Is My Pet’s Limp Serious?


When your pet suddenly develops a limp, you may wonder whether it is a problem that requires urgent care or an issue that can be managed at home with rest? If your pet is limping it’s likely they are in pain. Let’s run through the list of the most common reasons pets limp and when a limp turns into an emergency.


Causes of limping in pets

Pets limp for a multitude of reasons. Some of the most common causes include:

● Osteoarthritis

● Intervertebral disc disease

● Hip or elbow dysplasia

● Muscle sprain or strain

● Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury

● Wound on the paw or leg

● Torn nail

● Nerve damage

● Bone fracture

● Cancer


How to assess your pet’s limp

Pets can develop an acute or chronic limp that has varying degrees of severity. If your pet begins limping suddenly but then is fine after a few steps, they likely do not require any urgent treatment. You should continue to watch them closely, and if the limping persists or you are concerned, you should bring them to your veterinarian for further evaluation. If your pet is limping, it likely means they are in pain. Pay attention to which leg your pet is limping on, along with how they act. Are they licking the affected leg more often, or does your pet dislike it when you touch the area? When does the limping usually occur? Please share your observations with your veterinarian. Taking videos of your pet’s limp can be very helpful for your veterinarian to better understand what is happening.


When a limping pet needs immediate treatment

When your pet begins to limp, you can try to restrict their activity for a few days to see if they improve. However, some limping conditions require immediate treatment, largely because of concurrent problems. If your pet has a limp and any of the following signs, seek emergency veterinary care immediately:

● Vocalization (e.g., howling, yowling, or growling)

● Trembling

● Behaviour changes (e.g., hiding, refusing to move, or being aggressive)

● Bleeding

● An obvious fracture or dislocation

● Dragging the limb

● Large swelling on the affected limb

● Lethargy

● Disorientation

● High fever

● Vomiting

● Trouble breathing


When in doubt about the severity of your pet’s limping, contact your veterinary team immediately. They will triage the condition to determine the best course of action in caring for your furry pal.