Dogs are relatively good hunters, and one of the factors that contribute to this is their innate ability to run. But it is not unheard of for dogs to limp when walking as opposed to when running. Dog owners might be a bit confused when they observe this in their pup. They think of it as being unusual (because it is). Dogs limp when walking but not running due to many reasons. One of the most common reasons is an injury sustained due to an accident or trauma.
As a dog owner, you must be quite observant to notice your pooch only limps when walking but not running. A limp can either be mild or severe; with a severe limp, a dog would find it difficult to bear any form of weight on the leg. But with a mild limp, you would hardly notice something is wrong with your dog. So you must always pay constant attention to your pup to know when something is not right.
You should bear in mind that a limp or lameness is not a disease but a symptom of the pain or discomfort they are experiencing. For example, a dog might begin limping because of a sprained ligament or hip dysplasia. In this article, we will discuss different reasons why a dog might begin limping when running but not running. Without much ado, let’s dig in.
Why Might a Dog Limp?
Dogs limp for so many reasons ranging from trauma to a congenital defect. The following are some of the reasons why a dog might start limping.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common degenerative condition that affects both men and dogs. Osteoarthritis is quite common in geriatric dogs. This condition is the most common chronic condition affecting dogs of all breeds. At the advanced stage, this condition causes dogs to limp when walking.
The goal of managing osteoarthritis in dogs is not to cure but rather to improve symptoms. The limp caused by osteoarthritis in dogs is gradual, not sudden. The bad side of OA is that it becomes progressively worse. Therefore, partnering with your vet is crucial to the well-being of your pup.
Hip dysplasia is another common pathological condition in dogs that causes lameness or limping. As opposed to osteoarthritis, which often occurs at the late stage of life, hip dysplasia occurs during the formative years in dogs.
Hip dysplasia is simply the loosening of the hip joint, which then triggers mild to severe pain in dogs. One of the important signs of hip dysplasia in dogs is limping without a history of accident or trauma.
Patellar luxation causes dogs to limp because their knee caps are not properly aligned. With patellar luxation, a limp occurs when a dog tries to put the patella in proper alignment. Patellar luxation is a developmental problem in dogs that causes serious pain.
Another major sign of patellar location in dogs is that your pup might switch between hopping and skipping while walking. The skipping part happens when the kneecap slips out of place, and it hops when trying to fix the kneecap back into position.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint disease that causes the bones found within a joint to die out due to the lack of blood supply. This condition causes limping in dogs, and it can especially be painful. Dogs may also experience OCD after a high-impact injury.
Evidence has shown that osteochondritis dissecans affect the shoulder joint of dogs more than any other joint. Although it is not uncommon for the condition to affect other joints as well.
The cranial cruciate ligament is often a cause of limping in dogs. This condition occurs due to the weakening of the cranial cruciate ligament. In the early stages, the ligament gets inflamed, with other degenerative changes being noticed. Once inflammation occurs, the degenerative changes become progressive.
Evidence has shown that the degeneration of the cranial cruciate ligament has strong genetic links. The most obvious sign of this condition is a limp; with time, an affected dog may not be able to bear weight on the limb.
Intervertebral disc disease
Intervertebral disc disease in dogs is another form of degenerative disease that causes dogs to limp when walking. This degenerative condition happens when the intervertebral discs in your dog’s spine begin to harden. In the chronic stage, the hardened or bulging disc may compress a pup’s spinal cord.
The pain felt by dogs at the spine as a result of intervertebral disc disease affects the way they walk. For example, a dog with this condition may find it hard to move the back legs due to pain and muscle spasm.
Bone fractures occur when there is a break in the continuation of bone. At most times, a bone fracture is synonymous with trauma or high-impact injuries. If your canine has a fractured limb, walking becomes almost impossible.
However, a dog with an incomplete or a hairline fracture may walk about with a limp. A dog with a fractured limb should be immediately seen by a vet.
Why Would My Dog Be Limping when Walking but Not Running?
A dog limping when walking but not running leaves some dog owners puzzled; they are usually confused why this might happen. Anyway, this can happen for various reasons. Let’s discuss some of the reasons why this happens.
Trauma is one of the common reasons dogs limp; traumatic events such as ligament sprain and muscle strain might cause a dog to limp. Like humans, dogs are active animals, and they are prone to high-impact injuries.
A dog might get injured without the owner knowing about it. For example, a dog might injure itself by jumping from a certain height within the home and end up spraining a ligament. By spraining a ligament, the dog might limp when walking but not necessarily when running, depending on the severity of the sprain.
Damage to the nerve innervating one or more limbs of a dog might cause it to limp when walking but not running. For example, if the nerve damage affects a small localized part of its limb, the limp becomes obvious only when walking.
But on the other hand, if the nerve damage is extensive, your dog may neither be able to walk nor run. Other symptoms of nerve damage you might notice in your pooch are muscle wasting, loss of appetite, limping, and dragging of its limbs. At other times, a dog can begin to make painful vocalizations.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium named Borrelia burgdorferi. This infection is transmitted to dogs by infected deer ticks. One of the cardinal symptoms of this disease is lameness, and limping becomes more obvious when the dog is walking.
Another common symptom of Lyme disease you might notice in your dog is swollen lymph nodes. Evidence has also shown that dogs with Lyme disease are more prone to kidney complications. If you suddenly observe your pooch walking with a limp, take the dog to your vet to screen for Lyme disease.
Broken nails can become so painful for dogs that bleeding and inflammation occur at the injury site. Dogs often break their nails when running around. Therefore, if your dog manages to break one or more of its nails, it will start walking with a limp in the initial phase. Walking improves as the injured site begins to heal.
Once you notice your canine has broken a nail, don’t take any chances; take your dog immediately to the vet. If left untreated, the site of a broken nail can become an entry point for bacteria to enter your dog’s system. Surprisingly, a dog with a broken nail may not limp when running due to an adrenaline rush.
A dog with an abscess on its limb may start limping while walking. An abscess is a pocket of pus that develops when a wound becomes infected by harmful microorganisms. They can be found anywhere on the skin. The common places they appear include the mouth, skin, and toes.
Dogs that are fond of staying outdoors are prone to developing abscesses. Moreover, some dog breeds like the English bulldog and the Labrador Retriever are prone to developing abscesses. Walking becomes even more difficult when an abscess is found in between the toes.
Swelling is another reason why a dog might start limping when walking. Any kind of soft tissue injury to the limb will cause swelling for your pooch, which will affect its gait. Limping due to swelling is quite easy to manage in dogs. Putting an ice pack on the swollen area for 10-15 mins should bring the swelling down.
A cause for lameness in dogs when walking but not running is ligament sprain. Dogs are naturally active, and they tend to sprain their limb ligaments as they move from one place to another.
Ligament sprain in dogs has different grades; sprain can be grade 1, grade 2, and grade 3. With a grade 1 ligament sprain, a dog would still be able to walk with a limp, but with a grade 3 sprain, your dog may be unable to bear any form of weight on the limb.
When a dog is stung by an insect around or on the paws, it may find it difficult to walk properly, thereby causing it to limp. But the limp may immediately disappear when there is a need for the dog to run. The signs you will notice at the bite site include swelling and redness.
To provide relief from pain for your dog, apply a cold compress for 15 to 20 minutes at the bite site. If conditions don’t improve, see your vet.
How Can I Help My Dog’s Limp when Walking?
If your dog limps when walking, all you may need to do is to make your dog get sufficient rest. However, if you notice there is visible pain with the limping, you can give nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pain relief. If any part of the limb is swollen, apply a cold compress to the swollen areas. If you are to give any sort of pain relievers to your dog, ensure they are vet prescribed medications. The kind of help you offer to a dog that limps should depend on how severe the limp is. If the limp is mild, rest might be needed for your dog to get back to normal. After a week or two, if your dog doesn’t get back to normal, see your vet.
Furthermore, if you observe wounds on the lame limb, clean the wound area with disinfectant and warm water. This would prevent the wound from getting infected. Another way to help your dog’s limp is to get vet-prescribed assistive devices for your dog’s limb. Using these devices would somehow take away some weight off your dog’s limb. Examples of assistive devices your canine might benefit from include braces and a wheelchair. The aim of using assistive devices is for the injured limb to heal properly without stressing it.
Joint supplements like glucosamine and Methylsulfonylmethane have been shown to strengthen a dog’s ligament. The overall effects of conditions like patellar luxation and osteoarthritis, and any other degenerative conditions can be minimized with the use of joint supplements. However, speak with your vet before giving any type of supplements to your pooch. When small particles are stuck in the paws of a dog, this can cause a dog to limp. Therefore if you observe your dog limping, always check for particles or glass splinters. If your dogs limp fails to resolve with conservative treatment, surgery is another option.
Dogs are affectionate pets, and every dog owner wants the best for their canine. If you suddenly discover your dog limps when walking, the best thing to do is to make him rest for some days to see if there would be an improvement. If no improvement is observed, contact your veterinarian. You should as well know that dogs are inherently different, and they have different pain thresholds. A dog may not be able to bear weight at all on a limb with a grade 1 ligament sprain, while another would be limping with it. Therefore, if you discover your dog limps, speak to your vet.