Dog Bone, Joint & Muscle: Limping

Canine Bone Joint and Muscle QuickLinks


Dog limps or canine limping refers to a gait abnormality. Gait refers to the way a dog moves. A dog limp can occur for various reasons, such as injuries, arthritis, muscular degeneration and weakness. Some canine limps are minor in nature, which resolve on their own while more serious limping in dogs requires proper attention, diagnosis and treatment. Limps are characterized by swelling, pain, lameness and problems with neuromuscular coordination. Diagnosis is based upon a detailed clinical examination. The exact location of problem needs to be located. X-rays not only help to reach a proper diagnosis, but also will help to identify some pathological reasons (disease etc) for what is causing the limp. If the cause is not trauma or an accident, additional laboratory tests might be needed for confirmation. Treatment is based on a vets ability to reach a definite diagnosis. Pain management is the initial step, followed by working toward a cure with specific drugs, surgery and critical care. Natural remedies as a supportive measure can help to improve the time needed for recovery.


There are various reasons for a dog to limp; the most common reason is a trauma or acute injury. Injuries or trauma can be of a minor nature, while in other cases it might be more serious and require immediate attention and care. Minor injuries such as bruises, cuts or strains etc usually occur during play or when running, but they do not require immediate attention. Such causes usually resolves on its own in 36 – 48 hours, and if not resolved might need care and proper handling.

Accidents and severe injuries to muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments can cause severe pain and dog limping, which should be considered a medical emergency.

Other reasons that cause this type of problem include arthritis, inflammation, infection, neoplasia, pathological degeneration and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Dog limping that is the result of these causes are progressive and symptoms ten to build up gradually. Limping caused by serious pathological conditions (diseases) should be properly diagnosed and treated with long term therapies.


Typical signs along with limping in dogs are pain, limb swelling, canine joint dysfunction, abnormal and an asymmetrical gait. Stress, behavioral change and additional general signs of illness and typical pathological conditions are noted in cases where a dog is suffering from a disease or health problem.

On clinical examination, pain, swelling, any problem in joint movement and an abnormal gait are represented by a limp, but the exact cause should be diagnosed, as it is necessary for determining a treatment approach.


Clinical history, examination and repeated attempts to analyze the gait can help to diagnose the exact location of the problem which is causing the dog limping. In many cases, dogs usually hide pain and do not cooperate with related clinical procedures due to stress and pain. Other dogs may exhibit signs of lameness in other limbs as well, which is related to the psychological behavior of dogs.

Taking a clinical history of the condition is necessary in order to confirm if the cause was acute or chronic, also it is required that a clinical examination should be repeated in order to confirm the exact location and status of the dog limping condition.

Once the location and partial status of the condition is confirmed, x-rays are preferred as the most effective tool to analyze the status, anatomy and possible changes that occurred in the musculoskeletal system that is causing the dog limping problem.

In pathological conditions, which are progressive and gradual, symptoms might not be exhibited completely and the condition could be barely visible. In such cases, along with taking a dog's history, clinical examination and x-rays, additional blood tests and minor arthroscopies (examination of the dog limb) are required for confirmation of the canine limp condition.


Dog limping can cause pain, swelling and patient stress, so pain management and reducing symptoms are an initial and important part of treatment. Severe pain in acute cases, such as those due to accidents and injuries can cause severe pain and shock. This can be done by using specific drugs used for reducing pain only, non steroid anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) should be avoided initially, but if they are required, they should only be administered in reduced doses and on based on the direction of a veterinarian.

Minor canine limp should not be treated initially as they usually resolve on their own, possibly in 36 – 48 hours. But, if the condition persists thereafter, and if the limping dog experiences pain and swelling, a dog should be referred to a veterinarian for proper care and handling. An owner can use some common household remedies for reducing localized pain and swelling, but it is preferred that an owner consult with a veterinarian in serious cases.

The following are some common home remedies for minor muscular pains and arthritis that are worth trying for a limping dog:

  1. Gentle massage of affected area with warm olive oil
  2. Massage with a mixture of 1 table spoon of camphor oil and 1 table spoon of sun flower oil is very effective.
  3. Turmeric if is administered in food, helps in treating all types of body pains. Turmeric can be applied locally at the site of teh swelling as well. It has anti inflammatory properties.
  4. A mixture of two parts of olive oil and one part of kerosene oil, forms a very effective ointment for joint pains. This can be used as pain killer. In veterinary practice, this is considered as an alternative to long term use of aspirin.

A dog limping problem caused by disease or a pathological condition should be properly diagnosed and treated with specific drugs, depending upon the cause and underlying condition.

Surgery is another way to treat problems which are caused by any anatomical deformity, cancerous tissue growth or dog limping problems that require immediate attention due to a severe injury.

The management and care of the patient is necessary. If a veterinarian has recommended complete rest and confinement, these instructions should be carefully followed. Natural remedies such as Pet Calm can help to reduce stress and discomfort. Other natural remedies such as Muscle and Joint Support can hasten recovery by improving the strength of muscles and joints.