How to Find out Why Your Dog Is Limping Without Going to the Vet


So as to make sure that you know that you can take care of your dog’s lameness at home when no veterinarian is available, we decided to give you a detailed guide on what steps can be taken in these situations.

What to Do When No Vet Is Available

Being that there are certain parts of the world where no veterinarian is available, you have to think about how you can help your animal in case you live there or you just find yourself in such a place while traveling.

In some isolated rural areas like parts of the Amazon, there is no vet, and you may find yourself there with your dog that needs veterinary care.

Considering the fact that none is available, your dog will need some assistance if it starts limping.

The first thing you should do is to find out what is wrong, and it has to be done as soon as possible.

You can ask for help in a feed store, pet shop, or pharmacy, or you can do it yourself.

Finding out what is wrong with your dog is not something too demanding, as it typically turns out to be a cut on its pad or a bee sting.

Step Back and Look

You have to bear in mind that the reasons why your dog is limping can be numerous and that not all lameness looks the same.

It can sometimes cause so much pain that the dog cannot even stand on it, so it will be obvious which limb is affected.

If this is not the case, you should watch them while they walk for a while.

By watching them carefully, you may notice where the problem is.

You should pay attention whether the dog raises their head up when they put the sore leg down, then lower it down again when it starts walking on the good leg.

Or, your dog may have a stiff limb when walking but show no other signs.

Once the problem is detected, then you should do a better examination.

Front Leg Lameness

In case your dog’s front leg is affected, you can take the following steps:

  • First, you need to look at the pads of the foot so as to notice if there are any cuts, sores, or swellings.
  • You need to pay special attention if there is something stuck between the pads.
  • Checking the nails is also important and you need to squeeze each nail at the base and move it around a little;  you may hear your dog crying out when you touch its painful nail.
  • The next thing you can do is to flex the foot and the wrist, especially if you have noticed that your dog is constantly licking at one spot. This spot can be the site of the injury, or a sign of arthritis, which is much more common in older dogs but young dogs can be affected as well.
  • You can also run your hand up and down the long bones of the leg, to check whether there is a broken bone or another injury. In case there is a swelling or a painful place, your dog may yelp or snap.
  • You should also move the elbow and rub the muscles of the shoulder.
  • If your dog is licking joints excessively, you should pay attention to those places.

Rear Leg Lameness

There are instances when a dog has a problem with the rear legs, so you need to check the following:

  • First, as we mentioned before, you need to check the pads for any cuts, abrasions, or swellings, as this is the most frequent cause of limping.
  • Then, you will need to run your fingers between each toe with the aim to check for thorns, gravel, or injuries to the soft skin.
  • Taking a closer look at each nail is obligatory, as you can find cracks. Once you touch them, you will see how your dog reacts.
  • You should also flex the bones of the foot and the joint, as well as open and close the hock, that is the joint just above the foot.
  • Just like with front legs, you should run your hand up and down the long bones to look for swelling or a broken bone. Have in mind that a bee sting or snake bite can cause swelling as well.
  • The knee is a spot that you need to pay special attention to. Tiny dogs have a kneecap that slides from side to side, and in case you notice that it is stuck, that may be the cause of limping. Active dogs sometimes have torn cruciate ligaments and knee bones that might slide back and forth.
  • If you notice that your dog is in pain when you rotate the leg at the hip, it can be a sign that it is suffering from arthritis in the hips.

Simple Treatments for Common Injuries

Injuries to the Paw Pad

Noticing that the paw pad is injured is the best situation you may come across as all you need to do is to clean the wound with water, physiologic saline, or dilute hydrogen peroxide, as well as disinfect it with a dilute tincture of iodine.

What you will do next depends on how deep the wound is.

So, a deep wound is in question, you can pack in a little antibiotic ointment and wrap it with some gauze to keep your dog from licking it.

If you decide to use Vetrap, you must leave the toes visible to watch for swelling in case you put the bandage too tight.

Our suggestion is not to put the bandage if you do not know how to do this.

You should just leave the dog’s wound clean and unwrapped.

Another option is to cover the foot with a sock when the dog goes outside.

Make sure you take the sock off once the dog is back inside.

Injuries to the Webbing

Finding out that your dog is injured in the webbing, that is the skin between the toes, you will have to remove the thing that is causing the injury at first.

The next step is washing the area out with water, saline, or dilute hydrogen peroxide.

Once you sterilize it with betadine or chlorhexidine, the healing process is done.

However, in case the wound is bleeding, it will need to be wrapped, but the toes must be visible to watch for swelling.

Swelling requires the bandage’s immediate removal so as to prevent gangrene.

Injuries to Toenails

If you have noticed that a toenail is injured, our suggestion is to check all the nails.

Typically, long toenails get caught in grass or weeds and become injured.

What you must do is clean the injured toenail.

In case of bleeding, you should wrap it up until the bleeding stops.

Sore Joints

Sore joints can also cause liming and what the owner can do for his/her dog is to massage them and wrap them up for at least 15 minutes in a wrapped ice pack.

They can easily find the massage gels as they are available in pharmacies and pet shops.

It is true that this helps a lot, but owners need to be sure to clean the gel off after the finishing of the massage.

It is not suggested that your dog licks it off.

Broken Bones

Having noticed that the dog has a broken long bone, your task is to keep them from moving as much as you can.

Your dog will need to get up sometimes and you can help it by applying a temporary splint with a magazine held in place by duct tape.

It is significant to know that this “magazine-splint” should not be left on all of the time as it can be a cause of ulcers where it rubs against the body.

Snake Bite

Many owners notice swelling over a bite, and this can be a bee sting, an insect bite, or even a snake bite.

Whether a dog that has been bitten will survive or not, depends on its size and the amount of venom injected.

What an owner can do is to clip the hair above the wound and look for the type of bite, whether it is an insect or a snake.

He/she must give the dog an antihistamine right away.

Being that the wound will probably become infected, and if the dog manages to survive, it will need antibiotics.

Bee Sting or Insect Bite

In the majority of cases, a dog that suffers from a bee sting or insect bite will probably get better by itself.

However, there are certain insects that cause more swelling and pain than others.

If you have an antihistamine, you can give your dog a dose, as it will reduce the swelling and ease the pain.

What About Other Medications?

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

You should know that all the anti-inflammatory drugs can cause problems, but in case your dog is in pain, you can give it the aspirin, being that it is the safest.

The dose you can give is about 8-20 mg/kg/every 24 hours.

You need to start with the smallest dose and see how the dog will respond.


No particular antibiotics can be recommended, but if your dog has a broken bone, antibiotics may be needed.

Our advice is to consult a local pharmacy or feed store to find out which suitable antibiotics are available and can be given to your dog.

A Word of Caution

It is very important to visit a veterinarian if you have access, being that certain problems cannot be diagnosed except with blood work or an x-ray.

In the case of a sore joint, the reason for this issue may be a tick-borne disease, and rest will not help.

Also, a sore leg might be broken because of osteosarcoma (bone cancer), and if it is not treated promptly, your dog is going to die.

Getting a bit of advice from a vet is the best possible solution.

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