Limping or lameness is one of the most common reasons we see pets for at vet clinics. Limping may range from a slight favouring of a paw or limb, stiffness when getting up or after running around or even completely avoiding all weight on the leg or paw. Limping can happen in almost all species of animal ranging from cats and dogs, through to guinea pigs, rabbits, lizards and even birds. Some pets may also hide or choose to lie in their beds more if they have a problem with their leg instead of just limping.

There are many reasons a pet may be limping including accidents, injuries, birth deformities or malformation of joints all resulting in a change to their walk or run. If your pet is limping please have them assessed by a vet to work out why your pet is limping and assess if any treatment or testing is required for your pet.

 

Common injuries:

  • Sprains
  • Wounds
  • Abscesses
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Cruciate disease or ruptures
  • Fractures
  • Ligament strains or ruptures
  • Growth deformities
  • Nerve pain or spinal injuries

Is my pet in pain?

Yes, if your pet is limping they are in some degree of pain or discomfort. Pets will show pain in a number of different ways, yelping, whimpering, hiding etc. But they will try to hide it from us to make us happy. Pets will limp as a simple way of avoiding the pain or trying to avoid making the discomfort or pain worse, just as we would if we had a sore toe or knee. It may only be a minor 1/10 pain score, say from stepping on a prickle, or it may be a major 10/10 pain score with a broken bone or ligament.

 

What should you do if your pet is limping?

Have a look at your pet’s leg. Is there anything that you can see that is different; a wound, prickle, hair matt or swelling? Try to remove any prickles or matts if your pet will let you, this may solve the problem and not require a vet visit. If there is nothing that you can obviously find and your pet is still limping after a few minutes we would recommend a vet consult. Your vet will be the best person to find out what is wrong with your pet and judge what is required to keep your pet comfortable and solve the concern for you. Your vet will also need your insight as to how your pet is coping with their situation to see if any testing such as X-rays are required. Some animals will require sedation to thoroughly examine them to help find the cause of the lameness.

 

Does your pet need pain relief or other medications?

This will depend entirely on your pet’s condition, it may be as simple as removing the offending prickle, or as complex as needing surgery to correct or remove the pain source. They may only need a once off injection, a course of medication(s) or may need to be admitted into hospital for more intensive pain management. Please make sure to tell your vet if your pet is on any medications.