Symptoms of a Dog's Leg Injury

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How to know when your dog's leg hurts

Owners have a responsibility to keep their dogs happy and healthy. Unlike children, dogs can't tell anyone when they're injured. Leg injuries in dogs are very common, with diverse causes. Because of this diversity, symptoms of leg injuries can also show great variation. Becoming familiar with the many symptoms of leg injuries in dogs can help assure that your pet receives prompt medical attention when an injury occurs.


Identifying the symptoms of a dog's leg injury can be very important to the health of your dog. Causes of leg injuries range from mild and benign to severe and life-threatening. Also, some leg injuries may start as mild but, if left untreated, may turn critical, so it's always a good idea to act early.

Gait Symptoms

The main gait symptom of a leg injury in dogs is a limp. However, the type of limp can vary greatly, depending on the location of the injury. Significant front leg injuries will cause the dog to throw its head up when bearing weight on the affected leg. Conversely, if a dog has a severe injury in the hind leg, he will typically bob his head down when stepping on that leg. Foot dragging can be a symptom of a neurological injury, while a stiff gait pattern may indicate problems with joints, such as arthritis.


Pain Symptoms

The majority of dogs with leg injuries have pain as a major symptom. To assess for pain, watch your dog for signs that she's having trouble rising or jumping, resistance to exercise or yelping with movement. Also, you can use your fingers to palpate the dog's legs and gently move the joints. Always be careful, if you suspect an injury because a dog in pain may bite.

Swelling Symptoms

Another major sign of a leg injury in dogs is swelling. Swelling can occur in any part of the leg, at the location of the injury. Compare both legs to see if they appear to have the same girth or use a soft measuring tape. Also, look for any swelling in the feet, as gravity often leads to significant swelling there.


Bleeding and Wound Symptoms

Bleeding and wounds are the more obvious signs of a dog's leg injury, but they aren't always easy to find. Long-haired dogs in particular can present a challenge when looking for a small wound. Always gently push fur in the opposite direction of hair growth and start on the foot and carefully work your way up.

Behavior Symptoms

Changes in a dog's behavior can be a less obvious sign of a leg injury. For example, a very active dog may demonstrate a reluctance to run very far, or a generally cheerful dog may become grumpy and snappy. Dogs in significant pain from leg injuries may show a decrease in appetite or appear more lethargic. With leg injuries, you may notice decreased jumping or running. A dog may refuse to partake in activities he typically enjoys. Basically, any time your dog shows a noticeable and persistent change in behavior, a visit to the vet is a good idea.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.