Stand on Your Own Four Feet

There is never a dull moment in my life. I recently had the displeasure of having to answer the question, “Why are you limping on your front leg?” A shiny wood floor was the answer, but a mild elbow sprain was the official diagnosis.

Long story short, I was tossing my squeaky squirrel around when I unexpectedly landed wrong on one leg from an especially elegant leap and hurt myself. I never made a peep or yelped in pain, but I knew something was wrong. Nothing appeared broken, but when I tried to walk, it hurt, so I stood still with my front paw in the air, waiting for Mom to rush to my aid.

Morning came, and I was still limping, not putting pressure on my leg. So we headed to the vet.

Like humans, dogs can tear, break, strain and damage any body part. Unlike humans, dogs aren’t always as easy to read. We can’t tell you if something hurts because of that whole not-talking thing. And while limping or whining every time we put pressure on a particular area are sure signs of pain, symptoms aren’t always clear—especially if your dog is a “walk it off” type, like me.

Still, dogs limp for many reasons. The main issue is whether the lameness is caused by pain or a problem with the limb, or whether your dog is just seeking your attention—cue sad-puppy eyes.

Let’s examine the most common reasons behind dog limping.

Broken Nail

These can be quite painful and will cause limping if the pain’s severe enough. Nails can be torn or broken by getting caught on just about anything, so it’s important to make sure your dog’s nails are kept short to keep this from happening.

Torn Paw Pads

Dogs can tear paw pads walking on rugged terrain, taking sharp turns or chasing other animals in the park. If your pup has a torn paw, keep her off her feet for a while (no easy task) and consult the veterinarian for further care.

Broken Bone

A broken bone is a very serious issue that calls for immediate veterinary attention. Some breaks are obviously bad; others may be tiny fractures that go unnoticed except for eventual lameness in the leg. Either way, have the area checked thoroughly to rule out other serious ailments.

Muscle Sprain

It’s quite common for dogs to pull a muscle when playing or even just walking awkwardly. Mild strains should heal quickly on their own, but severe sprains may require immediate care.

Object Stuck in Paw

Burrs, rocks, thorns, sharp metal object (nails, tacks, etc.) are some items a dog can step on while out and about. If something gets lodged in the folds of the paw or between the toes, it can hurt and trigger limping. It can even infect the area, so get it checked.

It takes strength and flexibility to scratch, chase squirrels and leap for toys. Sometimes, we overdo it. If you see your dog limping, encourage rest, check with the vet and never give over-the-counter medications. With proper care, your pal will be back on all four feet in no time!