Dogs will limp for a variety of reasons, some musculoskeletal and some systemic. There are times when the cause is simple – a thorn in a toe, salty/irritated paws in the winter, or a torn/broken nail. Other times the cause is quite serious – torn ligaments, broken bones, infection, or even cancer.
So when should you bring your dog in once you notice a problem?
First, it is important to determine if the dog can put weight on the leg. If your dog is not putting weight or only toe touching (barely putting the foot down when standing), he/she needs to be seen as soon as possible!
If your pet is bearing weight but favoring the limb for more than 12-24 hours, your pet is experiencing some degree of pain. You should rest your pet for up to 12-24 hours. If the lameness persists, s/he needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Also realize that different pets have different pain tolerances: some pets are so stoic that they “hide” even serious injuries. Please feel free to call and ask as soon as you notice a problem.
If you are unable to seek veterinary attention immediately, please DO NOT give any over-the-counter medications as many are toxic or fatal to pets.