Limping In Your Pet- When Should You Be Concerned?

We’ve all experienced it: your dog runs outside, you hear a yelp, and they come in limping. Or your cat leaps down from a high perch and suddenly isn’t using a leg. How do you know if limping is a reason to rush right to the vet or if it’s safe to wait and see if it resolves on its own? We have a few suggestions to help you decide how serious limping might be.

First, there are a few obvious reasons to bring your pet right to a vet. If you can see a bone, if the leg is bending in a direction it shouldn’t, or if your pet is crying out in pain for more than a few minutes, they should see a vet right away. You would most commonly see these changes after significant trauma, such as a pet being hit by a car or a small pet being attacked by a large dog or wild animal. Seeing a vet immediately is important both to relieve your pet’s pain and to begin treatment of infection to try to prevent long-term damage to the leg.

The situations that are more challenging are the more subtle ones, where a pet is limping but still eating well, doing all of their normal activities, and not whimpering or crying out. Factors that make veterinarians more concerned about limping include:

  • Age of your pet. Sudden limping in a geriatric pet is more worrisome than in a young pet, especially if there wasn’t any known trauma such as a fall. Geriatric pets are more prone to diseases such as cancer, which can cause acute limping.
  • Severity of the limping. Nonweightbearing lameness means a pet is dragging their leg or holding it completely off the ground, shifting their weight entirely onto their other three legs. Surprisingly, many pets with fractured legs will not whimper or whine continuously as you might expect. Pets are often stoic about pain, so pay close attention to how much weight they can put on their leg. If they are shifting weight off the leg completely, they should be seen as soon as possible.
  • Guarding the leg. If your pet shows their teeth, growls/hisses, or tries to bite when you touch the leg, that indicates more severe pain than if they let you poke and prod without reacting.
  • Duration of the limping. Most self-resolving cases of limping will go away on their own or with conservative therapies like activity restriction within a few days. If it’s been more than that and your pet still has a noticeable limp, you should call your vet for guidance.
  • Limping that worsens over time. More benign causes of limping, like sprains or strains, usually get a little better each day if you restrict your pet’s activity. If you notice the limp more and more each day, it’s more likely that your pet needs vet care to get better.

Hopefully, these guidelines help you know if your pet’s limping is on the “Yikes, we need to rush to the emergency clinic!” side of the spectrum or “We can wait a few days to see how things go” side. If you need help deciding, you can always call us for guidance!

RHDV2 Vaccination Clinic

Over the course of two days, St. Francis employees assisted in vaccinating nearly 900 rabbits at a mass vaccination clinic in conjunction with the Peacebunny Foundation in South St. Paul. Drs. Megan Schommer and Jessica Lewis, CVTs Jessie Pudil and Mickayla Schultz, and assistant Christina Sartain were part of a large group of veterinary professionals who came together to microchip and vaccinate rabbits against RHDV2, helping to get a large number of rabbits on their way to being protected. Rabbits have to return in three weeks for booster vaccines, so if you are interested in being a volunteer for the next clinic weekend, please reach out! Nice work, team!

Introducing Our New Website!

We recently revamped our clinic website! We hope you enjoy exploring our new features, including

  • An expanded library of informational articles on topics such as chronic pain management, guides for puppy and kitten care, our favorite behavior management resources and tools, and updated handouts about a variety of diseases and disorders
  • Direct links to our electronic clinic forms, including our prescription refill request form
  • Updated staff photos and biographies, so you can learn more about your pet’s care team
  • New resources about hospice care and pet loss, including links to a variety of tools for assessing your pet’s quality of life
  • Links to up-to-date information sheets about the most common medications that we prescribe

You can find our new site at . We hope you explore all the new resources!

Upcoming Clinic Closures

We will be closed for holidays on the following dates:

Thursday, November 25th (Thanksgiving Day)

Friday, December 24th through Monday, December 27th 

Friday, December 31st (early closure at 3 pm)

Saturday, January 1st

Thank you for your understanding as our staff enjoys a well-deserved break over the holidays!