What Causes Dog Lameness?

Lameness in dogs refers to the inability to use one or more limbs. It is mostly caused by pain as a result of an injury or joint problems such as joint degeneration and osteoarthritis. The pain in the affected limb results in a dog limping, and/or holding up the injured or sore limb.

Labrador Retriever Occasionally, we may see our dog limping - maybe due to a cut on the paw pad, a bruise, or a torn muscle... Lameness in dogs, or dog limping, means a dog is unable to fully and painlessly move or use a limb, or to put weight on a limb due to pain and discomfort.

Most of the time, dog lameness is temporary. The dog may be limping for a day or so, and then he gets better. However, if the lameness lasts longer than two to three days, then it is time to visit the vet.

Lameness in dogs can affect dogs of any age or breed.

Causes of Dog Lameness

The most common causes are:

Traumatic Injuries

Injuries of all sorts - from a cut to bone fracture or ruptured ligaments - can cause lameness in dogs.

If you dog is limping and is constantly licking one of her paws, it may suggest that she has sustained some kind of injury to her paw, e.g. a cut or maybe a foreign object is lodged between the toes. Take a look at her paw to see if you can find anything unusual.

A ruptured ligament in the knee joint can also cause a dog to limp. Young dogs who exercise a lot can quite often suffer from this problem. You may be playing frisbee with your dog when suddenly he slips and then starts limping.

Bone fractures are another common cause of dog lameness. A dog may get a bone fracture after being hit by a car, for example, and fractures can happen to almost anywhere in the leg or hip. Bone fractures can range from just slight cracks in the bone to complete shattering of the bone into fragments.

Yet another cause of dog limping is kneecap dislocation. This can happen to any breed, but seems to be most common in small breeds such as Chihuahuas and Poodles. Sometimes, for some reason, the kneecap moves sideway and the dog cannot bend her leg. After a while, the kneecap may suddenly slide back into position and the dog can walk normally again.

Arthritis and Hip Dysplasia

Arthritis can also cause limping in dogs. Arthritis can occur in almost any joint but is common in the hips, along the spine, and in the knee joints. Hip dysplasia is one common form of arthritis. It refers to the abnormal growth or development of the ball and socket joint of the hips of dogs.

A typical telltale sign of arthritis is the dog will have difficulty getting up after lying down for a while. When he walks after getting up, he will be stiff, sore, and limping.


A more serious condition that can cause lameness in dogs is tumors in the bones or the central nervous system. Bone tumors can be nasty and usually amputation of the affected limb is necessary.

Though not always the case, generally speaking, limping in puppies is most often caused by injuries or the result of some growth defects (e.g. hip dysplasia). In adult dogs, lameness is frequently the result of injuries or onset of arthritis. In older dogs, degenerative joint disease (DJD) or arthritis are the most common causes of lameness.

Signs of Dog Lameness

  • Obvious limping or walking with one leg off the ground.
  • Crying and whining out of pain.
  • Reluctance to perform normal activity, like going up or down stairs.
  • Reluctance or refusing to put any weight on a leg.

Natural Remedies for Dog Lameness

As dog limping is not a disease in itself but is a sign of some underlying physical problem, a proper diagnosis is essential in order to identify and treat the root problem.

In the meantime, however, some natural remedies can be used to alleviate the discomfort and pain that is causing the dog to limp.

  • Homeopathic Remedies: Homeopathic remedies are extremely effective in relieving pain. Common remedies for pain include Arnica (for muscle pain, strains, sprains and other blunt traumas that result in bruising), Ledum (for puncture wounds such as insect bites and stings), Pulsatilla (for arthritic pain) and Rhus tox (for swellings and joint pain).

    A Good Homeopathic Remedy for Pain Relief

  • Flower Essences: Flower essences are also effective in alleviating both acute and chronic pain.

    An Effective Flower Essence Product for Pain Relief

    It contains arnica, Impatiens, and other natural flowers and can be used for cuts, bruises, chronic pain, congestion, recovering from injury and surgery.

  • Herbs: Various types of herbs can also be used to relieve pain with good results. Please refer to this page for more information.