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My Puppy is Limping After a Fall: 5 Reasons Why It Happens

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Puppies limp after a fall because of injury, disease, growth problems, or nutritional issues. Consult your vet as soon as possible to make a correct diagnosis and treatment. 

Puppies are prone to all kinds of accidents and stumbles. Growing puppies are getting used to their bodies and the world around them. They are highly energetic and curious creatures, especially at this formative stage. 

This means that more care and supervision are required. 

Your puppy may go through a few learnings when adjusting to his or her environment. A tall flight of stairs can seem like a good idea at first until your puppy trips over its unsteady paws. 

Puppies’ paws can appear too large for their bodies at first. This is especially true for large breeds. They can be clumsy as they grow into their big feet. 

It is normal for puppies to encounter a few slips and falls every so often. But you do need to watch out for developing limps.

Growth, and learning their strengths and weaknesses are important factors. But they are not always the only reasons why puppies can develop a limp. 

Health problems might be acute or chronic. In both cases, dogs and puppies should be assessed promptly. The earlier your puppy gets treated, the less likely it is that chronic conditions will ruin its quality of life. 

Why Is My Puppy Limping After A Fall?

Your puppy’s limp after a fall is most likely due to injury caused by the impact of hitting the ground after falling. There are other factors to take into account when assessing your puppy’s limp. 

There are five major reasons why puppies limp after a fall:

  1. Injury.
  2. Luxating patellas.
  3. Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy
  4. Panosteitis
  5. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease 

Read about all five below.

1. Injury

puppy Injury

All kinds of injuries can occur when a puppy falls. Puppies are more prone to fractures and breakages because their bones, tendons, and cartilage are still growing and developing. If a puppy falls from a great height, the likelihood of severe injury is greater than small stumbles. [1]

Puppies can also develop strains and sprains from their daily activities, like jumping off a bed or couch. Minor injuries can often be healed with rest. 

Knee sprains are common in dogs. Dogs are most prone to sprains in their back knees, as their hind legs absorb most of their weight. Sprains occur when there is damage to a ligament. This is the connective tissue that connects two bones. 

Strains are also common injuries that can happen to dogs and puppies. These are injuries to the muscles and tendons (the connective tissue between muscle and bone). 

Obese dogs and puppies are at greater risk of developing strains and sprains. Highly active dogs that love to jump are also prone to these injuries. 

Related: Why Is My Dog Limping After Lying Down?

2. Luxating Patellas (Wobbly Knees)

Luxating Patellas on puppy

The patella bone is commonly referred to as the kneecap. These can become ‘wobbly’ in smaller breeds. This condition can occur due to stress to the joints in the hind legs or a genetic predisposition that occurs in some dogs. 

Large breeds can also develop this Luxating Patellas, but it is rare.

Wobbly knees typically do not cause any pain. Dislocation of the patella normally occurs inward in small dogs and can snap back into place not long after. This is an ongoing pattern.

While the kneecap is out of place, a dog or puppy can experience temporary limping or lameness.

The severity of this condition is graded from 1-to 4:

  • Grade I is when the patella moves in and out of place quickly, and the limb returns to normal functioning. 
  • Grade II occurs when the patella can only be moved back into place by hand after a dislocation. Damage to the limb structure and cartilage after a frequent dislocation can begin to cause pain. 
  • Grade III: the kneecap will continue to wobble even after being manually pushed back into place following dislocation. There is more pain at this stage than in Grade II.
  • Grade IV can require surgery. At this stage, the patella cannot be moved back into place by hand. The function of the limbs is severely impaired. 

Grade III and Grade IV are the most severe forms of patellar luxation.

Most dogs do not suffer from Grade IV patellar luxation but experience a milder grade. Many dogs can live with this condition their whole lives and not require surgery. A vet can inform you about whether your dog requires treatment. . 

Grade I and II conditions are treated with anti-inflammatories prescribed specifically for dogs, limiting physical activity, and sometimes physical rehabilitation therapy. 

Surgery can be necessary if a dog is affected in both back legs.[2] 

3. Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy on puppy

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy is characterized by disrupted bone formation in large breed puppies. It can cause permanent damage to growth plates if it is not treated early. In this condition, bones do not grow as hard or strong as they should. There is decreased blood flow to a part of the puppy’s bone that intersects with the joint. 

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy can be very painful. Puppies respond to treatment differently. Some recover quickly while treating others can be more difficult. 

HOD is an auto-inflammatory disease and initially occurs in puppies between 1 week to 8 months old. It is most common to see signs in puppies between 3 and 5 months old. They can be affected by relapses until they reach around 2 years of age.[3]

Some common breeds affected by Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy:

  • German Shepherd
  • Boxer
  • Bull Mastiff
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Labrador retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard 

4. Panosteitis (Growing Pains)

Panosteitis on puppy

Panosteitis is the clinical term for what is commonly referred to as growing pains. The surfaces of the leg bones in puppies become painful due to inflammation. Many of the same large breeds that are prone to HOD are at risk of Panosteitis. 

Panosteitis is a much milder condition than HOD but they can have similar symptoms. Talk to your vet about the correct diagnosis and treatment for your puppy. 

Medication to manage pain and inflammation is usually an adequate treatment for this condition. It will typically resolve by itself. Light exercise between instances of lameness is beneficial for your dog. Excessive activity can be harmful. 

Panosteitis should resolve itself between the ages of 18 and 24 months.[4]

5. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease 

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease  on puppy

This condition occurs mostly in small dog breeds smaller than 20 pounds. Terriers and toy breeds are most at risk. This condition is characterized by the degeneration of the head of the femur over time. 

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease eventually causes the hip to collapse and leads to arthritis. As the bone weakens, it sustains small fractures. This prompts the development of scar tissue. Scar tissue is the body’s attempt to repair the bone. Changes in the bone that have already occurred will still lead to arthritis. 

The direct cause of this disease is unknown. Blood clots within the vessels that limit blood supply to a dog’s hip might be a possible cause, as studies suggest.

Lameness is a common symptom. It is generally noticeable when your puppy is 5 to 8 months old. It can start earlier at around 3 months or as late as 18 months old. 

Overweight dogs can struggle more with this condition than other dogs. Mild cases can be dealt with by managing pain with medication. Surgery is necessary for severe cases. 

There are two kinds of surgery that can be considered:

  • Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO).
  • Total Hip Replacement (THR).

A Femoral Head Osteotomy involves the surgical removal of the head of the femur. This allows the body to form scar tissue. This procedure is only recommended if the dog does not respond to other treatments. 

A Total Hip Replacement is when the entire hip joint is replaced by synthetic materials that function as a healthy hip. 

FHO is generally performed first. If the dog is still in pain after recovering from the surgery, a THR is recommended. Dogs will need physical therapy and various medications to help them recover after surgery.[5]

FAQs

Why Is My Puppy Limping After Falling?

Your puppy is limping due to injuries like strains, sprains, dislocated joints, injury to the spine, and tears in the ligaments. Depending on the injury the limp is either mild or severe, and treatment should be adjusted accordingly.

How Do I Know if My Puppy’s Leg Is Sprained or Broken?

Symptoms of a sprain or broken bone include swollen paws/joints, reddened joints, appetite loss, excessive licking, bruising, limping, whining, or a total inability to walk. Consult your vet for a proper diagnosis. 

When should I take my dog to the vet for limping? 

Take your dog to the vet for limping immediately if it has a fever swelling, a dangling or broken or hot limb. Other conditions can be less serious and require less urgent medical attention. It is best to contact your vet if you are unsure. 

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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