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Dog Leg Injuries: How To Help Your Limping Dog

Dog leg injuries are an all too common sight for pet owners, particularly if your dog is super-active and prone to adventurous outings or play fights with their doggie pals!

Dog leg injuries can vary drastically in their severity, however, and it's important that owners know when it's just a little strain or cut or when your pet needs a trip to the vet. Some common dog leg injuries can heal by themselves, while other dog back leg problems could be the sign of a degenerative disease. 

To help you to better understand the conditions and diseases that can cause dog leg injuries, we put together this guide to helping your limping dog. Keep reading to find out more about the causes and treatments for your dog's hurt leg. 

Signs and symptoms of dog leg injuries

A leg injury in dogs is common, and owners should prepare themselves to deal with more than one injury throughout their pet's lifetime. The chance of injury definitely increases if your dog is active, as they begin to age, or if they have underlying medical conditions. 

Dog leg injuries can result from trauma or accident, or illness or disease, and it's important that owners be aware of the signs to look out for. Treatments for a dog’s injured leg depend on the condition itself and the severity, but if you're ever in doubt, take your pet to the vet.

Because dogs struggle to communicate with humans, even if they are in pain, owners need to look out for signs and symptoms of a dog’s hurt leg. If you notice any of the following, then your dog more than likely has a leg injury:

  • Limping
  • Lack of coordination or loss of balance
  • Dragging legs behind (serious dog hind leg injury symptoms) 
  • Difficulty standing, sitting, or supporting its own bodyweight 
  • Whining or barking
  • Licking of limbs
  • Dog leg swelling
  • Obvious bruising of limbs
  • Cuts, abrasions, or visible blood on limbs
  • Obvious breaks or dislocations
  • Weight loss
  • Apathy, change of character, and loss of interest in exercise

How serious are dog leg injuries? 

Dog leg injuries vary in severity, but if it's clear your dog is in pain, then you need to schedule an appointment with the vet as soon as possible. If you're unsure what the problem is, then you should also take your dog to the vet (if in doubt, take your dog to the vet!)

Dog back leg injuries and dog front leg injuries can be sudden, or they can appear over a long period of time. Sudden injuries are often apparent, as they'll be the result of trauma or an accident. Long term symptoms can be more challenging to spot. These are the result of degenerative conditions or underlying medical problems that are beginning to surface. 

Different injuries require different attention, so let's look at the most common types of dog leg injuries and what can cause them in more detail.

What are the most common causes of dog leg injuries? 

Dog leg injuries can be short term or long term, and they can be caused by sudden injury or slow debilitation. 

A sudden injury can result from car collisions or fights with dogs, while degenerative diseases can be inherited or form as your dog begins to age. 

Dog sprained leg or strained leg

Dog sprained legs and strained legs are two of the most common causes of injury. Strains are ordinarily minor and occur when tendons in the leg are pulled or overextended. Strains will often go away on their own after a period of rest and relaxation. They can be exacerbated by overexercising and overexertion. 

Sprains (particularly a dog sprained back leg) are typically more severe than strains. Sprains occur when ligaments are damaged. One of the most common dog hind leg injuries is a torn CCL (cranial cruciate ligament). A torn CCL is a significant knee injury and can put your pet out of action for weeks. 

Patellar luxation 

Dog rear leg injuries are often found in the knee, and one of the most common knee injuries is patellar luxation. The patella is the dog's knee cap, and if overexerted, it can be dislodged or dislocated from the joint.

Patellar luxation causes swelling and loss of movement, but it can sort itself by popping back into place. However, continued dislodging can damage the joints and cause concern, and in severe cases, surgery. 


Sudden and severe dog leg injuries are generally caused by trauma, and this can be frightening for both the dog and the owner. Trauma injuries include cuts and abrasions, and if they affect important arteries, they need immediate attention.

Trauma also causes fractures and breaks in the leg bones, and again, these need urgent veterinary attention. Trauma can result from collisions with vehicles, falls downstairs, or even fights with other animals or dogs. 

Paw injuries

Your dog doesn't have shoes to protect its feet and instead relies on the heavily padded paws that they spend all day walking and running on.

Paw injuries are therefore expected in all dogs and can be picked up outside and inside the home. Foreign objects can become lodged in the paws, leading to infection and causing pain every time your dog tries to walk.

Dogs can also injure their toenails through strenuous exercise or accidents. Split or torn toenails are incredibly painful, but you can prevent this by keeping your dog's nails filed back. 

Bone and joint diseases

Long term symptoms may result from debilitating diseases that affect the bones, or more commonly, the joints of your pet dog. 

These diseases can be hereditary and often appear as a dog begins to age. The most common debilitating diseases include arthritis, which degrades the joints over time, and IVDD (intervertebral disc disease), which causes degeneration of the spinal cord, leading to a lack of movement in the legs.

Diseases caused by ticks, like Lyme Disease, can create a severe condition that causes problems in the joints. 

Diabetes is also a debilitating factor; however, this disease can be controlled by the owner through a good diet and a regular exercise regime. 

How to treat dog leg injuries

A dog hock injury can require a very different treatment than a dog paw injury, so it's always recommended to take your pet to the vet for a thorough check-up. There are, however, several short-term dog leg pain home remedies you can use to make your dog more comfortable if it's injured. 

If your dog is visibly in pain, with noticeable swelling or bruising, then you should apply an ice pack to the affected area. Keep your dog calm by patting or stroking them gently, and make them as comfortable as you can. 

While some minor injuries can heal by themselves, it's important to keep an eye on your dog through the healing process. Injuries may also be hidden, so it's good practice to gently run your hands over your dog's legs to look out for swelling or cuts that may not be obvious. 

If minor injuries don't go away, however, take your pet to the vet. They could be a symptom of a more severe and debilitating condition. Treatments prescribed by vets can range from antibiotics to fight infections to surgery for complex degenerative diseases. 

During the recovery stage, owners need to ensure that they keep their pets comfortable and don't begin exercising too soon. Consider adding A bed ramp to help your dog get around the home more comfortably. Other rehabilitative treatments such as massage therapy or hydrotherapy could have added benefits as well. 

Dog leg injuries: The last word

Dog leg injuries can be minor, or they can be severe. They can be sudden or degenerative. Whatever the cause or the underlying condition, if you're ever in doubt about the correct treatment of procedure when dealing with dog leg injuries, we always urge owners to contact their local vet.

Early action can save your dog's life, so don't hesitate if you're ever worried. Luckily, though, the majority of dog leg injuries are minor and often clear up quickly (especially with the right care and affection from their owners!)

Why not bookmark our guide to dog leg injuries to help your pet when they are limping?

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