to the limping? Has your dog been sick in other ways beyond the limp?