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Lameness in dogs happens when a dog can’t use one or more of his legs properly. Pain and injury are usually linked to this condition.

Lameness can affect just one leg or multiple legs, and can be constant or come and go. It can be worse at certain times in the day, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, after exercise or after rest.

Lameness of unknown origin is common in dogs of all types and sizes. If only they could talk! Depending on the severity and duration, additional tests such as blood and urine tests to look for an infectious cause may be required. In some cases, a trial with anti-inflammatory medications may be necessary.

Not all causes of lameness in dogs are serious or require medical attention. As a dog owner, though, it’s important to stay vigilant of your dog’s physical condition. This is to understand when at-home first aid and care isn’t sufficient and when it requires Veterinary assistance.

Causes of Lameness in Dogs

Lameness is generally an indicator of pain however it can be also an indicator of nerve defects and conformation caused gait issues. Lameness can have many causes including:-

  • injuries (fractures, dislocations)
  • cuts and wounds
  • foreign bodies (e.g. grass seed in between paws)
  • insect bites and stings
  • arthritis
  • cruciate ligament rupture
  • patella luxation
  • hip and elbow dysplasia 
  • snakebites
  • allergies
  • neurological (nerve) and muscular problems
  • immune mediated disease
  • cancer
  • mineral imbalances
  • hormonal and other systemic diseases

Symptoms and Signs of Lameness in Dogs

Lameness may involve one or more limbs and varies in severity from subtle pain or tenderness to an inability to place any weight on the limb.

Noticable symptoms may include;

  • Refusing to place any weight on leg or limping
  • Unable to walk or run normally
  • Difficulty walking up or down the stairs, or jumping into the car
  • Pain and general signs of discomfort
  • Loss of muscle mass around affected leg
  • Walking at a slower pace
  • Not placing paw on the floor properly (known as knuckling)
  • Swelling or abnormalities around the joints.

Treatment of Lameness in Dogs

Your veterinarian is best able to prescribe the appropriate treatment for your pet. It is very important that you follow all directions exactly as prescribed.

Relieving pain is an important component of treatment for lame animals, and may allow faster recovery. As well, it is helpful for dogs with chronic conditions, such as osteoarthritis. Nonsteroidal anti‑inflammatory drugs and other pain-relieving drugs are used to control pain in lame animals.

Other methods of pain relief that may be suggested in addition to (or instead of) drugs, include acupuncture, massage, and changes in diet. Stem cell therapy or supplements may also provide relief, but the scientific basis for their use is not yet established.


There are several risk factors for lameness. These include your dog’s breed. Some of the ailments and muscular diseases that can cause lameness are passed from generation to generation. Frequent, vigorous activity may also be a factor, as is your dog’s weight. Overweight dogs are more prone to developing some of the conditions that can lead to lameness.


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