Lameness in dogs

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
July 22, 2022

Lameness in dogs is a condition where a dog is limping and they can’t properly use one or more of their limbs. Lameness is not a specific disease, but rather a sign of illness or injury. It can be a particularly painful condition and is best to get checked by a veterinarian to assess the cause of the lameness.

What does lameness in dogs look like?

You might think it would be pretty obvious if your pooch was having issues with lameness, but it might not be as apparent as you would think.

Watch out for signs such as your dog limping or slowing down on walks. Watch the way they walk up and down stairs and see if it looks any different. They also might be reluctant to jump up. Other signs could be an abnormal gait, so the back legs are looking different when they walk, or even just the position of their hind legs when standing. 

Causes of lameness.

Lameness can be a symptom of many illnesses and injuries, which is why it’s important to see a vet and get their opinion. Some of the most common causes of lameness can be:

  • Elbow and hip dysplasia - these are developmental disorders which often occur in younger dogs and affect the joints in the elbow or hip. 
  • Foot injuries - a cut, bite, bruise or even toenail injury could cause limping.
  • Osteoarthritis - the deterioration of the joint cartilage can lead to inflammation, pain and lameness.
  • Patella luxation - or dislocation of the knee. When the kneecap moves in and out of position, it causes discomfort and can predispose to Osteoarthritis and cruciate ligament injury.
  • General leg injuries - a broken bone, fracture, sprain or torn ligament could all be causes of lameness.
  • Infection - can easily be determined by blood and urine tests.

Some causes may be easily treatable, but others may be a lifelong disease that requires management.

Treatments for lameness.

Treating lameness depends on the cause, given the vast amount of potential reasons for it. Anti-inflammatory medication can be prescribed for acute lameness, which may be from an injury or infection.

For joint pain, supplements can be added to your furry friend’s diet to help along their recovery. Other treatment options could look like added medication, braces or splints or a broken leg, surgery and physical therapy. 

Looking after your pooch with lameness.

While it is best to see a vet, there are a few things you can do in the meantime to help. 

You can apply ice or a cold compress to the affected area if there is any swelling. For abrasions, be sure to clean up the area with antibacterial soap. Take it easy on the movement and maybe no walks until you can see a vet, but try for any playing or games that need much less movement.

If the symptom of lameness leads to a more serious condition, you may have to consider end-of-life care, as some of the conditions can worsen over time. 

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog stops eating, has medication side effects, cannot walk, shows aggression, or vocalises in pain.

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.