By Dr. Amy Lightstone
Deciding what to do when you see your dog limping depends on the situation and the severity of their limp. For instance, if your dog was hit by a car and has a bone sticking out, take them directly to the nearest emergency veterinarian for treatment. Your pet will likely need pain medication, x-rays, and surgery for the leg. On the other hand, if your arthritic senior cat is limping a little after sleep-falling off the couch, then we can be a little more conservative and simply adjust the dose of their medication after a flare-up. Here are a few others things you can do at home when you see your pet limping.
Check For Wounds
If you just went on a 10-mile rocky hike together and notice your dog limping afterwards, have a look at their paws for any obvious wounds, sticks, or rocks stuck in their toes. Wounds can be gently cleaned with iodine or dilute chlorhexidine. For shallow wounds, soak their little (or big) paws in warm water with epsom salt for a few minutes.
Foreign objects should be removed gently, as long as your pet tolerates it. If there is something stuck in a paw that is too deep, or your pet won’t allow you to touch it, it’s time to head into the vet clinic for some assistance.
Rest After Play
Sometimes our pups get super excited to see their friends at the dog park and run wildly around for hours. It’s not uncommon for them to feel a little sore after this. When humans run a marathon, a little limping isn’t uncommon for us, either! Let your buddy rest for a couple days after running amuck. If they still seem to be in pain, it’s probably time for an exam.
If you notice your dog limping and yelping, and if their pain seems intense, it is best to have them seen sooner rather than later. This will ensure they get the appropriate treatment and pain relief. Pets who are avoiding putting weight on their limping legs should also head to a full service veterinarian for an examination.
Just like humans, pets have different thresholds for pain. Some may act like they are not in much pain, even after breaking a bone. Others can be very dramatic and act like they are dying just from a small bruise. Minor injuries can often be treated with rest and, sometimes, pain or anti-inflammatory medications. More severe injuries, such as tendon tears and fractures, will likely need to be treated with surgical repair.
Please do not give your pet any human medications for their injuries. Many anti-inflammatories and pain medications for humans are toxic to pets. What may be a relatively minor sprain can turn into kidney or liver failure from taking an inappropriate medication. If you see your dog limping, always consult with your veterinarian before giving your pet any type of medication. We all just want what is best for your pet!