Helen Woodward Animal Center explains the common reasons dogs limp

What constitutes limping?
Limping can be a range of symptoms all associated with not walking as well as normal. Limping is everything from a dog holding their leg up completely to a general change in gait or movement of the legs.

Limping in adults
Other than benign muscle strains, the two most common reasons adult dogs limp are arthritis and ligament tears. Arthritis is typically a progressive change seen in older dogs where their mobility slowly declines. Ligament tears are found in the stifle, the equivalent ligament to the ACL in people, and are seen much more commonly as rapid onset incidents. Dogs have degenerative changes in the knees associated with these ligaments which can frequently contribute to its partial or full tear. Therefore, chronic cases are possible as well. All breeds are susceptible to this issue but middle aged, large breed dogs are disproportionately represented. Symptoms for this include limping often following an athletic or traumatic episode. Veterinarians can sometimes diagnose this issue with a physical exam through palpation. X-rays will often support the diagnosis. Treatment can be conservative medical therapy which typically has a higher success rate in dogs under 30 pounds. The more common treatment is surgical intervention. There are multiple surgical approaches which all aim to re-stabilize the knee joint to allow improved function. Frequently anti-inflammatory medications and supplements to support joint health help improve function even further.

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