How to Take Care of a Dog's Swollen Leg

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Monitoring your dog is crucial to help you detect any signs or symptoms of illness or pain. If you notice that your dog's leg appears to be swollen, you may be wondering how concerned you should be. The truth is that there are many things that may cause your dog's leg to be swollen. Here's what you need to know to make sure they're back to normal as soon as possible.


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Why is my dog's leg swollen?

When a dog's leg is swollen, it's likely due to an injury or in some cases, an illness. Your dog's leg could be swollen due to a sprain, a fracture, muscle strain, or abscesses. It could also be due to an underlying cause, such as pulmonary edema, heart disease, or cancer. The swollen area of your dog's body could also be due to a snake bite or insect sting. Dog and other animal bites can often cause abscesses which cause swelling in the area that was bitten.


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Unfortunately, it's difficult to pinpoint the issue at home. You can take note of the affected area and anything you think might be the cause of the swelling. For example, could your dog be having an allergic reaction to a new medication or something else they've been exposed to? Is your dog prone to a medical condition, such as arthritis or hip dysplasia? Any possible causes that you can think of based on your dog's condition and history are useful for the veterinarian to know.


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Symptoms of a swollen leg in dogs

When it comes to injuries or illnesses that seem relatively minor, it might be tempting for dog owners to brush it off and hope it gets better in time. However, leg swelling should never be ignored, as it can cause discomfort to severe pain in your dog, depending on the cause. Symptoms of leg swelling may include hot, swollen areas that appear under the skin and fur, reluctance to move or use the leg, and abnormal behaviors like withdrawing from social interactions, showing little to no interest in food, and crying or moaning., so it's important to keep an eye out for any unusual swelling and report that to your dog's veterinarian.


If your dog has suffered a leg or paw injury, you may notice that they're limping or experiencing lameness in one leg. If your dog is in pain, they may also be whining, breathing harder than normal, or reluctant to move or put weight on the affected limb. When dealing with an older dog, it's not uncommon to witness stiffness and difficulty walking or climbing stairs if the dog is suffering from arthritis. Any of these symptoms can be a sign of a variety of illnesses and injuries that could be causing your dog's swollen leg.



When your dog should see a veterinarian

Whether the leg swelling is sudden or it happens gradually, it's important to take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible. While you wait for your appointment, you should keep your dog calm in a contained area to reduce their movement. If your dog has an abscess, you can apply a warm compress using a towel or washcloth that has been run under warm water. For a swollen leg caused by a sprain or strain injury, you can apply a cold compress wrapped in a towel to the affected area for 15 minutes at a time up to twice per day.


The veterinarian who treats your dog will likely perform diagnostic tests, such as X-rays of the front legs or hind legs, to pinpoint the issue. Additionally, the veterinarian may want to X-ray or ultrasound another part of the body if they want to check for fluid retention, which could occur due to a medical condition, such as congestive heart failure. Depending on the symptoms, the veterinarian may also want to run bloodwork to test for conditions like Lyme disease.


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How to treat a dog's swollen leg

After your dog's veterinarian has run any necessary diagnostic tests and has reviewed your dog's history and symptoms, they can decide on the best course of treatment. If the swelling is related to joint injury or disease, dogs may be prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) to help make your dog more comfortable. Dogs may also be prescribed an additional supplement to improve joint health.


If the veterinarian finds a mass on your dog's front or back legs, they may perform a biopsy to further investigate the issue. In cases where a tumor is found, the veterinarian may recommend surgery or even amputation to improve your dog's quality of life. If your dog's legs are swollen due to an underlying condition like heart disease, your veterinarian will discuss a course of treatment with you.

Although you cannot administer the proper treatment without a veterinary exam and diagnosis, there are some things you can do to help your dog. Make sure your dog is visiting the veterinarian regularly for wellness exams and receiving appropriate vaccinations, such as the rabies vaccine, which will protect them if they are bitten by another animal. When your dog's veterinarian is familiar with them, it can help them rule out conditions and diagnose problems quicker.

The bottom line

There are many common causes of a swollen leg in dogs, all of which require a veterinarian examination to diagnose and treat the issue. If you notice that your dog is limping, experiencing lameness, or seems sore, you should call their veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian will be able to assess your dog's condition and tell you the appropriate steps to get your dog examined and treated.


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