Dog Limping On and Off? 11 Causes of Limping In Dogs

While caring for dogs can be rewarding, it can also present challenges with trying to keep such active animals healthy. There are general ailments that every dog can get, including those associated with age.

A common problem that some dog owners face is when their pet intermittently limps; if it goes unchecked, it may lead to paralysis. If a young dog is limping periodically, action should be taken quickly to avoid a lifetime of issues. Every one of these issues should be recognized and treated rapidly in developing dogs. 

By knowing the signs of leg problems in dogs, owners stand a better chance of identifying issues and possibly preventing them from becoming serious.

Patellar Luxation

This is the most widely known cause for intermittent limping. A dog with this condition will walk regularly, pull the leg up, and then walk normally once more. It is caused by the kneecap slipping out of the joint and occurs due to variations from normal leg development.

Hip Dysplasia

HD is as yet the most widely recognized and dreaded reason for a progressively worsening limp in a young dog. One of its first signs is when a dog who would normally be active chooses to sit and seems hesitant to rise.

An x-ray usually shows a poor fit between the ball and socket joints of the hips. If identified by about four months of age, hip dysplasia can be improved by a basic procedure called juvenile pubic symphysiodesis that prematurely closes a growth plate, allowing the hips and legs to develop properly.

Fragmented Coronoid Process (FCP)

FCP is the most well-known of the three conditions called elbow dysplasia. The coronoid forms are small, shelf-like projections that can be easily cracked in young dogs. These dogs need arthroscopic surgery to avoid exacerbating elbow joint pain.

Elbow dysplasia can be hereditary and is screened for in breeds prone to the condition, generally very large dogs.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

OCD is the third condition in the elbow dysplasia category, and it causes periodic limping and can aggravate different joints. X-rays will usually indicate osteochondritis in the shoulder as a flattened region on the tip of the humerus.


Panosteitis, is a common reason for limping and lameness in large breeds such as German Shepherds. This condition is characterized by limping that alternates between legs and reacts to anti-inflammatories.


Osteoarthritis, also referred to as degenerative joint ailment, is the most widely recognized reason for limping after a dog rests. It turns out to be common as dogs age. Dogs that live up to 12 or more years usually experience it.

Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Presumably, the most widely recognized reason for a middle-aged dog who suddenly starts limping on a back limb is a cruciate ligament rupture. The loss of the tendon makes the knee unstable and causes agonizing pain when the dog tries to exert weight on it.


Dislocations happen when the pieces of a joint become separated and isolated. There is usually critical harm done to the supporting tendons when this happens, so it is important that the dog is seen by a veterinarian quickly. Many dislocations are caused by injury, yet some can occur due to the loosening of the joint.

Bone Cancer

Unfortunately not all limps can be effectively fixed. Malignant growth in bones is not unusual in larger breeds, particularly from middle age, and is frequently the principal reason an x-ray is needed to determine the cause of a progressive lameness.

Neurological Causes

Infections of the cerebrum, spinal cord, or nerves can look a great deal like a limp. Because neurons control balance, a problem with them will cause a dog to limp. Many neurological problems are dangerous and life-threatening.

Bicep Ligament Damage

Bicep tears, avulsions, separations, or sprains are basic reasons for a progressing limp in the foreleg. If one of these injuries does not heal properly, a dog is susceptible to reinjury and conditions worsening. 


Other Causes of Limping and Lameness

These issues can also cause dogs problems with lameness.

Skin Issues

The skin in between the toes and foot pads are prone to dermatitis. This problem can make a dog's feet exceptionally sore and infected, particularly in the event that it is licked. 


Obesity, particularly in active dogs, frequently cause sprains in their forelimbs.

Soft Tissue Wounds

X-rays can help veterinarians determine if dogs need more serious medical intervention. However, if a muscle is torn, an X-ray will not show it, and other means can be used to address the problem.

As this article shows, there are many reasons that a dog may limp, but all of them should be taken seriously to ensure that the pet stays as healthy as possible.


Hello, I'm Shelly! I write about all things dogs. I'm a proud mother of 3. So I guess my official title is fulltime mother, part-time dog blogger. Look around and if you have any questions reach out to me