Why Is My Dog Limping on His Front Leg?

picture of a dog in the forest

Limping can be an occasional occurrence depending on the activities your dog engaged in and even depending on their age. But if you see that your pet is limping on their front leg and it doesn’t seem to be going away, something is clearly wrong, so you should go to the veterinary clinic.

In today’s article, we are looking at several causes of dog limping, how it might be diagnosed and treated, and whether or not it can be prevented.

When and how it happened

This is quite an important aspect to keep in mind and communicate to your vet as the diagnosis can vary depending on it. Most dogs that develop gradual limping, meaning over a period of weeks or even months, have some sort of arthritis or dysplasia in that front leg.

However, dogs that are otherwise entirely healthy and start limping on their front leg all of a sudden might have sustained some sort of local lesions such as a fracture or a rupture of ligaments, or damage to a joint.

Lameness in one of the front legs can also be caused by infections or a lesion involving the paws. In that case, the dog will simply refuse to put their foot down just because they know that they are going to experience pain.

Should you be worried if your dog starts limping on his front leg?

The only answer to this question is yes. The trouble with limbs is that the longer a pathology goes untreated, the higher the likelihood of the animal losing the functionality of that leg.

Severe infections, whether involving your pet’s paws or a superior part of their leg, can lead to gangrene and to amputation if your dog doesn’t get treatment as soon as possible.

So, unless you want to go into debt (such an operation is not cheap at all) and you want to put your dog through the pain and trauma of having one of their legs amputated, you should get veterinary assistance immediately after you see your dog limping.

Depending on what exactly is at the root of the problem, your dog might be extremely reluctant when being touched in the affected area. Do not try to touch your dog’s leg if you see that they are trying to avoid direct contact – just get them to the animal hospital. If that doesn’t work, there are pet ambulances that you can call so that professionals can take your dog to the vet clinic.

Serious limping vs. things you can solve at home

Sometimes, the reason your dog is limping in their front leg might be truly obvious, such as a very bad insect bite, an abscess, or a foreign body that has managed to get lodged in-between your pet’s toes, which is why they are not going to want to take any steps using that leg.

Dogs that are huge sports and exercise aficionados, especially hunting and herding breeds, can easily sprain their ankles or sustain some sort of superficial lesion (like a bad bruise) while running through an area.

Although it can be difficult to tell when the limping requires medical assistance or not, sometimes the cause can be very apparent, so you will want to try and treat it at home.

Foreign bodies can be removed with tweezers, especially if they’re grass awns or something similar. The important thing is to get your dog to relax, so be calm and keep them in a spot they know and trust, such as on their favorite pet bed.

Bruises and mild sprains can be more or less treated at home with anti-inflammatory creams and ointments, Epsom salt baths, and ice packs. Giving your dog light massages can be another good way of treating these issues – but when using a soothing ointment, make sure you apply it at least four times per day for the best results.

Do not give your dog any human anti-inflammatory medication, whether Aspirin or Advil, because you might not know how to dose it properly, and you might also not know if it’s specifically safe for dogs. Do not use medicines you have in your bath cabinet for yourself. Perhaps if you were to have some canine NSAIDs left over from the last time your vet prescribed a batch, they might be safe to give to your dog.

Possible causes your dog is limping on his front leg

Here’s a list of reasons your dog might be limping:

  • Local infection
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • A lesion of the lower part of the leg (broken foot or damage to the nails)
  • Foreign bodies
  • Trauma that involves an open or closed wound
  • Bruising
  • Abscesses
  • Insect stings
  • Sprains or tendonitis
  • Dislocated joints
  • A fracture in any area of the leg

Can limping in dogs be treated?

It all depends on what exactly is causing this symptom. Fractures can be fixed with surgery, and thankfully, orthopedic techniques have evolved so much in the past few decades that even bad fractures can be solved these days.

A dislocated joint can be repaired by simply using a sling, but the vet might recommend additional methods.

Infections can be treated using the appropriate antibiotics (hopefully after an antibiogram was performed).

In any case, you should take your dog to the vet for a consultation. Some pets might not show symptoms for a couple of days, so the lesion might become more severe just because you might not have noticed it. Other dogs can be quite dramatic and might even limp because they know that will attract their owner’s attention. It sounds strange, but many dogs are that smart.

There are a lot of options when it comes to treating dog limping, and you can also prevent it to some extent. Making sure that your dog exercises appropriately in that senior dogs should not be forced to engage in heavy exercise, for example, and examining their body every time you come back from a long hike can go a long way in preventing severe lesions.

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