Why is My Labrador Limping? 9 Common Reasons and When to Worry

So your Labrador is limping. What should you do?

A limp is usually caused by something going wrong with the leg, like a bone fracture or a muscle injury. If your Lab is limping, they may be in pain. It could also be trying to tell you something.

reasons why a Labrador is limping
Why is my Labrador limping?

Labradors are wonderful dogs. They are loyal, loving, smart, and playful. However, there are times when their health takes a turn for the worse. Labradors are prone to hip dysplasia, arthritis, and other conditions that can cause pain and discomfort.

If your dog is limping 24/7 and you don’t know why (even after reading out list of common reasons), take them to the vet. They’ll be able to diagnose what’s causing his limp and give you some advice about how to help him recover.

If you notice your dog limps frequently then there could be several reasons why this happens. If a Labrador is dog is limping, here are 11 reasons why they might be hurting and when you should be worried.

1. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition where the hip joint becomes misaligned. It causes pain and lameness in the affected leg. The symptoms usually appear between 6 months and 2 years old. Dog inherit the predisposition to hip dysplasia from their parents. Labradors (and hybrid Labradoodles) are prone to this preventable disease through improper breeding.

  • Your puppy will have trouble walking if it has hip dysplasia.
  • You need to get an X-ray done on both hips at least once before they reach 1 year old. This way, you’ll know whether your pup needs surgery.
  • Surgery isn’t always necessary but it does often relieve pain.
  • There are no known non surgical cures for this disease so make sure you keep up with regular checkups.

This disorder results from abnormal development of the pelvis and legs. The bones of the pelvic region do not form correctly and instead fuse together prematurely. This creates problems with weight bearing and movement. 

2. Arthritis in dogs can also cause limping

Dog arthritis the joints of a dog become inflamed, swollen or painful. It’s not uncommon for older dogs to develop some degree of joint pain as they age. The most common type of arthritis that affects dogs are osteoarthritis which causes inflammation in one or more of their joints.

OA usually occurs with aging but it may occur at any time during your pet’s life if he has been injured. Other types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthritis, gouty arthritis and crystal-induced arthritis.

here are several factors that contribute to canine osteoarthritis: genetics, age, weight, activity level, diet, environment, injuries, and disease. Genetics plays a role in whether a dog develops arthritis. Age also contributes to its development.

Older dogs are more prone to develop arthritis than younger ones. Weight also affects arthritis; heavier dogs are more susceptible to arthritis than lighter dogs. Activity levels play a part in the progression of arthritis. High activity levels increase wear on joints, while low activity levels decrease wear on joints. Diet can influence joint health

Dogs who have had an injury such as surgery, trauma or infection will be predisposed to developing these conditions.

labrador guard dog
A Labrador as a guard dog

3. Infections can make a dog limp – especially ones involving bones

Infections of the foot or paw are commonly caused by bacterial infections. This includes bacterial infections like staphylococcus bacteria, streptococcus bacteria and yeast infections.

These infections tend to affect the skin around the paw pads and sometimes spread into other areas of the body causing fever and lethargic behavior.

In addition to causing pain and swelling, these infections can lead to lameness if not treated properly.

Infectious diseases like parvovirus and Lyme disease can affect joints and muscles causing pain and inflammation. Your vet will know what tests to order to diagnose these conditions and treat accordingly.

4. Trauma to the foot or paw

A traumatic event can lead to swelling and bruising in the area where the injury occurred. In addition, the muscles surrounding the site of the injury may tighten up due to fear or stress. As a result, the leg becomes stiff and sore.

Common trauma to dog feet include

  • Abrasions – A small wound caused by a sharp object such as a nail or splinter.
  • Bruises – A bruise is an injury to the soft tissue under the skin. It may be caused by a blow, fall, or other impact. Bruising occurs when blood vessels are broken and leak blood into the surrounding tissues.
  • Contusions – Contusions are bruises that are larger than a bruise. They are caused by a blunt force, such as a blow from a fist or another object.
  • Sun burn in dogs (or heat burn from hot asphalt)

5. Dog Toenail Injuries can make a Labrador limp

The nails of dogs grow continuously throughout their lives. However, there are times when the nails begin to look longer than normal. These changes happen naturally over time. If the change happens suddenly, however, then it could indicate something wrong.

Toenails should never be trimmed too short because there is a blood vessel and nerve inside the nail. Trimming them too long (or not trimming them) can result in broken nails.

A happy lab dog lays units back
Happy Labrador!

6. Patella Luxation

Patellar luxation is a common condition affecting many breeds including German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Dobermans and of course – Labs (Labs are 2-3 times more likely to have this than other breeds)

It involves the kneecap becoming dislocated out of place. This can cause severe discomfort and lameness.

7. Dogs can sprain a muscle and this can make them limp

Muscles can become strained through exercise or playing rough with your pet. The most common places for strains to occur are at the elbows, shoulders, hips, and knees. Strains usually heal themselves within three weeks – but if it is not improving or becomes exacerbated you will need to consult your Vet.

8. Over exertion can make a dog limp

Exercise causes our bodies to work harder which leads to increased heart rate and breathing. Our legs also get tired quickly so we must take breaks often during physical activity. The exact same is true for dogs! 

An over fatigued Lab can limp for a while due to muscle exhaustion. Give them a few days of rest and your Labrador will be back in tip top shape soon.

labrador eating a smoked dog bone
A Labrador sniffs a smoked dog bone

9. Insect Bites can make a dog walk funny or limp

It is common for dogs to run into nature and the creep crawly insects that populate it. Through no fault of their own Labradors LOVE to explore grass and nature – which runs the risk of being bitten by ants, bees or wasps.

Most of the time a dog insect bite is not a huge concern BUT sometimes they do leave behind nasty infections on the bite site if the dog licks or chews it. You should always seek veterinary care if you see any signs of infection after having been stung by an ant or bee.

FAQ – My Lab has had surgery recently and is now limping?        

If your dog has had surgery recently he/she might still feel some stiffness afterwards. But don’t worry about this. Just give him/her plenty of TLC and watch how his/her body heals itself. He’ll be fine!

Luckily your Vet is only a phone call away So please contact us today if you think your puppy is limping. We’re here to help!

An older Labrador limps

A reader (Sara) emailed in to tell us about her elderly Labrador dog (just turned 10!) who has started limping in old age – but is not in distress.

“I’ve seen all these things mentioned as reasons why my Sheena (my Labrador) would limp. I’m going to add one more thing though…”

“When she gets older her joints start getting stiffer, especially around her hip area. It’s like arthritis, except its caused by wear & tear instead of age related degenerative joint disease. As a result, she walks differently than before. Her stride length is shorter and her steps are wider apart. Its really hard to describe without seeing someone else’s dog, but trust me, once you notice it, you won’t want to miss it again.”

“She doesn’t seem bothered by it anymore, but it does limit what activities she can participate in. For example, she used to love swimming, but since her arthritic hips started acting up, she just isn’t comfortable doing that anymore. She loves running, hiking and sprints, but those aren’t options either right now.”

“We just take it easy and stick with boring old walks. She loves the outdoors – but we know not to push her too far.”

Best dog beds for labs
A Labrador lounges on his dog bed

Why is My Labrador limping takeaways

  1. If your dog is limping frequently and you don’t know what’s causing it, take them to the vet immediately.
  2. Labradors are prone to a variety of conditions that can cause pain, including hip dysplasia, arthritic pain, and infections.
  3. Make sure you get regular checkups to ensure that your dog is healthy.
  4. Dog arthritis is a very common condition that can affect any breed.