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Why Is My Dog Limping After Laying Down (5 Reasons)

Your dog can be limping after laying down due to pain, injury, or disease around the legs or feet. Dogs can limp for a variety of medical reasons, some more serious than others.

Dogs can develop all kinds of medical problems in various parts of their bodies, including their four legs.

A limping pet can cause great concern for the owner, but it’s not always caused by serious injury. It’s important to know when to contact a vet, and when to let it be.

In this article, you will learn how to narrow down some of the reasons why dogs limp after laying down, and how to prevent it.

Sudden or Gradual Onset of Limping

Dogs can either develop a limp suddenly or gradually. You have to approach the issue differently, depending on the case. 

Here’s how to tell the difference, and what it means for your dog.

Dog Limping Suddenly

Sudden limping in healthy dogs is most likely a sign of injury. Dogs that spend time outdoors are especially prone to accidents or altercations with other animals. 

A suddenly limping dog can be a sign that your dog has hurt itself in some way. This sometimes requires immediate attention, especially if your dog is in pain.

Dog Gradually Developing a Limp

Your dog can develop a limp over time due to a variety of conditions. A gradual limp can be accompanied by pain. Your dog may not be in obvious distress at first, but it is important to catch certain conditions early on to prevent further damage. This can make the injury harder to treat.

5 Reasons Why Dogs Limp After Laying Down

Common reasons why dogs limp after laying down include that their legs have fallen asleep, arthritis, various injuries and diseases, hip dysplasia, and aging. Some of these conditions require treatment by a vet. 

1. Their Leg Has Fallen Asleep

Dog's Leg Has Fallen Asleep

A dog’s leg can fall asleep. If they lay down or sit in a certain way, they can cut off or limit the blood supply to one of their legs. This can cause numbness and tingling. 

Your dog will limp for a short while as it regains blood flow. If this happens frequently, there may be an underlying issue that needs to be treated.

2. Arthritis

Arthritis, or osteoarthritis, can occur in dogs as it can in humans. It commonly affects the joints of the limbs and lower spine and can occur anywhere. This condition is also called Degenerative Joint Disease or DJD. It is characterized by joint inflammation and the wearing down of cartilage over time.

The function of cartilage is to allow smooth movement of the joints. Damaged cartilage causes friction between the joints, resulting in poor functioning and pain. Bone spurs can also develop as a result of arthritis. 

Excessive activity can leave dogs more prone to arthritis. Larger dog breeds are more at risk. Infections like Lyme disease and poor nutrition are also risk factors. 

3. Injuries & Unseen Diseases

Dog's Leg Has Injuries & Unseen Diseases 1

Minor or serious injuries can cause limping. Examine their legs and feet for cuts, bites, scratches, and tenderness. Check for any debris that is stuck in your dog’s paw, such as glass, thorns from plants, or stingers from insects like bees and wasps. 

Any whimpering or whining that accompanies the limp is a sure sign that your dog is in some kind of pain. It should be attended to as soon as possible. 

Lyme Disease, cancers, autoimmune disorders, and nerve damage can also cause a limp. 

Related: Puppy Limping After a Fall

4. Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia on dogs

This is another condition that mostly affects larger breeds of dogs. The hip joint is composed of bones that form a ball and socket. These are meant to fit together and create smooth movement. When these are moved or grow out of place it causes friction. 

Dog breeds such as Labradors, Saint Bernards, Golden Retrievers, and Great Danes are common large breeds that are at risk. 

The following factors can increase the risk of dogs being affected with hip dysplasia:

  • Obesity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain types of exercise
  • Excessive physical activity

5. Age: Young Dog vs. Old Dog Limping

Older dogs are more at risk for developing conditions that cause limping. This is due to the deterioration of their muscle strength, causing weak hind legs and leg shaking.

Genetic factors play a role when it comes to medical conditions. Size, weight, and physical activity all have to be taken into account when discerning the level of risk your dog faces. 

Diagnosing a Limping Dog

Your vet can diagnose the cause of your dog’s limp. The cause is easy to spot if there is an obvious injury. The cause may not be so clear if the limp is chronic or has no visible cause. 

Be gentle when handling an injured dog. It is possible to find injuries or sore spots by slowly and gently stroking the affected area. It is best to let a vet handle any sensitive or injured limbs to prevent further pain or injury. 

Treating a Limping Dog

Treatment depends on the cause of the limp. All injuries or chronic conditions have specific treatments. You can give your dog a warm bath with Epsom salt and later apply antibiotic ointment at home to reduce any swelling related to injuries.

Your dog needs to be examined by a vet to determine the correct course of treatment. 

Treating Arthritis in Dogs

There are different medications and supplements used to treat arthritis in dogs. Obese or overweight dogs with this condition may need to lose weight for symptoms to improve. 

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed by the vet against pain and inflammation of the joints.[1]

Treating a Limping Dog

Treating Hip Dysplasia in Dogs 

There are several kinds of surgery[2] available to treat hip dysplasia:

  • Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
  • Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy
  • Total Hip Replacement (THR)

A Femoral Head Ostectomy or FHO involves the removal of the head of the femur (the “ball”) to decrease the pain caused by this condition. It may take six weeks for your dog to recover from the surgery.

A Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy is another kind of surgery performed only on puppies and younger dogs under the age of 10 months. The surgery involves severing the pelvic bone in specific areas so that it can be adjusted for the ball and socket to function better together. Recovery can take four to six weeks. Physical therapy is required in some cases.

A Total Hip Replacement or THR is the most effective treatment for hip dysplasia. This can allow the function of the hip to return almost completely. The entire joint is replaced by synthetic parts made from metal and plastic. 

How to Prevent Dogs From Developing a Limp After Laying Down

To prevent dogs from developing a limp, you have to understand your dog’s genetic predisposition toward specific health issues. This will help you understand the lifestyle, diet and exercise regimen they need to follow. 

Speak to your vet about the best diet for your dog to ensure that all their nutritional requirements are met. The vet can also help you identify any genetic tendencies towards hip dysplasia, arthritis, or other conditions that can make walking difficult. 

Larger breeds require more attention regarding conditions related to their limbs. Make sure they get enough exercise while not overexerting themselves. Keep dogs away from environments that can cause accidents or injuries. 

How to Prevent Dogs From Developing a Limp After Laying Down

Is It Normal for Dogs to Limp After Laying Down?

It is not normal or healthy for a dog to be limping frequently. Occasional limping is normal, as dogs can develop a limp after acquiring small strains or bumps. Monitor your pup for signs of chronic limping or further injury and distress.

When Should I Take My Dog to the Vet for Limping?

The sooner you take your dog to the vet, the better. A limp that lasts for more than a few minutes, should be taken seriously. If your dog is not visibly in pain or highly distressed, a trip to the vet can wait. 

Visible dislocation, dangling, swelling, or bleeding should be attended to urgently. 

Limping vs. Stretching

Dogs typically drag their back legs while stretching before returning to a normal gait. If a dog has trouble putting pressure on one or more legs while walking, it can develop into a limp. Contact a vet if this happens. 


Why Is My Dog Limping After Getting Up?

If your dog is limping after getting up, it can be a sign of hip dysplasia. This occurs mostly in large dog breeds. Risk factors include over-exertion and certain types of exercise, as well as old age. 

What to Do if Your Dog Is Limping but Not Crying?

If your dog is limping but not crying, take it to a vet. The vet will make a diagnosis to discern if there is an underlying health condition. Chronic conditions can have a gradual onset and don’t cause immediate pain.

Why Is My Dog Limping but Not in Pain?

Minor tears or sprains[3] to ligaments can cause a limp without pain. These can often be treated with a brace. It is best to seek medical attention even if your dog is not in pain. This could be a sign of an underlying condition. 

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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