WHY IS MY DOG WALKING ON 3 LEGS?
Does it look like your dog is walking on 3 legs? The real term to use here is that your dog is limping. You see, your dog will limp or walk on 3 legs for various reasons. Unfortunately, because of their stoic nature, a dog would hide whatever pain or discomfort they are feeling and only show signs of the pain when it is severe. This character does not help anyone at all. So let’s look at the possible answers to the question “Why is my dog walking on 3 legs?”
Before we answer that question, you should understand that the way in which a dog expresses itself by walking on 3 legs is grouped into two. The gradual expression and the sudden expression.
The gradual expression becomes evident over time, this is because the cause of what is making your dog walk on 3 legs is hidden to the eye, therefore the situation will not be known or seen early enough till things have reached an advanced stage and your dog is unable to hide his or her condition.
With the sudden expression, your dog will start walking on 3 legs almost immediately. This is because the cause of the problem at this stage is evident and cannot be hidden.
Why we needed to explain this is that depending on the way the discomfort is expressed, that is what usually determines, whether the situation is an emergency or not.
Now, here are the reasons why your dog is walking on 3 legs or limping.
1. Injury or Trauma.
There are so many things around us both indoors and outdoors that can cause our dog pain, broken glass, nails, sticks, thorns, plant matter, insects, foreign bodies, etc. All these can cause bruising, lacerations, burns, frostbite, broken toenails, etc.
A major cause of injury or trauma is accidents. Stepping on thorns outdoors, missing a jump, and landing in the wrong places. All these can lead to your dog getting injured forcing them to walk on 3 legs. The good thing about Injuries is that they are noticed right away. They fall under sudden expression. The bad thing about them is that if they are not handled properly from inception, they can get worse and lead to more serious health problems for your dog.
Here are some examples of Injury or Trauma your dog may have:
i. Wounds: This usually occurs when a foreign object pierces or gets stuck in a dog’s paw. This situation is usually hard for your dog to hide and the pain of putting the affected paw on the floor is almost unbearable for them. Getting a wound treated immediately is important because if left as is, can lead to other problems like an infection, skin damage, or even more problematic issues. Here are some tips for you to manage wounds in your dog.
Dog leg pain home remedies.
a. First get the bleeding under control, this you can do by gently covering the wounded paw with a clean towel or cloth. Remain not to apply minimal pressure, the aim is just to get the bleeding to stop, but if you have a situation where the bleeding still continues excessively, then it is an emergency and you would need to take your dog to the hospital immediately.
b. Assuming the bleeding is under control now, clean the affected area gently, you can use a bottle of clean water and paw it around the area to clear out any dirt there and expose the wounded area.
c. If there is a foreign object stuck there like glass, stone, thorn, etc. remove the object using a tweezer. Remember to be very gentle while doing this. If not sure of the dog, you can decide to muzzle him or her before proceeding.
d. After removing the foreign object, you can now disinfect the wound, avoid using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide at this stage as they may cause more damage to your dog’s skin. You can opt for diluted betadine or chlorhexidine.
e. Now you can apply some antibacterial ointment and cover the wound with a sterilized gauze or bandage.
f. You may opt to use an E-collar during this period for your dog, the simple reason being that a dog would not understand the command of not licking the affected paw after treatment. Licking on the wound can lead to them getting infected and sick causing more problems.
g. Finally, monitor your dog, for issues after like swelling or discharge and liaise with your vet doctor if any concern comes up.
ii. Sprains: Just like we humans, our dogs can get a sprain. But what is a sprain? A sprain is usually an injury that affects the soft tissues of the body e.g muscles and ligaments. This usually happens when a dog moves abruptly or in an unfamiliar manner causing stress to the muscles and ligaments.
Usually, sprains are known to resolve themselves, but if you have a situation where your sprain lasts for more than 48 hours, then you will need to contact a professional for advice. Normally vet doctors would prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs for pain relief.
iii. Fractures: Your dog may be walking on 3 legs or limping because he or she has a fracture. Unlike a sprain, fractures actually affect a dog’s bone. A simple way of describing it would be a crack in the dog’s bone. Some signs that a dog has a fracture include but a not limited to, the dog being unable to bear the weight on the affected leg, the dog being in pain, swelling or deformity in the affected region, bone protruding out of the skin.
Fractures are best handled by professionals like your vet doctor, so the best way to handle the situation is to reach out to a vet clinic and get the best advice on how to get your dog there.
iv. Strained Tendons: This situation is usually common in dogs who engage in agility programs, sports or are over assertive when exercising. They are similar to sprains in that they stress a particular region, in this case, the tendons of the dog. Overstressing the tendon can lead to stress in that region leading to your dog walking on 3 legs to give him or her time to readjust.
The supraspinatus and biceps muscles located in a dog’s shoulder are the regions mainly affected by this condition.
v. Carpal Hyperextension Syndrome: The main distinguishing fact about this Injury is that it affects young puppies. This is mainly because puppies have low muscle tones and joint laxity. A better way of putting it is that the joints and muscles of young puppies are not strong enough to withstand the stress they put on them.
When they exert pressure or play too much, they will experience strain in the tender bones and muscles and would be forced to slow down. The good thing about this condition is that with a little rest your puppy would recover on its own and usually without treatment.
Being aware and avoiding getting your young puppies very excited is key here. Remember that in addition to underdeveloped muscles, bones, and systems, the young puppies are also trying to make sense out of the environment they find themselves and life in general. It is important that they do not develop bad habits that can affect them negatively in the future.
2. Bone Diseases.
A dog walking on 3 legs can be as a result of bone diseases. Although bones diseases are more prevalent in older dogs, young dogs are also not immune from them. Bone diseases usually require prompt diagnosis so that they can be treated quickly. The earlier they are identified and treated, the better for everyone involved.
Some of the major known bone diseases are:-
Arthritis: This disease is very common in older dogs. So many functions in a dog’s body are not as optimal as they used to be and the bone is not safe from this. As a dog gets older, the continuous friction between the dog’s joints leads to inflammation of the bones. This inflammation is what we call arthritis.
A dog suffering from arthritis would have a big reduction in the physical activities in which he or she used to engage in. Some common signs of arthritis include but are not limited to your dog sleeping more than usual, gaining weight, becoming less alert, showing less interest in playing or exercising, etc.
There is no treatment for arthritis, the best you can do for your dog is to get medication from your vet, usually anti-inflammatory medication, other things you may consider are lifestyle changes and weight management for your dog.
If it has been identified that your dog is suffering from arthritis, here are some home remedies that you may consider.
a. Control your dogs diet: The leaner your older dog is, the better his or her bones get. The simple reason is there is less weight for the bones to bear. As your dog gets older, feeding them the right amount of food and the right diet mix becomes too important to their survival. If he or she is already fat, you will have to liaise with your vet doctor and come up with a diet plan specially suited for them.
Also Read WHAT ARE THE TOP TEN BEST DOG FOODS?
b. Buy Ramps for your dog: It will be obvious that your dog would not be able to get on top of the bed or jump into the car like he or she used to do before. In this situation, a ramp would be a good thing in helping them get around. You can compare it to getting a walking stick for an elderly man or woman.
c. Provide Comfort: Your dog is old now or just too weak. Whatever it is, providing them with some extra comfort would do them a world of good. One of the best ways you can provide your dog comfort is by investing in a dog bed specially geared towards dogs with arthritis. Your dog not only gets his or her own spot in the house but also gets a bed that is best suited for their bone condition. You can also throw in a blanket just for the extra feel.
d. Exercise your dog: Of course at this level, you do not want to put stress on your dog. But your dog would require some physical activity to remain healthy and lean.
e. Consider Prescription Diets: There is a lot of testimonials out there that indicate Prescription Diets works like a charm, but using a prescription diet is not a general thing. It is something that needs to be planned properly and followed strictly. Missing a day is equivalent to you forgetting to take the medication prescribed to you.
f. Follow your vet’s instruction: This goes without saying. Giving your dog the right medication and dosage as advised by your vet doctor is one of the key factors that if adhered to would see your dog living a more fruitful life no matter what age they start
There are also alternatives like Acupuncture and Glucosamine supplements to help improve your dog’s overall health status and that includes bone health.
Bone Cancer: This is a serious disease in dogs. Although more prevalent in older dogs, this disease can still be found in younger dogs. Mainly characterized by lameness and sometimes fractures that can’t be explained from a small injury. The main treatment is amputation (that is if the vet doctor cannot see a way of saving the leg).
Other signs of bone cancer are tumors, excess lethargy, and loss of appetite. Bear in mind that bone cancer is a very aggressive disease and should not be taken lightly. Report to a vet clinic immediately, if you suspect this.
Lyme Disease: usually characterized by your dog getting an unexplainable limp. The lime disease is spread by ticks and becomes very pronounced after a few months of infection. This is one of those diseases that is gradually expressed. This is why it is always good to visit the vet doctor with your dog from time to time especially when you suspect something is wrong. Most dogs affected by Lyme disease are unable to walk at the advanced stage and have to be literally carried into the vet clinics for treatment.
Signs of Lyme disease include but are not limited to fever, lethargy, swollen joints and lymph nodes, loss of appetite, etc. The basic treatment involves the use of antibiotics to flush out the disease.
Valley Fever: This is a fungal disease that can affect dogs across all age ranges. Signs that a dog has valley fever include but are not limited to fever, harsh cough, lethargy, depression, and lameness. Treatment usually involves the use of anti-fungal medication.
3. Joint Problems.
These types of problems specifically affect the joints in a dog’s musculoskeletal system wearing and tearing them down. Joint problems can affect either the front legs or hind legs of a dog. If you notice a dog lifting back leg when standing or a dog lifts back leg when running, it is very possible that he or she is suffering from a joint problem affecting the hind legs.
Some of these problems are:-
Any sign, in which your dog avoids using his or her hip bone to function is a sign of possible Hip Dysplasia. A major way of preventing this problem is to avoid breeding dogs that show signs of hip problems. If you suspect your dog has or is developing this problem, discuss all possible options with your vet doctor.
Ruptured ACL or CCL: Fully pronounced Ruptured Anterior (or Cranial) Cruciate Ligament is actually not a disease but an injury that severely affects the hind legs of a dog. It can be defined as the tearing of the Cruciate Ligament which holds the hind legs leading to lameness on that leg and forcing the dog to walk on 3 legs.
This tear can happen during a very strenuous exercise or an accident, sometimes, the tear is not immediate but happens gradually over time.
Some dog breeds are more predisposed to a Ruptured ACL or CCL. Some of them are Rottweiler, Labrador retriever, Newfoundland, and St. Bernard. A ruptured ACL or CCL would make the affected hind leg appear lame and very swollen. At this stage, there is really nothing much you can do, just take your dog to a vet doctor.
Most of the time an ACL or CCL health problem is treated by surgery.
Luxating Patella: Or simply a Dislocated Kneecap is another condition that affects the hind legs of dogs. This is more pronounced in the kneecap region making the dog skip or hop in situations where they are expected to run. For some dogs, they would be unable to move due to the pain. It mostly affects smaller dog breeds and also has a variety of treatment options.
You can discuss this more with a vet doctor if your dog is experiencing this problem.
So in all some dog hind leg injury symptoms are back gait abnormalities, swollen limbs, avoiding the use of their hips, skipping and hopping on the back foot, lameness, etc.
How to treat dog limping back leg.
There is really not much you can do for your dog here, as you can see from above, the best thing you can do is to take your dog to a vet doctor and allow them to handle the situation professionally.
Now that we have addressed the hind leg problems, let’s also address the front leg problems
Elbow Dysplasia: This is one of the major bone problems which dogs suffer from, it is characterized by the malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint. The timing of this happening can be gradual or sudden and the dog would exhibit signs like reduced mobility to even lameness.
Another way to explain Elbow Dysplasia is that the top part of the elbow called the ulna is unable to fuse properly to the rear point of the elbow. This leaves a dangling weak joint which will cause the dog pain when placed on the floor and lead to that front leg not developing properly.
Report this to your vet doctor immediately you suspect that this is the problem. Your vet doctor is likely to run some diagnostic tests, do some physical evaluation of your dog, and take some x-rays to get an informed stance on what is actually happening to the dog. Armed with the information, your vet can advise whether your dog needs surgery or lifestyle changes. It is also possible that the solution for your dog would be a mix of the two options.
Muscles and Tendons Problems: As addressed earlier, stresses on muscles and tendons can affect a dog’s mobility and this is so true for a dog’s front legs. When they are over-exercised or overstressed, a dog’s front leg tends to weaken. This leads to the muscles and tendons here not repairing themselves as fast as they should making the dog limp or walk on three legs to adjust to the situation and give the muscle and tendons time to heal.
Normally, in situations like this allowing your dog to rest and propr nutrition would solve the problem, but to be on the safe side, consult a vet doctor to get a professional opinion of the situation.
4. Neurological Disorders.
Dogs have a brain, spinal cord, vertebrae, and peripheral nerves. All these combined together give the possibility that these organs or parts of their body can be injured or deteriorate in performance over time. This simply means that they will not function properly as they used to function in their peak time and this can lead to problems in other parts of the body.
Brain Infections, Autoimmune disease, Inflammation of the central nervous system, Seizures, Strokes, Tumors, Slipped disks, etc. can all affect the nervous system leading to conditions like Disorientation, Pain, Head pressing and the ones we are more interested in here which are Inability to Use Limbs, Sudden Stumbling, and lethargy.
In other words, Neurological Disorders can affect our dog’s limbs and therefore affect the way they walk.
Some Neurological Disorders can be cured while some can’t. You will have to liaise with your vet to understand what your options are.
5. Negative Reinforcement.
Your dog walking on 3 legs can be as a result of a bad habit that you have unknowingly reinforced over a period. If their paw was injured and they got the best attention of their life by walking on three legs, why would they want to stop doing so even if they are healed? Of course, this is not the outcome you want from your dog but remember that our dogs live for our attention and praise.
The best thing for you to do if you are sure your dog is healed and is doing it to get your attention is to withdraw your attention from them and only give it when they walk properly. If you have not noticed by now, your existence with your dog is all about him or her learning and unlearning from you.
As far as your dog understands what you want, he or she would always try to adapt themselves to suit your needs.
HOW TO TREAT A LIMPING DOG AT HOME.
The truth is that apart from treating it if an injury is accompanied by it as stated above, there is nothing much you can do for your dog at home.
The treatment for your dog limping or walking on 3 legs varies depending on what is causing it. Some people might require their dog to rest for some days, others may require surgery, medication over a period of time, lifestyle changes, etc. You cannot really say which category you fall under until your vet doctor has done all the tests and analysis.
The best thing for you to do for your dog while waiting on your vet is to abstain from activities like playing and exercising, this would only make the condition worse, providing them with a dog crate or dog bed would make a lot of sense at this time, and movement should be only if necessary e.g to eat or to potty.
Finally, resist the urge to purchase an over-the-counter medication for your dog in the meantime. Just follow the instructions from your vet and your dog would be just fine.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.