How to Treat a Limping Dog at Home

Medically reviewed by James Davis, PharmD

Key Takeaway: Your dog might be limping due to an injury. In that case, you should wash the area thoroughly and bandage it. If your dog is sore from over-exertion, massaging the large muscles in the hip may help. If your dog is limping due to age-related osteoarthritis, there are some natural remedies that have shown to be effective in lessening pain related to that disease.

How to Treat a Limping Dog at Home

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One of the worst things a dog lover can face is when some injury or illness forces their furry buddy to start limping slowly instead of galloping around like he has since puppyhood. Here we’ll talk about some possible causes for a dog to start limping, as well as some remedies that can be administered at home to get your furry friend back to running around with unabashed glee.

When your dog needs to go to the vet

A critical decision you have to make is whether or not your dog needs immediate medical attention. If your dog is in severe distress and will not put any weight at all on one of their paws, or cannot stand, then you should take him to the vet immediately.

How to transport an injured dog

Be very careful when moving an injured dog, to prevent further injury, and to keep him as calm as possible. For smaller dogs, carry them while supporting their hips and breast, while keeping their injured leg elevated. For larger dogs, if they can still walk on three legs, walk beside them for support. If your dog cannot walk, use a blanket to wrap them up, while making sure to leave the injured leg unwrapped to avoid further harm.

What's causing your dog to limp?

Examine your dog for injuries

Start with determining which paw your dog doesn’t want to put weight on. If your dog is limping without favoring one paw, it may point to a problem which isn’t localized to just one paw. To thoroughly examine your dog for injuries, get him to lay down.

How to tell if your dog has arthritis

Osteoarthritis is prevalent in adult dogs, especially in larger breeds. Here are some signs that your canine friend might be suffering from arthritis:

  • Limping after exertion
  • Difficulty getting up from a prone position
  • Not being able to walk long distances
  • Irritability for no apparent reason
  • Moving slower than usual
  • Unwillingness to lay down on command
  • Difficulty jumping into the car or onto furniture
  • Difficulty using going up or down stairs

If your dog is suffering from arthritis, then read further on how to alleviate the pain caused by this debilitating condition. You can also check out another of our blog posts for more information. If your dog has the above symptoms, be sure to mention your suspicion of arthritis to your veterinarian for confirmation and diagnosis.

How to tell if your dog has sprained its leg

If after a particularly energetic play session you notice that your dog is limping, it may mean he has sprained or strained his leg. If your dog has strained his leg, it means that he has overexerted his muscles. This mostly occurs around the hips or thighs.

The signs your dog may have sprained his leg are:

  • Mild to excruciating pain
  • Swelling of the paws or joints
  • Limping or lameness
  • Compulsive licking of the pained area
  • Appetite loss
  • Decreased interest in playing or normal activities
  • Joints that look red and inflamed
  • Unexpected and unwarranted aggression

In this case, your dog will try not to put any weight on the sprained leg, and will likely try not to exert himself further.

To alleviate this condition, it's best to give your dog some time to rest, and if it's causing acute pain, you can try to massage the area which is giving your dog trouble. This should help the pain to subside, but be careful no to press on the area too much, as it may be too tender. If your dog recoils from the touch, don't keep trying.

What to avoid when treating limping in dogs

While you might be tempted to reach for the medicine cabinet when your dog starts showing signs of limping, we’d advise against it. Some medicines that work on managing inflammation or pain in humans can be toxic to dogs, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Your dog's stomach, kidneys, or liver can sustain considerable damage if it’s administered.

Luckily, there are natural alternatives which can support your furry friend’s mobility. Always consult with a veterinarian to make sure any treatment you decide on is not reactive to any other treatment your dog may be undergoing.

Home remedies for injuries and trauma to your dog's paws

How to treat a cut on a dog's paw

Make sure to wash your dog’s paw thoroughly. It would be easiest with a garden hose, but a bowl of water and a wet cloth can also work.

How to remove a stinger from a dog's paw

If your furry buddy has found himself at the receiving end of a nasty bee sting, the most important thing is to get the stinger out as fast as possible so that its poison doesn’t have a chance to be injected fully.

You should also be careful not to pinch the stinger, as this can cause its poison to be ejected into your dog’s sting. It’s better to scrape the stinger off your dog, with something flat and stiff like a credit card.

How to remove a splinter from a dog's paw

Generally, paws are more rugged than human skin, so dogs and other animals will have a much easier time traipsing around over forest debris than we would. But sometimes this ruggedness isn’t enough and your dog will get a splinter.

In this case, your dog is likely to try and lick the splinter out. They can generally be successful getting it out themselves, but it risks getting the splinter stuck in their tongue instead of their paw. Ouch!

So help your friend by carefully pulling out the splinter with some tweezers.

If you try but can’t get all of a splinter out, consult with a veterinarian to make sure your pooch stays healthy.

How to treat a burn on a dog's paw

When a dog burns its paws or its nose, which can happen after walking over asphalt or concrete on a hot day, you could potentially notice it because he will likely try licking the spot as a way of alleviating the burning sensation.

According to veterinary sources, it would be best to run cool water over the spot as soon as possible. If it’s on his nose, using a wet paper towel can bring some relief. Keeping the area as clean as possible is also a top priority to prevent any opportunistic infections from sprouting up.

Applying a topical burn relief with aloe will also help the dog's burn heal more quickly, but be wary of your dog ingesting anything applied topically, as this can be toxic for its health.

Home remedies for sore joints in dogs

  1. How to massage your dog's muscles to cure soreness

    If your dog has exerted itself during a particularly strenuous play session, veterinarians have indicated that it may be helpful to massage him to alleviate any discomfort resulting from muscle soreness. Just like humans, dog muscles can become sore through exertion, and just like a bit of massaging can relieve that soreness for people, it can do wonders for your furry buddy.

    Your dog’s largest muscles are near the hips, so that’s probably where he’ll be most sore. Very gently rub your fingers in the area. If your dog pulls away, you’re rubbing too hard. Doing this for about 10 minutes should alleviate the soreness your dog is feeling.

  2. CBD (Cannabidiol)

    Hemp has a variety of naturally occurring cannabinoids which have been shown to help decrease pain and promote mobility in dogs who are suffering from arthritis.

    1. CBD Oil (moderate-severe joint pain)

      If your dog is suffering from a moderate or severe chronic condition, CBD oil may be the best option.

      It is applied orally, under the tongue to maximize absorption. (If this would be difficult to do for your dog, you might consider treats instead).

    2. Treats (moderate-severe joint pain)

      Dog treats are a perfect CBD delivery medium for your dog. It gives them CBD in a form that makes it delicious, and will have them coming back for more. This makes dosing your dog so much easier in the long run. Nobody likes that nasty cherry flavor medicine we had to take as kids, so I’m pretty jealous that dogs get their CBD in such a delicious form.

    3. Chews (mild joint pain)

      Our chews have the lowest dose of CBD, and are slow release as your dog enjoys them. These would probably be ideal for a dog that is in the early stage of arthritis, when you’d like to help alleviate the painful effects of bone degradation.

      Be sure to check with your veterinarian about any treatments you decide to give your dog to make sure they don’t conflict with any other ongoing treatment.

  3. Best ingredients for dog mobility:

    Here are some natural ingredients that can help with mobility issues in older dogs:

Persistent limping in dogs

If your dog has been limping for more than a day and you cannot determine the cause, please consult with your veterinarian.

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