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My Dog Is Limping but Not Crying: 5 Reasons Why & What to Do

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If your dog is limping but not crying, it can have an injured paw or suffer from a luxated patella, hip dysplasia, or bone cancer. The best course of action is to get the issue evaluated by a vet.

It’s always concerning when a dog starts limping. But if it isn’t crying, we can draw some conclusions.

The good news is that your dog is not in terrible pain. You don’t have to rush to a 24-hour emergency vet.

The bad news is that limping can indicate a degenerative or even deadly condition. While you don’t have to rush to the vet, you do need to make an appointment as soon as possible. 

In this article, we explore reasons why dogs limp, why dogs with a gradual onset limp is less likely to whine than those with a sudden onset limp, and what you can do to help your dog.    

Why Is My Dog Limping but Not Whining?

Dogs limp without whining because they’re trying to relieve themselves of pain. Even though they’re not whining or crying, they can still be in pain. There’s still an underlying issue, which has to be checked out by a vet.

Dogs are similar to people – some tell you that they are in pain by whining while other dogs try to push through and carry on. 

The amount of whining in pain depends on a dog’s pain threshold level, temperament, and if the condition has gradually developed or occurred suddenly. 

Gradual Onset Limping vs. Sudden Onset Limping 

A dog with a gradual onset limp is less likely to whine in pain than a dog experiencing sudden onset limping. 

There’s typically a difference in the levels of whining depending on the development of the limp. Let’s take a look at the two main types of limping.

Gradual Onset Limping 

A case of gradual onset limping occurs over time and can be linked to chronic or degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia.  

Since the dog has been slowly adjusting to limitations and pain, it can become accustomed to living with a low level of chronic pain and limp without crying. 

This doesn’t mean you can ignore the limp. Early treatment can correct or slow down the progression of degenerative diseases. Gradual onset limping can also be caused by deadly diseases like bone cancer which makes early detection and treatment lifesaving.[1] 

Sudden Onset Limping 

A case of sudden onset limping can be caused by injury. It can be a mild case of a thorn puncturing a paw or a severe case of trauma. Regardless, the pain is sudden and shocking, increasing the likelihood of it being accompanied by crying. 

5 Causes of a Dog Limping But Not Whining

A burnt, punctured, torn, or insect-stung paw can cause a dog to limp without whining. Limping can also be caused by a birth defect like luxated patella, elbow and hip dysplasia, or bone cancer. 

Here are 5 common causes of limping in a dog: 

  1. Injured Paw (Foot Pad).
  2. Luxated Patella.
  3. Degenerative Joint Disease.
  4. Elbow and Hip Dysplasia.
  5. Bone Cancer.

1. Injured Paw 

Injured Paw

Limping can be a sign that your dog has an injured paw or footpad. Another sign of an injured footpad is that your dog starts licking its foot more than usual. 

Footpad injuries include tears, punctures, burns, and insect stings. Many of these conditions can be treated at home.[2]

Related: Dog Limping With Swollen Paw

How to Treat a Dog’s Burned Footpad 

A dog’s footpads can burn when it walks on a hot sidewalk in summer or over caustic chemicals. Here’s how to treat it:

  1. Put on plastic gloves to protect your hands in cases of chemical burns. 
  2. Wash your dog’s feet under running water. 
  3. After rinsing, wash your dog’s feet with soapy water, rinse again and dry. 
  4. If you have an antiseptic or antibiotic ointment for burns, apply it before bandaging your dog’s paws.
  5. Change the bandage daily. 

How to Treat a Dog’s Punctured or Torn Footpad

  1. Clean the wound – remove pieces of glass, metal, or thorn that cut the paw.
  2. Control the bleeding – If bleeding doesn’t stop within 10 – 15 minutes, get your dog to the vet urgently. 
  3. Bandage the wound. 
  4. Change the bandage daily. 

How to Treat Insect Stings or Bites

  1. Remove the insect stinger if there is one. 
  2. Apply an ice pack to help reduce swelling. 
  3. Give your dog an antihistamine to prevent an allergic reaction. Call a vet to ask about the dosage. 

Take your dog to an emergency vet if your dog shows any of the following symptoms[3]

2. Luxated Patella

Luxated Patella

A Luxated patella (kneecap) means it has moved out of place. This commonly happens because of deformed-shaped bones that don’t hold the kneecap in place correctly. 

A dog with a luxated patella can develop a limp, with or without whining about it. 

Treatment can include anti-inflammatories or surgery. Consult a vet for the best course of action.[4] 

3. Degenerative Joint Disease 

A degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a disease that causes inflammation of the joints, like arthritis. 

Symptoms of degenerative joint disease: 

  • Limping.
  • Slow walking pace. 
  • Urinating or defecating while walking. 
  • Difficulty climbing stairs or up into a car. 
  • Slow to stand up after laying down

There is no cure for a DJD, but lifestyle modifications, weight loss, supplementation, and medication can help. 

Overweight dogs are more prone to a DJD as excess weight increases joint stress. A calorie-restricted diet is recommended to lose and keep off excess weight. 

The vet can recommend supplements that slow the disease progression and prescribe pain medications to ease symptoms. [5] 

4. Elbow and Hip Dysplasia 

Elbow and Hip Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is the abnormal development of the elbow joint in a dog’s front legs[6]. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal development of the hip joint in its hind legs.[7]

It can occur when these dogs are fed an imbalanced diet as puppies, or if they grow too fast. 

Symptoms of elbow and hip dysplasia: 

  • Limping.
  • Swaying when walking. 
  • Stiff or lame hind legs. 
  • Loss of back thigh muscle mass. 
  • Increase in shoulder muscle mass. 

Speak to your vet about the best diet for large breed puppies to prevent these conditions. A balanced low-calorie diet for adult dogs reduces weight gain and encourages weight loss as excess weight puts pressure on joints. 

Ask your vet about joint supplements that can help slow down the progression of these conditions.[8]

5. Bone Cancer

Bone Cancer

A subtle limp can be an early sign of bone cancer known as osteosarcoma. 

It can affect dogs of all ages, but certain dog breeds are more at risk. A study published in 2019[9] found that the mastiff-terrier breeds (mastiffs, boxers, and golden retrievers) have the highest incidence of this form of cancer. 

Symptoms of bone cancer: 

  • Limping.
  • A lame limb. 
  • A swelling or lump growing on a limp. 
  • Bone fracture 

Early detection is critical as the disease is aggressive. Treatment includes amputation and chemotherapy.[10] 

Why Is My Puppy Limping but Not Crying? 

An injured paw, luxated patella, elbow, and hip dysplasia, or bone cancer can cause a puppy to limp without crying. Puppies can also be affected by limb deformity and a condition known as Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease. 

We have covered paw injury, luxated patella, elbow and hip dysplasia, and bone cancer in dogs. Now let’s look at two conditions detected during puppyhood.

1. Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

This condition occurs when the ball of the femur degenerates. It is diagnosed in affected puppies between 3 and 18 months old. When left untreated, it leads to hip collapsing.

The causes of this condition are unknown, but it is suspected to be genetic and is more prevalent in small dog breeds. 

Symptoms of Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease: 

  • Favoring one back leg and limps. 
  • Progression leads to the puppy not putting any weight on the leg. 
  • Loss of muscle mass in the affected leg. 

To treat the condition, a vet can prescribe pain medication and a calorie-restricted diet to maintain healthy body weight and reduce stress on the hip joints. Surgery and a total hip replacement are necessary in severe cases. [11] 

2. Angular limb deformity

Angular limb deformity

A puppy’s limp can be a symptom of an angular limb deformity in the front legs. 

This abnormal development of the bones in the front legs can be genetic or a result of an injury to the growth plates. 

Symptoms of angular limb deformity: 

  • Limping.
  • One short limb.
  • Bowed legs.
  • Twisting of the dog’s wrist (carpus).
  • Displacement of the elbow joint.

Surgery can correct limb deformities.[12] 

When to See a Vet About a Dog Is Limping but Not Crying

Make an appointment with the vet if your dog is limping. Do not assume that a lack of whining means that your dog’s limp is not a problem. 

A limp can happen due to a deformity, degenerative joint disease, or cancer. Early detection and treatment can stop irreversible damage and save your dog’s life in severe cases. 

FAQs

How can I treat my dog’s limping at home?

You can apply first-aid at home when your dog’s limping is caused by an injured paw, but get it to the vet immediately if there is uncontrolled bleeding. If you suspect a degenerative joint disease or cancer, make your dog as comfortable as possible until the next available vet appointment. 

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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