Lameness In Dogs

Has your dog been limping lately? Is it just a mild inflammation or could it be the result of a more pressing concern...

Seeing lameness in your dog can be alarming - especially when most of the things dogs love to do require mobility and soundness of limb. Things like chasing balls, going for walks and even just moving around normally are all affected. In this month’s article, we look at some of the causes of lameness in dogs.

Sprains, strains or bruises

Muscle injuries are usually a result of trauma, play or excessive exercise. Although they can be quite painful, the only treatments usually required are rest along with anti-inflammatory medications and pain relief medications.


These injuries are usually also trauma related but treatments can range from bandages to splints to, in some cases, surgery.


If your dog has an infection, there will usually be other signs alongside lameness – for example, a lack of appetite or lethargy. Treatments for infections are specific to the organism but usually involve antibiotics.

Diseases of the foot pad and skin

These can be a result of auto-immune diseases like lupus, parasitic diseases like mites, or traumatic foot-chewing secondary to allergies. If it appears to be a disease of the foot pad or skin, it’s best to visit the vet and work out which disease is potentially causing the pain.


Wounds can arise from lacerations, broken nails, stings, or even thorns. Once again, the treatment depends on the type of wound present.


Dysplasia is an inherited genetic disease that causes malformation of leg joints. The severity of lameness from dysplasia varies between affected dogs. Treatment is usually surgical, and anti-inflammatory medications, pain relief medications and other joint inflammation treatments are often used.


Arthritis usually occurs in older dogs as a result of the breakdown of cartilage in joints. The treatment for arthritis is often pain management through various medications, ensuring soft bedding, keeping the dog mildly active and controlling weight.

Luxating patella

This is a condition where the kneecap pops in and out of place. Although it’s often genetic, it can also be trauma-induced. Surgery is required to fix luxating patella.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Rupture (ACL Rupture)

ACL rupture happens when one of the knee’s stabilising ligaments gets torn. It’s usually trauma-related and seen most often in athletic dogs. The treatment for ACL rupture is surgery. If the ACL injury is more of a sprain than a rupture (ligament is stretched and may have some slight 'fraying' in the fibrous tissue of the ligament), then surgery may be able to be avoided though enforced rest and anti inflammatory meds.

Bone cancer

Bone cancer can affect any limb. Osteosarcoma is the most frequently-diagnosed bone tumour in dogs and whilst it can affect any dog, it is usually more prevalent in larger breeds. When bone cancer is present the affected bones can fracture more easily. The treatment for bone cancer is usually to surgically remove the tumour and then use chemotherapy along with pain control. Due to the aggressive nature of Osteosarcoma, early detection can be an important step in effective treatment.

Although this list looks at some of the main causes of lameness in dogs, if lameness is persistent it’s always best to get a vet to run tests to discover the real reason behind lameness and administer the appropriate treatment.