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Greyhound with bandaged foot

We hate to see our Greyhounds in pain! So when we notice that they are suddenly limping, we want to figure out why and fix it ASAP. Dog limping is a distressing condition for both of us. Dogs are like us in that there are a vast number of reasons that can lead to limping, and they range in terms of severity from minor to severe (emergency).  The cause could be something minor, which means the limp could go away on its own.  However, if the limp lasts more than a day, it’s best to see the veterinarian.

Paw injuries, joint issues or disease, bone disease, and other general types of injury or trauma are the most common causes of dog limping. First let me say that I am not a veterinarian, and obviously, if you see blood or a severe injury, get your hound to the emergency vet ASAP. If a dog isn’t putting weight on a specific limb or is crying, definitely consult a vet immediately.

Common causes of limping in dogs include:

  • Bone fractures
  • Ligament sprains or ruptures
  • Muscle strains
  • Wounds
  • Joint dislocations
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Bruising
  • Paw pad trauma
  • Torn nails
  • Imbedded foreign material
  • Bacterial or fungal infections of soft tissues, bones, or joints
  • Developmental disorders
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Degenerative joint disease (also known as osteoarthritis)
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Cancer affecting soft tissues, bones, or joints
  • Damage to or illness that affects the nervous system

 Greyhound with paw injury

If there’s nothing obvious at first glance, take a closer look and see if you can identify the cause of the pain. Check the leg and in between the paw pads.  Look for any foreign objects, such as a thorn, foxtail, awn, or sap.  Even a piece of mulch caught between paw pads can cause discomfort. If you see anything like this, carefully try to remove it. Then check the toenails. Broken toenails can be painful and certainly cause limping. Burns, frostbite, bruising and any kind of cut could also be the root cause of dog limping. For Greyhounds, corns seem to be a common cause of limping.  To find out more about Greyhound corns, visit the Facebook group  “Greyhounds with Corns”.

Upon examining the leg, notice any swelling, redness or heat, and also if it bothers your dog for you to touch that area. Also look for any signs of swelling, cuts and bruises. If you find that, call the vet.  A good exam requires two people: one to examine the leg and one to restrain the dog. Painful dogs bite, even people they love, so be cautious. If you don’t have someone to help you, consider using the basket muzzle. If the exam becomes too painful, stop! Then, the evaluation of a dog in pain is best left to a veterinarian.

Greyhound with injured leg

If you don’t see anything abnormal, and the limp is mild, you can try resting it for a day or so. A mild limp means your dog is still using the leg but not putting as much weight on it. Be a couch potato. That means no running, jumping or roughhousing and only going outside on a leash to potty.  If you’re unsure if your pet’s symptoms are severe enough to warrant a visit to the vet, it’s always best to contact your veterinarian and explain the situation.

Avoid giving any human medications, as they can be toxic to the dog or interfere with the medication that the veterinarian might want to prescribe for pain. If you think your dog’s pain warrants meds, that is confirmation that you should get them to the vet.

Broken bones or dislocated joints require immediate care, and nerve damage can be a sign of a more serious neurological condition or spinal injury. You need to get your dog into the veterinarian or veterinary emergency room if your dog shows any of the following signs of an emergency:

  • Dangling limb (dislocation)
  • Swelling
  • Hot limb
  • Obvious break or unnatural angle

Here are some other signs that your dog should see a veterinarian right away.

  • Extreme Pain
  • Vocalization
  • Trembling
  • Behavior changes (like hiding, unwillingness to move, fear, or aggression)
  • Bleeding
  • Limb dragging
  • Large swellings
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • High fever
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble breathing

 Greyhound with injured foot

Older dogs are also more at risk for limping. Older dogs can limp from osteoarthritis that can affect any limb and even their neck and back. This limp is usually not sudden, although it might present after a rough play session or long walk/hike. Osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that affects the bones, can also be a cause of acute limping.

Avoid giving any human medications, as they can be toxic to your pup or interfere with the medication that the veterinarian might want to prescribe for pain.

As far as treatment, veterinarians will focus on the symptoms displayed in order to choose an appropriate treatment plan for dog limping. Depending on the cause, this could include pain meds, a splint or brace, icing of a wound or irritated area, or heating of an area that experiences chronic pain. The vet might also recommend surgery, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, or some combination of these.

You might be interested in these past articles:

Help! My Greyhound is Afraid of the Vet

Financing a Big Vet Bill

DIY Portable First Aid Kit

Pet Health Insurance

Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound Book



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