We know dogs to be lively and full of energy. Even the lazier breeds won’t shy away from running around in circles and jumping with glee! So when your pooch develops a limp, it’s definitely something you’ll notice.
What’s worse? When your dog limps without crying.
It’s an oddball behavior that leaves many dog owners confused about what to do. You’d assume that whatever is causing your dog to limp is creating enough pain for them to alert you verbally.
However, dogs aren’t always keen on showing their weaknesses. Just because they’re not crying doesn’t mean that the limping isn’t a serious issue.
So, what’s going on?
Understanding the Limp
Before we get into potential reasons for the limp, you should consider a few things. The first is when the limping started.
Some dogs will experience sudden onset limping. When this happens, the behavior comes out of nowhere. That tells you that a relatively recent and unexpected event caused it.
Your dog might have experienced an injury you didn’t see, resulting in the behavior.
Alternatively, they might have gradual onset limping. This one is harder to spot because it occurs slowly over time. It’s typically linked to chronic or degenerative conditions.
Initially, the limping might start as a minor thing. But as the issue causing it progresses, it will become more noticeable. Some owners fail to spot the limping in its early stages or assume it’s no big deal.
Lack of Crying
Another thing to think about is your dog’s lack of crying and whining. Canines tend to be more secretive about their injuries and overall health.
Think of it as a way to save face. In the wild, dogs had to be strong and show no signs of weakness. While modern pups are spoiled rotten, they still hold onto that hesitation.
Some will reach out to you to show you their pain, but many will “suck it up” and carry on.
Don’t assume that the absence of crying means that the injury isn’t severe. There very well could be a significant underlying problem at play.
If you notice your dog limping, take it to the vet for expert care and diagnosis as soon as possible.
Possible Reasons Why Your Dog is Limping
Dogs can’t tell you what’s going on. In all likelihood, they have no idea, either. There are many reasons why both sudden and gradual onset limping can occur. While a trip to the vet is the only way to know for sure, here are several possible culprits.
An injured paw is one of the most likely causes of sudden onset limping. Your dog walks on all fours. If something hurts on the paw, dogs will do their best not to put any weight on it in an attempt to get relief.
Because dogs use their paws to explore and interact with the world, they are prone to injury.
On the more serious side of the scale, you might be looking at a broken bone or a damaged nail.
It’s not uncommon for those injuries to happen when your dog accidentally runs into something. Immediate care is necessary to get relief and treatment.
Related: Why Are My Dogs Paws Pink And Black?
More innocent injuries are possible, too. Your dog might have stepped on something that got lodged into the footpad.
For example, grass stickers and thorns can be a significant pain that causes limping. The same goes for insect bites or stings.
While the paw pads are tough, they’re not immune to cuts.
Stepping onto a piece of glass or sharp metal can cut the hard skin, paving the way for possible infection. Dogs can also burn their pads stepping onto the hot pavement.
The mild injuries are treatable at home, but it’s wise to seek veterinary care to avoid worsening the condition or experiencing an infection.
Sometimes, it’s not the paw that’s the problem. It could be the entire leg.
Leg injuries can be devastating, depending on the extent of the issue.
Unfortunately, dogs can break bones and suffer from dislocation issues. Typically, dogs would cry out in extreme pain if those severe injuries were the case. But they may be less inclined to be vocal about the problem if it’s a minor muscle sprain.
Either way, these injuries need time to heal. Breaks and dislocations require immediate veterinary attention. Take action to limit pressure and provide relief.
Knee injuries are more common than you think. Many breeds are susceptible to sudden joint issues or ligament tears. Lifestyle and age can increase risks, too.
One common injury is a Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) tear. It’s the equivalent of an ACL tear in humans and often occurs after unnatural twisting or sudden pressure.
In most cases, you hear an audible pop as your dog falls to the ground.
Many dogs will cry out in pain after the initial injury, but they may act perfectly normal afterward beyond the limping.
These injuries can worsen with time and lead to other problems as your dog compensates with limping.
Vascular Conditions and Infectious Disease
Believe it or not, diseases and vascular diseases could be to blame.
Tick-borne infectious diseases like Lyme disease and Ehrlichia are notorious for causing limping and lameness. The infection wreaks havoc on your dog’s body, and that includes the joints.
Vascular diseases like aortic thromboembolism can be a problem, too.
Excessive bleeding and blood clot obstruction create reduced blood flow to leg tissue. That results in pain, sensitivity, and lameness.
Arthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease
Joint problems are prevalent in senior dogs, but they can also start impacting canines at an early age. A degenerative joint disease can cause inflammation in the joints, eventually graduating to arthritis.
When dogs suffer from arthritis, every move can feel like a nightmare.
The cartilage that usually cushions the joints gets thinner and can no longer provide protection. It’s a painful condition that can severely lower your dog’s quality of life.
While no cure exists for arthritis, there are ways to manage it. From monthly injections to joint treats and prescription medications, arthritis management may help to reduce the limp and get your dog back on its feet.
Many dogs are genetically predisposed to luxating patella issues. Small breeds like the Chihuahua, Pomeranian and Yorkshire Terrier are the most common.
Luxated patella refers to a phenomenon when the protective kneecap slips out of place. The problem can repeatedly occur over the course of a dog’s life because it deformed bones that can’t hold it in place.
The issue is painful, but dogs manage it and may not exhibit signs of pain outside of limping. Treatment does exist. Vets typically recommend a course of anti-inflammatory medication.
In severe cases of the luxated patella, surgical intervention may be necessary to get relief.
Hip or Elbow Hysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are developmental disorders that can begin when your dog is just a pup. Some breeds are more susceptible to these issues than others, but any dog can experience them.
Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joints in the rear legs don’t develop properly. Meanwhile, elbow dysplasia is when the elbow joints are malformed in the front legs.
Both conditions can also be genetic.
Dysplasia is a byproduct of imbalanced diets when a puppy is young.
Dogs have a distinct development cycle, and growing too fast or becoming overweight ruins that process. The problem with hip and elbow dysplasia is that it doesn’t become much pain until later in life.
When your dog reaches adulthood, it may develop a noticeable limp. Many will also sway as they walk, lose muscle mass, and suffer from lameness.
Here’s one of the grimmer reasons why a dog could start limping.
Bone cancer, called osteosarcoma, can impact dogs of any age or breed. But like many other conditions, some breeds are at higher risk. These include Mastiffs, Golden Retrievers, and Boxers.
Malignant tumors can destroy the bone and spread to surrounding tissue. It can cause swelling, lameness, limping, and frequent bone fractures.
If you notice a light limp, don’t hesitate to seek help. Limping is one of the first symptoms of bone cancer, and catching it early can make a difference. Treatment options involve amputation and chemotherapy, but the sooner you take action, the better the prognosis.
Bone deformities usually make themselves known at a very early age. You’re more likely to notice them in puppies, but some dogs will continue to grow and deal with them as adults.
Deformities can vary dramatically, but they’re usually caused by growth plate injuries or genetics.
Common deformities include shorter-than-normal legs, bow-leggedness, twisted wrists, and more. Dysplasia, as discussed earlier, can fall into the deformity category, too.
The best way to treat this problem is through surgery. Dogs that get corrections early on are more likely to get better and avoid limping as adults.
Here’s another condition that predominantly affects puppies. Called Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease, it affects the ball of the femur.
The ball joint slowly degenerates, eventually causing the hip to collapse.
As it progresses, this disease causes noticeable limping. Dogs will favor one leg and avoid putting weight on the weak one. Treatment depends on the severity of the degeneration.
If caught early, vets might prescribe medications and put your pup on a diet to prevent stress on the delicate joint. In more severe cases, hip replacement might be necessary.
Related: How to Trim Overgrown Dog Nails
It doesn’t matter what’s causing the limping. It’s always a good idea to seek veterinary care. There are far too many potential causes to narrow things down yourself.
Your vet can do a full inspection and screening to diagnose the problem and determine the best course of action.
While your dog might not be whining, there’s a good chance they are in pain. Their quality of life is lower when they limp, so don’t hesitate to seek treatment and provide the relief your dog desperately needs.