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Why is My Dog Limping But Not in Pain? They Probably Are!

If your dog is limping but doesn’t seem to be in pain, one of two things is going on. Either their leg went numb from lying on it too long, or they are actually in pain but are trying to hide it.  If the limping persists, your dog is likely in pain.

It can be scary to not know if something is wrong with your dog. When you see your little one limping, you would naturally expect your dog to have pain. But when you touch around the area, it doesn’t seem to bother them at all.

Unfortunately, your dog likely is in pain, they’re just doing their best to hide it. Dogs don’t like to “show their pain” because out in the wild, that would make them easy lunch for predators. So when you see your dog limping, there’s a good chance some pain is involved.

However, there is one scenario that would cause a dog to limp without being in pain, and that’s when their limb falls asleep or goes numb from laying on it for too long. However, this should only last a minute or two. If it continues for longer than a few minutes, the limp is likely due to pain.

What Might Cause Dogs to Limp

Now that you know your dog is probably just trying to hide their pain, the next step is to figure out what’s causing the limp in the first place. There’s a never ending list of things that can cause pain. Below, we will go over the most common ones that would cause a dog to limp.

Arthritis or Osteoarthritis

As dog’s age,  their joints may become more sensitive or inflamed. While this can occur due to natural aging, certain risk factors such as obesity, lack of proper nutrition, and high impact exercises) can also play a role. Your dog may be limping but may not show any signs of pain, especially if it is towards the end.

If you notice that your dog seems to have trouble getting up from laying down, is hesitant to run or climb stairs, has difficulty squatting to poop, or seems more lethargic, then arthritis may be the cause. Some dogs do not show visible signs of pain. The good news is that most dogs respond very well to medications to help control arthritis.

Strained or Sprained Muscle or Ligament

Your dog has tons of muscles, ligaments, and tendons in his body. Unfortunately, dogs can easily twist, turn, or land in an odd position that is not good for their bodies. This can result in a sprain or strain.

You may have trouble telling if your dog has a sprain or strain if he is only limping. One of the main signs is dogs limping or preferring to use only certain paws to walk. Be on the lookout for swollen paws or joints too.

The best way to determine if your dog has a strain or sprain is to take him to visit your vet. Your vet will be able to examine your pup and may recommend X-rays.

Small Object Stuck in Paw

After a fun romp on the beach, in the park, or in your backyard, it is possible that Fido got something lodged in his paw that he needs help removing. Whether it is sand, a small pebble, or something else, dogs sometimes have difficulty removing small objects from deep in their paws. If you notice your dog limping, carefully check in between his paw pads for foreign objects.

Torn Toe Nail

Proper nail cutting is essential for doggie health. You may notice your dog starts to limp if one nail gets too long (and therefore is painful to walk on) or if one of his toenails actually starts to split apart, revealing the quick of the nail.

Though dogs usually find this painful, you may only notice limping when something touches the dog’s nail. With toenail problems, dogs also tend to lick the area a bit more. Your pup will need an antibiotic and a bandage to help keep debris out of the nail until a new nail forms.

Even if you just notice a torn nail, it is important to take your dog to the vet before a broken nail becomes a significant issue. The last thing you want to deal with is a nail infection!

Insect Bite

Those pesky summer bugs do not only bother humans; they can also be a nuisance for your doggie as well. While put playing, your dog may have been stung by a bee or bitten by some other insect. If your dog was stung or bit on his leg or paw, you may notice him limping.

Most stings and bites will heal on their own. However, a minority of dogs do have allergies to bees. Check for any swelling or inflamed bumps on your dog’s paws and legs, signifying a bee or wasp sting. Contact your vet for additional information about how to handle insect bites.


Cancer can cause dogs to limp with relatively little pain, particularly in the early stages of the illness. You may notice small tumors growing in some regions of the dog’s leg or paw, which causes him to favor certain legs to walk.

In certain kinds of cancer, such as bone cancer, you will notice other symptoms such as lack of appetite, tiredness, and swelling. If something seems wrong with your pup, it is important to get him to the vet early, even if he is not displaying pain. In many cases, the vet will be able to provide treatments to prolong his life and to improve his quality of life.

Allergies or Fungus in Paw Pad

The area between the dog’s paw pads is very sensitive and can be hard to clean. Dogs who are prone to allergies may find the area more irritated than others and lick it more. As such, there are various allergens and fungal infections that can get stuck in this area.

This will cause discomfort to your dog, who may chew or lick the area. Excessive chewing can also cause the paw pads to break, which will cause sensitivity in your dog. Any of these problems may result in your dog limping, but not displaying noticeable pain.

Joint Stiffness

Have you ever sat down for a few hours, only to find yourself limping when you stand up? You aren’t limping due to pain, you’re limping because your joints are stiff and tight. The same is true with dogs, especially as they age. If your dog has been sleeping, they may limp for a few minutes as they loosen up their joints.

What Should I Do to Help My Limping Dog?

Now that you know the possible causes of your limping pup, it’s time to do something about it. When you see your dog limping, here are the four things you should do…and yes, these are to be followed in order.

Give it a Few Minutes

The first thing you should do is give it a few minutes. Remember, your dog could be limping because they fell asleep with their leg in an awkward position. This could cause numbness or tightness in the limbs, and they may need a few minutes to loosen things up. If the limping goes away, great! If not, it’s time to inspect.

Check Your Dog’s Paw and Legs

At home, gently examine your dog’s paws, paw pads, and legs to see if you can get a better sense of what is bugging him. Do you notice any insect bites, debris in the paw pads, or small cuts? Any of these less severe issues can most likely be treated at home.

If you do happen to notice anything that seems simple to remove, feel free to remove it yourself. However, if you aren’t sure if you can easily remove it, take your dog to the vet. Removal of the object should put an end to the limping.

Take Your Dog for a Physical Exam

If there was nothing on your dog’s paw or leg that would cause limping, you should consider getting a check-up for your pup. Make a note of any recent changes in your dog’s behavior. Your vet may order additional tests, such as X-rays or blood work.


If your vet feels like the pain and limping will stop within a few days, you’ll just want to keep your dog off his feet until the pain resides. However, if the vet believes the pain will last for a substantial time, they may be able to provide you with medications to help your pup stop limping. This is especially true for limping related to allergies, infections, and arthritis.

The reason for the dogs limp can be hard to diagnose. Start with examining your dog’s paw pads and legs. Next, consult with a vet for a more in-depth examination, which may include medications.

Remember, dogs don’t fake limps for attention (unless they have been trained to do so). When a dog is limping, it means that a limb fell asleep or they are in pain. If a limb fell asleep, the limping will stop within a few minutes. If the limping continues, your dog is experiencing pain. As a responsible pet owner, it’s your job to investigate the issue and do what you can do to address the pain.

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