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dog limping off and on in front right paw

My Dog Was Limping Then Stopped

dog limping off and on in front right paw

My Dog Was Limping Then Stopped

If your  dog was limping then stopped it is most likely not an emergency.  This article describes best practices for dogs who were limping but then stopped. This is not for dogs who have broken bones. Go to an emergency vet if your dog:

A General Vet Scope Is Limited

General vets usually look for broken bones. They will do an X-ray or prescribe bed rest for 2 weeks. General vets focus on the day-to-day treatments. This includes vaccination, food poisonings, foreign object obstructions and broken bones. This is why a rehabilitation vet should be your first stop. Certified massage therapist and fitness professionals can not diagnose your dog. But they are able determine if you should take your dog to a rehab vet.

Health Care Professionals To Schedule Appointments

Why Was My Dog Limping Off And Then Stopped

1. Masking/Hiding Pain

In the wild it is bad to appear weak. Therefore, masking pain is an innate behavior that prevents them from danger. Animals will attack vulnerable animals. Hiding pain prevents these animals from attaching them.

2. They Are Sore

Soreness usually occurs after strenuous exercise. If your dog is limping after exercise they are telling you that it was too much. Your dog could be limping and then stopped because they are no longer sore but it could also indicate that something is wrong. 

3. You Can't Tell But They Didn't Stop Limping"

Some injuries are not “bad enough” to fully limp. Instead your dog is shifting his weight to other limbs or they are turning the leg inwards. This is still a limp but is very hard for every day pet parents to see. Most sports parents can not even recognize it.

What Part Of The Body Did Your Dog Injure

It can be any part of their body. It is not limited to their leg. If the limp has been on and off for a while you could be looking at a secondary injury. This is because your dog is limping to avoid pain and is compensating with other muscles. This is like when you stand to one side when your hip hurts. Overtime your hip will begin to hurt.
 

How Bad Is The Limp?

Severe Dog Limping

This is non-weight bearing. This means your dog is lifting his foot off the ground completely. He is shifting his weight to his other limbs. They may barely tap their paw to the ground but they are not putting any weight on it.
 

Mild Limping

This means your dog is still using the leg but is not putting equal weight on it. They may even rotate the foot outward to compensate.

Gait Alternation

This is a third type of limping. This type typically goes unnoticed. This is usually the case when a dog was limping but stopped. They may not be limping but they are changing how they walk to accommodate the pain. The signs of this are:
 
  1. Head Bob
  2. Not putting equal weight on all four limbs
  3. Rotating paw outward
  4. Sitting sloppy (feet out not tucked under their butt)
  5. Leaning forward or backward
  6. Walking in a 2 beat gait not a 4 beat gait
  7. Leaning against you or objects

Machine That Analysis Gait Mechanics

How To Tell Which Leg A Dog Was Limping But Then They Stopped

Front Limping

Dogs will raise their head when the front leg touches the ground. This is because they are using their neck muscles to pull them upwards. This is also known as the head bob.

Back Limping

Dogs will raise their hip or their tail when the back leg touches the ground. This is because they are using these muscles to pull them upwards. This is also known as the butt bob.

Stretches To Determine Restrictions

If your dog was limping but stopped it is usually an indication something is going on in their soft tissue. Soft tissue includes muscle, tendons, or ligaments. In this case you can perform static stretching exercises to see if there are any limitations Static stretching exercises to determine where the injury might have been. Static stretching is the act of holding a stretch for 15-30 seconds. You would extend or flex each part of the muscle. However, you should be careful to not over stretch your dog. This is a huge concern in static stretching. Unlike humans dogs can not tell us that its too much. However, injured dogs will most likely lock their leg to prevent any stretching of the joint or muscle. For instructions on how to static stretch your dog follow the video below.

Dog Limping Right After Bed Or Crate Time

This is common with arthritis and sports dogs. Their joints and soft tissue are usually tight. This might be the case if the limp goes away after 20 minutes.

Do Not Give Your Dog Human Medicine

Never give your dog the following:
 
  1. Aspirin
  2. Over The Counter Pain Relievers
  3. Human Prescription
 

Does Vet Prescription Medicine Makes It Better?

For soft tissue injuries and/or arthritis most vets prescribe anti inflammation medicine and pain relievers. Neither of those treat the issue. Instead it mask the pain and makes it easier to live with. Do not think because your dog is not in pain he is healed.

Treatment For Limping In Dogs

  1. Massage
  2. Laser Therapy
  3. Acupuncture
  4. Chiropractor
  5. Physical Therapy
  6. Canine Fitness
  7. Surgery
  8. Bandages, Splint, Braces or Cast
  9. Stem cell therapy
  10. Cold laser
  11. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation
  12. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  13. Therapeutic ultrasound
  14. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy
  15. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  16. The use of assistive devices like harnesses, slings, prosthetic limbs, or wheelchairs
  17. Weigh Management
  18. Rest
  19. Joint Supplements

Questions To Prepare For The Rehabilitation Vet

  1. Explain if there was a moment the limp appeared.
  2. Was your dog playing, did the run into something?
  3. Did they fall?
  4. How long ago did it happen?
  5. What was the severity of it?
  1. Front Leg
  2. Back Leg
  3. Left 
  4. Right
Gradual Onset or Chronic Limping
 
This is when the limp or lameness developers over time. Gradual onset is caused by underlying, chronic or degenerative condition. For example arthritis, dysplasia or a muscle injury.
 
Chronic means that the limp has been present for two weeks or more. It is common to see your dog limping off and on in this case.
 
Sudden Limping or Acute Limping
 
Your dog just started limping. This usually occurs after an injury or trauma. Please note that injury or trauma could be as innocent as twisting their leg while walking. It does not necessary need to be a tumble at the dog park. If you suspect a broken bone go to an ER vet as it could cause a serious neurological condition. You need to see the ER Vet if you see:
  1. Dangling Limb (Dislocation)
  2. Obvious break or unnatural angle
 
  • Are they on joint supplements
  • Are they on weight loss science diet
  • Any other medicines they take

It is important to include this in your dogs history. Sometimes a secondary injury is caused due to the dog compensating for the primary injury. This is like using your back to lift an object because your legs hurt. Eventually you are going to injure your back.

  • When was your dogs last adjustment
  • Did they receive lymphatic massage. Lymphatic message is a specialized massage that focuses on reducing inflammation. 

Sports dogs are more prone to injury. In addition, these dogs can not be overweight. The extra stress on their joints are already at risk for injury. For every extra pound  the dog is, it is an additional 4 lbs. on the joint according to Bryn Medical. 

Dogs should walk in a 4 beat gait. This means each paw hits the ground at different times. A two beat gait (also known as a pace) is a sign of a gait issue. 

Signs Your Dog Is In Pain

  1. Vocalization
  2. Trembling
  3. Behavior Changes (Hiding, Aggression, Reduced Mobility)
  4. Refusal To Walk, Go Up Stairs, Get In Care
  5. Swelling
  6. Disorientation

Common Causes Of Limping Dog

Check your dogs paw for cuts or foreign objects. Burns and frostbite are also common reasons for injury. Look to see if its red or infected. Broken nails can also get infected which are painful. This results in a dog limping. Common foreign objects include:
  1. Glass
  2. Nails
  3. Sticks
  4. Thorns
  5. Insect Stingers
  6. Bites
 

If your puppy grows too fast, he may develop the following issues In addition, if you run with your puppy or start dog sports too early your puppy can develop these growth disorders.

Growth disorders include:
  1. Abnormal Posture,
  2. Bowed Legs
  3. Severe Obesity
  4. Painful Joints,
  5. Muscle Wasting
  6. Hip Dysplasia
  7. Difficulty walking

Soft tissues, also known as muscles, ligaments and tendons, damage is one of the most common problems in pets and sports dog. This is because of the weekend warrior effect described below. Too many times we let our dog’s go all out which puts too much stress on their soft tissues. This would be like squatting 150lbs bar bell when you never built up to it. Your muscles will overstretch and possible tear. Your tendons and ligaments may even snap.

In the case of bone fractures. See your ER vet immediately. The most common cause of fractures (in puppies) is when their owners drop them or they fall of furniture. Most dislocations are a result of trauma but some can happen due to looseness of the joint.

Joints are where two bones meet. They have tendon and ligaments that support the joints.

Some diseases effect the integrity of the bone. This is common in large breed puppies. Puppies can develop conditions such as hypertrophic osteodystrophy and panosteitis. These diseases make walking painful. Certain cancer in dogs can also effect the bones, joints, and soft tissues. Soft tissues include muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Patellar luxation is a very common cause of dog limping off and on. This is when the knee cap (patella) pops in and out. There are many grades of this.

This is the most common reason for dogs limping after sleeping or resting. Arthritis is common in older dogs. Common treatments include: joint supplements, weight management, moderation of exercise, cold laser treatment, stem cells, CBD, anti inflammatory drugs, and arthritis injections.

This is when the femur does not fit well in the ball and socket joint of the hip. It is usually identified in puppies by 16 weeks of age. These puppies are usually quite and sit a lot. Hip dysplasia is common in German Shepherds. 

This is when one of the bones in the elbow do not fit together. The most common reason is FCP (fragmented coronoid process). This is seen in larger dogs and worsened by overfeeding. It is also caused by excessive exercise in the first 12 months of life.

  • Grade 1: A knee cap that can be popped out with manual pressure but is otherwise is within the groove.
  • Grade 2: The knee cap spontaneously pops out. This is typically associated with a skipping lameness when the knee cap moves.
  • Grade 3: The knee cap is permanently popped out but can be manually replaced in the groove.
  • Grade 4: The knee cap is permanently popped out and cannot be manually replaced in the groove.

This occurs when one of the four growth plates in the forearm is damaged. Since the forearm is made up of two bones (ulna and radius) one bone keeps growing while the other does not. This causes the leg to start to bow out.

This is most common in middle-aged dogs who suddenly starts limping on a back leg. The loss of the ligament causes the knee to become unstable and painful when the dog attempts to put weight on it. In nearly every case these dogs need surgery to return to full function.

Lyme disease can cause swollen, painful joints.

This is the breakdown (degeneration) of one or more of the discs that separate the bones of the spine (vertebrae), causing pain in the back or neck and frequently in the legs and arms.

Weekend Warrior Effect

The weekend warrior effect is like playing a 2 hour soccer game when you have not worked out in years. You are prone to injury, soreness, and exhaustion. The weekend warrior effect is common for dogs who limp but then suddenly stop.

Avoid The Weekend Warrior Effect With Canine Fitness

Canine fitness is like cross fit for dogs. It strengthens individual legs. This prevents a dog from having imbalances in the muscles. Imbalanced is like skipping leg day. This is bead because every day activities like chasing squirrels require the whole body. As a result, if your dog turns too quickly and his hips can not handle the load, he could get injured.

Avoid The Weekend Warrior Effect With Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is stretching’s with movement. Static which is when you hold the stretch for a certain amount of time. However, do static stretching with caution. This is because you can over stretch the dog and they have no way of telling you before its too late.

How To Help A Dog With Soft Tissue Issues?

Joint Supplements

If your dog was limping but stopped you could buy joint supplements. Joint supplments that contain the following ingredients would be beneficial. Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfage, Omega-3-Fatty Accide, Green0Lipped Mussels, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASU).

If your dog is very active and/or participates in canine sports you should put your dog on a joint supplement. The one recommended by Jennifer Crank (agility champion) and Susan Garret (retired agility champion) is called WorkSoWell. I have seen huge improvements in agility dogs and older dogs alike.

Canine Fitness

If your dog was limping but then stopped canine fitness might be a great option. Canine fitness serves two purposes. The first is to strengthen the muscles around joints. The second is to help a dog maintain a healthy weight. Canine fitness includes exercises such as core stabilization (like planks), rear end awareness (weight shifting exercises) and dynamic stretching (flexibility). These exercises not only help prevent injuries but they also help burn fat by building muscles.

Canine Massage

If your dog was limping but stopped it is most likely a soft tissue problem. Canine massage can help your dog. Massage supports the healing process and helps prevent secondary injuries caused from compensation. You can hire a professional or you can do general DIY massage techniques. To learn about DIY massage techniques visit here. This article describes how general massage can help the digestive system but the techniques are the same for muscle related injuries.

6 DIY canine massage

How To Move An Injured Dog

Severe Injury

  1. Slide blanket under your dog
  2. Have another person help lift him into the car

Minor Injury

  1. If they can walk use a harness
  2. Pick them up with hand on front chest and under stomach
  3. Place in car hammock or on the floor.
 

Dog Was Limping But Stopped

Overall your best option for chronic limping is to schedule an appointment with a Rehabilitation Vet. These are specialty vets that have diagnostic tools that can evaluate gait. In addition, they can perform complex procedures such as acupuncture, laser therapy and manual adjustment (chiropractic adjustment). They can also rule out disease related causes to limping. 

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