Health Topics  >  Musculoskeletal  > Limping (Lameness)

How serious is your dog’s limp?

To assess how serious your dog’s limp is, you can perform some first aid measures at home – this also helps your vet help determine the cause. By closely observing your dog’s limp (or lameness) and refraining from strenuous exercise, you can help 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

  • 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 they walk? If one of their forelimbs is sore, their head will lift when it contacts the ground. If it’s one of their hindlimbs, their head will lower and their hip will hike up when it contacts the ground.


  • Specific situations or scenarios: Does your dog walk on the affected leg, or carry it? When standing still, do they balance on the leg when standing or do they 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 in 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 (ex. 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 their paws frequently? If so, was this only in response to the limping? Has your dog been sick in other ways beyond the limp? 

It can be difficult to identify which limb is affected, especially if multiple limbs are involved. It is best to take a video of your dog limping (this will help you and your vet better assess your dog). While taking a video, walk your dog on leash, once at a walking pace and a second time at a trot, in a place with minimal distractions (have a friend record it for you). 

Pro Tips:

  • Note anything unique associated with your dog’s limping (ex. In what situations does it tend to happen? When did the limping begin?)
  • Record a video of your dog walking (once at a walking pace and another at a trot). Do this in a quiet environment with minimal distractions


Check out the video below from Heron Lakes Animal Hospital to hear a veterinarian talk about front leg limping in dogs