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, such as swelling, bleeding, or a dog dragging his back leg after an injury, can help assure that your pet receives prompt medical attention when an injury occurs.
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Significance of leg injuries
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 of injury
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. A dog dragging the back leg after an injury can be a symptom of a neurological injury, while a stiff gait pattern may indicate problems with joints, such as arthritis.
Symptoms indicating pain
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 in the injured leg
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.
Behavioral changes and 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.