3 Things That Can Lead to Lameness in Dogs

You and your loyal pooch go on many adventures together, such as taking long walks, playing fetch, and playing games together. It’s an excellent way for you and your dog to bond and enjoy each day to the fullest. However, when you notice your dog starting to limp, it could raise concerns. Lameness can occur when you least expect it and can feel scary or alarming.

So, what exactly is lameness in dogs, and what are the things that can lead to lameness? Here are the different types of lameness to know about and their common causes, so you can help your furry companion stay ahead of symptoms. Keeping your pooch happy and healthy can help alleviate their lameness symptoms and carry on their lives like normal.

What Is Canine Lameness?

So, what is canine lameness? It often refers to the inability to effectively use one or more of their limbs, usually resulting from gradual or sudden lameness in soft tissue injuries, dislocations, joint injuries, bone fractures, and diseases. Furthermore, other disorders like hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis can increase lameness symptoms. Lameness can occur at any time in your dog’s life, from puppy to senior age.

Thankfully, if you notice your pooch experiencing gradual or sudden limping, vets can help determine the cause. They can also provide knowledge on what steps to take next. Lastly, lameness can have a minor or chronic impact ranging from occasional hobbling to constant limping. So, monitoring your dog’s movement is crucial to determine the effects of their limping.

Types of Canine Lameness

Lameness falls into two categories; anatomical lameness and pathological lameness. Each has its causes and impact areas, so it’s helpful to determine the type of lameness your pooch has. The sooner you know, the quicker you can help alleviate their discomfort.

Pathological Lameness

Pathological lameness is usually associated with the pain your pooch feels, originating from a musculoskeletal or neural area. For instance, pathological lameness can come from sprained legs or paw injuries. Some categories of pathological lameness include inflammation, bone and joint disorders, and osteoarthritis.

Anatomical Lameness

Anatomical lameness often relates to the dog’s limb structure. Anatomical lameness results from acquired or genetic conditions, such as being born with leg deformities causing an unusual walking habit.

Furthermore, anatomical lameness can result from other deformities, such as previously broken limbs that weren’t set correctly. It can also cause pain for a dog resulting from skeletal frame stress, but the limping itself doesn’t result from pain.

Foot Injuries

Foot or paw injuries can lead to canine lameness. Wounds from objects like thorns and small pieces of glass can puncture the foot and cause your pooch to hobble, especially if the wound gets infected. Other types of foot injuries include burns, frostbite, lacerations, bruising, animal and insets bites or stings, and overgrown or broken nails.

If your pooch experiences a foot injury, they increase their licking frequency. So ensure that you have their injuries inspected and treated before they worsen. As such, their lameness symptoms will slowly alleviate, and they’ll return to normal.

Bone Diseases

Another cause of canine lameness can come from an undiagnosed bone disease or disorder. Bone conditions such as panosteitis or hypertrophic osteodystrophy can impact your dog’s walking habits. It’s crucial to know that younger canines can also get diagnosed with the disorders.

Aside from typical bone diseases and disorders, there are forms of bone conditions your dog can experience. For instance, osteosarcoma is a condition that irregularly produces bone cells, resulting in tumors. Early diagnosis is essential for helping them overcome bone diseases and disorders, so scheduling regular checkups can help your pooch stay ahead.

Joint Conditions

Various joint conditions can result in canine lameness. Several joint disorders can result in canine joint and musculoskeletal damage over time, which can cause reoccurring or chronic limping. Some common joint conditions include intervertebral disk disease, osteoarthritis, and elbow or hip dysplasia.

Elbow or Hip Dysplasia

Elbow and hip dysplasia result in abnormal development in the joint, which can cause lameness. The elbow is incredibly complex due to involving the articulation of three different bones. Abnormal developments can result from three bones not fitting together perfectly, which causes excessive force on specific areas in the elbow joint.

It’s more common for larger dog breeds to develop elbow or hip dysplasia. While normal hip joints should allow free rotation and movement, hip dysplasia can result from the poor fitting of the femoral head in the hip’s joint socket. Some hip or elbow dysplasia treatments can include moderate exercise with anti-inflammatory medication or complete joint replacement.


Another joint condition in canines is osteoarthritis, which results in joint cartilage loss, thickening of the joint capsule, and new bone formation along the joint. This causes limb dysfunction and pain, often occurring secondarily in other developmental orthopedic diseases. In smaller canine breeds, osteoarthritis has no obvious major causes and is usually related to age and genetics.

Some signs of osteoarthritis include pain and activity impairment, usually coinciding with exercise aversion, overall stiffness, jumping issues, and activity limitations. So, getting your pooch a physical exam and other medical testing can help determine whether your dog has osteoarthritis. Some treatment methods include weight control, rehabilitation, activity modifications, joint supplements, surgical management, and more.

Intervertebral Disk Disease

Intervertebral disk disease, or IVDD, is a degenerative disease in your dog’s spinal cord, causing painful mobility issues. It’s common in basset hounds, Shih Tzus, beagles, American cocker spaniels, Pekingese, and dachshunds, along with other breeds. It’s an age-related and gradual degenerative process impacting the spinal cord over time, and usually goes undetected without yearly examinations.

Some symptoms of IVDD can occur in the neck, back, and lower-back areas, often appearing as limp tails, mobility pain, hind leg weakness, muscle spasms, low-hanging head, shivering and crying, and inability to support their own weight. Different options are available to alleviate their pain, including anti-inflammatory medication, surgery, and physical therapy.

When your pet lives with lameness, you want to do everything you can to relieve their pain and help them stay as comfortable as possible. At Best Friend Mobility, we help your pets remain mobile while alleviating pain. From wheelchairs and slings to lifting harnesses and dog roller skates, we can help keep your animals active without taking away their fun time. We also provide used dog wheelchairs for sale with adjustable aluminum frames for easy, quick assembly, helping your furry friends stay mobile for everyday activities. If you have any questions about our pet wheelchairs and mobility products, contact us at Best Friend Mobility today.

3 Things That Can Lead to Lameness in Dogs