When your dog is limping around or, even worse, unable to put any pressure at all on one of his or her limbs, you begin to worry about about the implications of your dog’s newfound lameness. Is it a sprain? A cut? A bruise? A break? In almost every situation, you’ll want to set up an appointment with your veterinarian just to be safe, but there is plenty you can do to diagnose the issue as well as help your dog feel more comfortable in the meantime.
The first step is to carefully look over the afflicted leg. When we say carefully, we mean that you should be studying every inch for bruising, swelling, cuts and inconsistencies with the other limbs. Be sure to look under the paw for any bleeding or bruising that might be present.
As you’re looking over the afflicted limb, start thinking to yourself about what may have happened to cause this injury. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, then perhaps he or she stepped on a thorn or something else. If your dog is up there in years, then perhaps it’s a product of arthritis flaring up or another serious problem such as patellar luxation or an allergic reaction.
If it’s not a cut or a bruise, there’s probably not much you’ll be able to take from your examination unless you happen to be a veterinarian. The next step is to observe your dog in motion to see how he or she is walking. Your main concern should be with how much weight is being placed on the leg. If your dog is walking around carrying the limb, then you know that the problem is more likely to serious than if the dog is still putting a good bit of weight on it. Either way, it’s always a good idea to get any injury check out by the vet.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make a full diagnosis and effective treatment plan up all by yourself, but it is important to understand why the injury or discomfort is occurring, what the pain level is and what could be done, perhaps, to prevent the injury in the future. Your vet will hopefully be able to give you more insight into this at the appointment.
If it is determined that your dog has been injured, it’s important to keep in mind that active dogs are less likely to become injured as well as develop arthritis than dogs that get exercise (safely, of course) from activities like dog walking on a consistent basis. The more you can do to prevent injuries and illnesses, the happier both you and your dog will be, and the less you’ll spend on veterinary bills!