Dog limping is a common concern among worried pet owners who visit emergency animal hospitals seeking treatment for their furry friends.

Even though their dog is in pain because of limping, owners often find it grueling to pinpoint the exact cause of the injury because dogs can not tell us how they feel.

In this article, discover the most common reasons for dog limping, when to take your dog to the vet, and how you can make your dog more comfortable.

When To Take Your Dog to the Vet for Limping

When to take your dog to the vet for limping depends on several factors, such as the following conditions, the limp does not get better at home, yelping or whimpering accompanies the limp, a fever accompanies the limp, or the limb appears broken or dangling.

An X-ray may be required.

Dog Limping – Causes and Symptoms

One question often heard by veterinarians is, why is my dog limping? Discovering the exact cause of dog limping is challenging for pet owners because dogs can not tell us what is wrong with them.
Dog Limping

Your pet’s limping could result from a minor injury, such as a wound or a pebble caught in the footbed. Injuries associated with a limping dog could also be more serious. Here is a list of some common causes of limping in dogs:

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears

Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears are one of the most common injuries among large breed dogs, such as Labradors, boxers, and German shepherds. Running or vigorous exercise usually causes this injury to surface.

Canine Carpal Hyperextension

This condition often strikes large dogs but can also occur in small-breed dogs. Symptoms of this injury include swelling of the limb, instability while walking, and favoring a paw.

Luxating Patella

Luxating patella is another cause of limping in dogs. This injury affects small breed dogs such as chihuahuas, Yorkshire, and Pomeranians. Luxating patella causes the kneecap to shift out of place.

Strains or Muscle Tears

Strains or muscle tears are other common injuries among active dogs that may cause your dog discomfort.

Broken Bones

A broken bone is a severe injury and can cause your dog to limp. If you suspect a broken bone, a trip to the vet is necessary.

Insect Bites

Insect bites or stings can be painful for dogs and may cause swelling to the affected limb and limping. Although insect bites are usually not serious, they can cause allergic reactions and discomfort.


Arthritis is another common ailment that often strikes older dogs and causes great pain and limping.

High Risk Breeds

Anterior cruciate ligament tears (ACL) are common dog injuries, resulting in limping. Although ACL can affect dogs of all sizes, it is more common among overweight and larger-breed dogs. Some other factors leading to ACL are age, previous injuries, and arthritis.
High Risk Breeds

Knowing if your dog is at a greater risk of developing ACL might be beneficial in preventing and treating this disorder. Here is a list of high-risk dog breeds:

German Shepherd

German shepherds are large, friendly dogs and much-loved by many pet owners. However, this gentle giant is more susceptible to hip dysplasia and ACL tears.

Feeding your German shepherd a low-fat diet and ensuring it gets plenty of physical exercise reduces the chances of developing ACL tears.

Bichon Frise

Although the Bichon Frise is a smaller dog, it is still susceptible to developing hip dysplasia, inflammation, ligament tears, and limping.

To help lower the risk of limping and hip problems in your Bichon Frise, ensure it gets two walks a day to keep its joints, muscles, and bones strong.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever makes a lovable pet. However, this medium-sized pooch is also at a high risk of hip dysplasia, CCL tears, hip pain, and limping.

To help keep your Labrador in tip-top condition and lessen the chances of hip problems, maintain a healthy diet and ensure an active lifestyle.


The Newfoundland dog is another breed susceptible to CCL tears because of its enormous size.

Monitoring food intake and exercise levels can help reduce the chances of injury and limping in this gentle dog breed.


The Rottweiler is a medium-sized dog known for strength and fierceness. Rottweilers are also broad across the shoulders and prone to joint problems because of their large frames.

Saint Bernard

This calm, friendly dog is also prone to limping and joint pain because of its enormous size. To help your Saint Bernard stay healthy, feed it a healthy diet and ensure it gets lots of daily exercise.

How to Treat a Limping Dog at Home?

The best way to treat a limping dog at home is to ensure they get plenty of rest. Even though dogs are normally energetic animals, they are usually less active and don’t mind lying around when they are sore.

To make sure your pouch stays quiet, here are some recommendations to ensure your furry friend remains still and to promote a quicker recovery:

  • Put your dog on a leash when outside when toileting or on outdoor breaks
  • Do not take your dog for walks, and limit exercise until it is feeling better
  • Thoroughly examine your dog often for signs of injury or worsening conditions
  • Gently touch the injured limb to ensure there is no pain when touched

Why Is My Dog Limping All of a Sudden?

As discussed earlier, dogs limp for various reasons. Sometimes a few days of rest are necessary for your dog to feel better.

At other times, your canine friend may need a visit to veterinary services for treatment. Some minor injuries that may cause your dog to limp suddenly may include:

  • Stepping on something sharp
  • Getting a stone between its toes
  • Stepping on hot pavement


Dog limping is a common occurrence, especially in older large and large-framed dogs. Pet owners can treat minor injuries at home, while more serious injuries require a veterinarian.

For more information on dog limping and when to take them to the vet, consult Paoli Vetcare and get a new client exam.

Dr. Erin Downes VMD

Dr. Erin Downes graduated valedictorian from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1992. She and her husband, Dr. Jay Rowan are the owners of Paoli Vetcare | Main Line Vet & Animal Hospital.