By Dr. Sophie Liu, SF SPCA Resident in Behavior Medicine
We’ve all seen it before. You’re out for your daily walk when, suddenly, your beloved pooch lifts her back leg and looks at you with wide brown eyes. Your dog is limping! What do you do? What could it be?
Well, don’t worry! Limping and lameness are common issues in dogs and there is a huge variety of conditions that can lead to a sore foot or leg. Whenever you notice a limp in your dog, the most important thing to do is recognize that your dog is in pain, so stop the activity and let her rest or calm and soothe her. If your dog may react negatively when touched, always use safety first and muzzle her.
Next, do a quick assessment and start by looking at her paws. (Hopefully, you’ve trained your pup to enjoy having her paws handled before you need it!) If you have a furry dog, you may need to gently tease out the fur and check all the crevices to make sure there’s nothing in a paw pad or in between her toes. Summer in the Bay Area is prime time foxtail season, and those dagger-like plants love to crawl between toes!
Next, look for any obvious cuts or wounds. If you see bleeding, apply steady pressure to stop the bleeding. Then, visit your nearest emergency veterinarian to have the wound assessed and treated appropriately.
Lastly and most importantly, take her to your local veterinarian as soon as possible to have her evaluated and assessed. Common causes of limping could include soft tissue strains or sprains, joint diseases like hip dysplasia or cranial cruciate tears or luxating patellas, traumatic injuries like toe fractures, or developmental disorders like panosteitis. Limping is a common symptom with many causes, and your veterinarian can work with you to help your pup be her best, pain-free self.
For tips on training your pup to love her muzzle and having her paws touched before you actually need it, visit: https://www.sfspca.org/behavior-training
Photo Credit: Honza Groh