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Dog Limping Reasons No One Talks About

One of the most common reasons pet parents take their dog to the veterinarian is to answer the question, “Why is my dog limping?” The fine folks at petMD list some common causes for dog limping, but what about the off-the-beaten bath dog limping reasons no one talks about?

Like people, dogs can tear, break, strain, or damage any number of structures of the body and a limp results. As dog mom to two Cocker Spaniels with a history leg issues, I know all too well that hobble and paw lifting that accompanies a seemingly innocuous injury.

Most of us are not veterinarians, so any sort of limp or diversion from a dog’s normal gait should be examined by a trusted veterinarian. Sometimes, a limp is minor and other times it means something bigger is going on with the dog.  Submitted for your consideration:

Overgrown Nails

Imagine wearing a pair of high heels if you are accustomed to flats or wearing shoes: Now try running in those heels and wearing them 24/7: This is akin to what overgrown nails feel like on a dog. This can also create bone and leg pain, which in the long run, causes serious issues for a dog. Don’t chance cutting your dog’s nails if you are not 100 percent certain how to do it.

Dog Limping Reasons No One Talks About

Paw Pad Injury

In hot weather, paw pads may be burned by hot pavement. In cold weather, pads can be harmed by frostbite or chemicals tossed on icy roads and sidewalks. Excessive or frequent walking or running can also wear a paw pad down. A common myth in among dog parents is that a dog’s paws need no protection; after all, they’ve been walking around without socks or shoes for thousands of years, right? True, but a dog’s paws do need protection. If your dog suddenly limps, gently check the paws and nails.

Dog paw structure

Hidden Lump In the Toes

In between each of your dog’s toes is an area of webbing. That area is also ripe for yeast to form (dark and moist), cyst or infection, or even a mass. Interdigital (between the toes) lumps and growths can form and cause a dog to limp. If growths or interdigital cysts are an ongoing issue with your dog, get to the root of the cause. Some causes of cyst formation in the toes include bacterial infections, ingrown hairs, mites, allergies, and even a dog being overweight.

Thyroid Issue

Dogs with hypothyroidism (underactive) may limp due to the pain caused to the joints by the imbalance of thyroid hormone. In her book, The Canine Thyroid Epidemic, Dr. Jean Dodds explains that reduced thyroid function can produce a wide range of clinical signs. If your dog limps and displays other hypothyroid symptoms, such as hair loss, unexplained weight gain, or skin issues, ask your veterinarian to check the dog’s thyroid hormone level.

Lyme Disease

Although dogs may never display symptoms of Lyme disease, when symptoms do manifest, limping may be involved. The limping is caused by pain around the dog’s joints.

Urinary Incontinence

Sometimes involuntary urination, leaking urine, or dribbling of urine in dogs is associated with a limp. Like people, dogs develop arthritis and other orthopedic issues throughout their lives, especially as they age. Nerves that control the bladder and its emptying can be affected by things like tumors, infections, and even spinal cord injuries.

Spinal Cord or Disc Injury

IVDD, or intervertebral disc disease, affects the discs that cushion the spine: between the spinal column itself and the vertebrae. The discs bulge or herniated (burst) into the spinal cord space. Dragging the rear legs, a hobble gait, seeming off balance, or refusing to walk may indicate a spinal or disc injury. Our pal, Poppy the Cocker Spaniel, is affected by IVDD , which her mom manages with due diligence, attention to symptoms, and veterinary guidance.

CLICK THIS: Managing a Dog With IVDD

ivdd dog

Torn Ligament

One of the most common tears in a dog’s leg is that of the cranial cruciate ligament, CCL, sometimes called ACL. We know this because we have dealt with two ACL tears and surgical repairs in our dog. Many times, a veterinarian will perform an in-office “drawer test” on the dog suspected of an ACL tear. It is a manual manipulation of the knee joint by a veterinarian. Here’s our Everything Guide to ACL Injuries that will help guide you and your dog if an ACL tear is suspected.

CLICK THIS: The Everything Guide to Dog ACL Injuries

Extraordinary Dog Who Overcame Limping…And Then Some

Some dogs are born to shine, and each of us has the Best Dog Ever, right? Baby Joey’s edges are shine just a bit brighter and a whole lot smoother thanks to some good Samaritans.

This little canine engine who could is an All American mixed breed. He was taken in by Second Chance Rescue, out of New York, after being found with partial limb amputations of his rear legs. Limping would be an understatement. He would drag what rear limbs he had, thus creating friction rubs and throwing off the alignment of his growing body.

When Merrick Pet Care learned of Baby Joey’s plight, they stepped in and worked to help him find balance, a new path in life, and hopefully his forever home. Get ready to celebrate and rejoice, as here’s the path of a dog who showed the world that good prevails with a little help from some friends:

If Your Dog Limps

Don’t take chances. There are gobs and gobs of reasons a dog will limp. Take your best friend to the veterinarian for a complete assessment and further care. If you liked this article, we encourage you to check out:

Treat the Feet and Other Dog Paw Problems and Dog Paws Are in Danger



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  1. This is interesting. I new about the claws and the pads, but didn’t know about the other reasons. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Indeed. I had a friend whose dog was limping ever so slightly. It turned out to be a cyst between the pads. Appreciate the kind words!

  2. Very helpful article. I was just having this discussion with a friend about her dog’s limping, and what it could be. Nothing obvious as to cause, and it comes and goes, but a vet visit is definitely in order.

    1. That is great that your friend will go to the vet. There could be so many reasons for a limp. Keep us posted.

  3. This is actually a very timely post for us! Two weeks ago, I took Chloe to the vet because she was not putting weight on her front paw. The test result…Lyme Disease!

    We were totally shocked as we had absolutely no idea!!

    Thank you for shedding some light on these important issues!

    1. I recall learning about limping and Lyme disease with my first Cocker years ago. It always stuck with me. I hope Chloe is okay. Thinking she is probably on some antibiotics, right?

    2. Thanks for sharing my Daughter’s Dashound Frank my Granddog whom I absolutely Love ❤❤ is dragging his back right leg getsssssss Lots of Love & Veternairy care / slip disc in his back. 9 yrs young!!!!! Praise God still wants to run ,bark eat, & guard my Daughter & grandkids… Great Dog❤❤❤❤❤❤

  4. With nine dogs in the family, we’ve faced many of these issues. We’ve dealt with broken nails, cut pads, interdigital cysts, ccl tears, back injuries and of course arthritis. I’ve learned to do home exams and have a great working relationship with our vet.

    1. That is fantastic that you have a good working relationship with your vet and are on top of these things, Sue.

  5. Thank you for this article. Unfortunately my little dog Chico has suffered thru ruptured ACL and torn meniscus surgery, for which limping was the first sign indicating an injury. He also has IVDD of the cervical spine and while major episodes caused him to not be able to use his front legs, minor flareups always present as limping. Very glad you cited the importance of nail trims and keeping our dogs paws healthy. As we all know, when our feet hurt, everything hurts. We need to always be vigilant with our pets…since they can’t tell us what hurts. Any lameness should be brought to the vet’s attention!

  6. Very interesting article. I just took Zee (boxer) to the vet for limping on her front leg. Her limp tends to come and go. Dr. Dean believes she may have a slight elbow dysplasia. He suggested MSM or some joint supplements. Hopefully she doesn’t have dysplasia and if so the supplements may help slow it down.

  7. This is a great post full of some really useful info! The underlying causes of limping can be anything from “nothing” to something extremely serious. Unfortunately we had the extreme end with Lola when what seemed like nothing but minor arthritis (even on the xrays!) turned out to be extremely aggressive osteosarcoma.

  8. Because I have the limping Henrietta, I am always checking her body parts! I never would have imagined the other reasons for a limp — other than the obvious. Thank you so much for this insightful information!

  9. Very informative post, Carol. And coincidentally, I have one of my Huskies who just had an infected dew claw and was treated with a round of antibiotics. It appeared to clear up. We are at about two weeks after, and a lump suddenly appeared and is bleeding ( I discovered it in the middle of the night when I put on the light and saw blood all over my dog’s face. I don’t even remember my feet touching the ground as I jumped out of bed, totally freaked out) , Xrays last night show it is a tumor that appears to be eating the bone (I will be posting about this) and I pray it is benign. She is going for surgery to remove the tumor and the dew claw, and have a biopsy on Monday. How did I first discover it? She had a limp and I immediately went in to the vet. So this is such an important post. Pinning and will be sharing.

  10. Layla hops with her left back leg in the air and the vet has done all testing and cannot find anything – we can go days without hopping and the it starts again for a couple of days – so on hopping days I just walk her less.

  11. My dog ripped his ACL two years ago and never properly recovered from surgery. (He won’t stay calm). So limping is an on-going issue with him. I’m putting Dr. Buzby’s toe grips on him this weekend (properly this time) to see if that helps.
    Also, I didn’t know they can get lumps between their toes. I’ll check that. my Victor chews his feet sometimes.

  12. Wonderful and thorough article! Poppy and I were also happy to see that disc disease made the list! We love the education your blog provides. Great job Carol and smooches from me and Poppy.

  13. i am always watching to see if my dogs are limping. sometimes i will make them walk back and forth to me several times. i check out there feet, in between the toes and pads as well. i do this when i groom them as well since i shave the fuzz. i also feel along their legs, joints to see if they are sensitive to any areas or if i feel anything lumps, bumps, etc. this is excellent information, thank you. my oldest started limping on her back leg, she has a bad back anyway. her hips were out of alignment, so the vet did chiropractic adjustment. she also showed me how to do it.

  14. Thank you for this post.. I try to take excellent care of my dogs and look for any signs of distress.. this post gave me more vital information….

  15. I’m so happy you included long nails. I just did a post on how to trim your dog his nails and it’s so important! It’ such an easy cause to overlook! Great article, as awalys!!

  16. My dog Nelly had Necrosis of the femoral head, most likely due to poor breeding or an injury from being born and raised in a puppy mill. She needed surgery to cut away the dead part of the bone. I am taking my dogs in to have their nails trimmed this week-I never thought about overgrown nails as causing leg pain. Thanks for the reminder! I am so grateful that Baby Joey got the help and love he needed. You are such a wonderful advocate for dogs everywhere and your Wigglebutt Warrior fundraising is amazing!

  17. A comprehensive list and one any dog owner MUST read! I will share this – it matters! Some of thse you simply may not know or think about!

    We LOVED the video too – it is an effective message for good care as well as a great rescue story!

  18. Great post. I especially appreciate the mention on the spinal cord. Dexter has Chiari-like malformation (CM) and Syringomyelia (SM) which affect his spine and is neurological. Because of this, he can limp or have an odd gate at times. I’m glad your Dexter is doing so well.

  19. Very interesting! There are a few of these, like hypothyroidism, that I certainly wouldn’t connect with a dog limping. Some of these sound really painful. I can see why it is important to have a veterinarian check it out as soon as possible. With kitties, an important thing to remember is that those limps could be a result of the cat being declawed. Declawing is such a destructive procedure and people rarely think about the effects it will have on the cat before they do it.

  20. Wow, thanks for such comprehensive info Carol. I often put Finn’s limping down to his luxating patella… but you’ve really made me think of a number of other conditions I need to consider. Much appreciated by both me & #Finndawg 😉

  21. Thank you for a great article. This is something that we had to deal with about a month ago, our dog Charlie started limping. We checked his paw over and over, not finding anything. However, Charlie had an infection in his tooth ( he is 9) and was scheduled for a teeth cleaning in the upcoming week. A week after his cleaning, he was running/walking like nothing ever happened.

    Our inner works are so interconnected that sometimes you seem to miss that one problem might be connected to another. Fixing his infection and cleaning his teeth made his paw feel better. While it is important to look at the initial problem, remember that other things might be at play is essential! Thanks again!

  22. One of our dogs had an ankle injury when she was young and now limps if she runs too much or strains the leg. We had a good ankle brace for her but she lost it recently. Does anyone have any recommendations of good braces?

  23. I had a springer with a severe limp that did not go away. The vet thought it was arthritis and tried to treat it with meds, which didn’t work. After months of limping, I finally convinced the vet to take an xray of the leg. It turned out to be osteosarcoma! This bone cancer usually kills withing a few months. Luckily we got the leg amputated and the dog made it for almost two years. Her life was quite a story and inspired me to start writing a book about it.

  24. Well written! But I have a question: if it is the nails that make my dog limping, why he does not want me to cut them for him? He struggles hard everytime

  25. Thank you so much. If your dog has a limping problem then it is a serious problem. You check it timely and concern your doctor.

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