Why is my dog limping?

I have a two-year-old yellow Lab that started to limp about a week ago. She started out just limping at night from being active, but...


I have a two-year-old yellow Lab that started to
limp about a week ago. She started out just
limping at night from being active, but now she
starts to hold her pack paw up starting in the AM.
She will let you touch anywhere on her leg (from
the hip down to her paw pads). What could be
wrong, and what should I do?

Pittsburgh, PA

There are a number of problems that can cause young dogs to limp.

By far the most common one is called soft tissue trauma. Soft tissue trauma is a term veterinarians use to describe sprains, strains, and pulled muscles. It can occur in any dog, but its incidence is especially high in active dogs. Most two-year-old yellow Labs fall in that category.

The treatment for soft tissue trauma is rest. This gives the affected joint or muscle time to heal. As well, sometimes vets prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines to help speed healing and reduce pain. Never give your dog any human medications for pain without first consulting your veterinarian.

If a dog with soft tissue trauma is kept quiet for about a week, the limping should improve. However, if she continues with normal activity, then the injury can be exacerbated and the limping can get worse. That is most likely what has happened to your dog.

However, there are other things that could be going on. Damaged toenails or injury to the skin of the foot can cause limping. You mentioned that you evaluated your dog’s foot and did not find anything, so skin or nail problems aren’t likely.

As well, other, more serious conditions are possible. These include, among others, injury to a ligament in the knee (the cruciate ligament), hip dysplasia, developmental anomalies of the knee, panosteitis (growing pains) or early-onset arthritis.

Based on your description, I think it’s unlikely that anything serious is causing your dog to limp. A week or two of rest will probably fix the problem.

Nonetheless, she has been limping for a week already, and she is getting worse. To be on the safe side, I think you should have a vet check her out.

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