Dogs get hurt sometimes
Your dog is limping. Maybe you know when it happened or what they were doing at the time, and maybe you don’t. Even if you know the exact time your dog got injured, you probably don’t know exactly what the injury is.
While it can help to know the particulars of when the limping started, that isn’t enough to solve the problem. There is more to getting your dog healed than that.
Since your dog can’t tell you in words what is going on, you have to use your detective skills to help decide if this is something that needs to be treated right away or something that your dog will “walk-off” in a few minutes or hours.
Find out why your dog is limping
The first thing to notice is how your dog is acting. Are they in distress? Showing signs of hurting like panting or guarding? If you believe the injuries are severe or you know that your dog has suffered a trauma, you should get to the vet as quickly as possible. It will still help to have as much information as you can collect, but don’t waste valuable time.
You start gathering clues that can help you help your dog as soon as you notice that your dog is limping. The more clues you collect, the better you’ll be able to help your dog.
What kinds of things do you watch for?
Whether your dog has just received an injury, or they have a chronic problem that causes limping sometimes, you’ll want to figure out what’s going on. Acute problems often need different types of treatment than chronic ones, but either way, observing and collecting information will help you help your dog.
When did you notice the problem? Has it been going on for a while or did something recently change? Did you see what your dog was doing when it started? If not, what can you figure out about possible causes?
Take a look at your dog. Do you see anything obvious like a cut, deformed leg, or other injuries? Be sure to notice what you see and whether there are problems in other areas of your dog’s body. If you know of an ongoing problem, it’s still wise to double-check because things change and you don’t want to miss anything.
What about the less obvious? Gently run your hand over the possible injured area or other questionable spots, unless there is broken skin or other injuries which could be made worse by you doing so. What do you feel? Any swelling? Tenderness? Warmth?
How is your dog moving?
Notice how he’s moving. You know your dog is limping, but how is he using his body? Is one extremity moving differently, or maybe there’s just stiffness or shortness of stride that isn’t quite right.
Are his neck, back, and tail all aligned and in a normal position? If body position isn’t usual, that could indicate that your dog is trying to compensate by using other areas of the body to help maintain function.
Do his muscles feel relaxed? They should feel elastic, like firm bread dough. Any tight muscles could be a clue about the problem since tensing muscles is a defense mechanism when your dog feels pain.
Now that you know why your dog is limping, what do you do?
You don’t have to have a veterinary degree and license to gather clues that can help the professionals determine cause and treatment. If your dog has an acute injury of some sort, your clues might help the vet reach a more complete diagnosis and treatment plan.
On the other hand, if your dog has a chronic issue, the information you provide can help you and your vet adjust the treatment plan. You can more completely address the issue with detailed information about day to day living and what is or is not working.
Maybe the limp is short lived and temporary. Keeping an eye on your dog and watching for signs that he needs help will give you a little peace of mind. If things improve, that’s great. If not, you’ll be prepared.
You can help your dog
Whether your dog is limping because of an injury that will heal or an ongoing issue that won’t go away, knowing how they’re going will help. Your dog can’t tell you what’s wrong. You have to be a detective so that you can help them get the treatment they need.
For more information about why your dog is limping, read this post by PetMD. You can also read my posts about hip dysplasia or recognizing dogs in pain. Have your dogs started limping at one time or another? What did you do? Tell me about it in the comments below.