Limping is usually not an emergency unless …
A limping dog should get veterinary help immediately if there were
- a significant trauma
- fracture or dislocation
- severe swelling
- hot limbs
- or dragging of limbs
Limping is an emergency when accompanied by severe pain.
What causes limping
Limping always indicates pain or dysfunction of some kind.
Whether or not it is an emergency is a matter of degree.
For example, if your dog got hit by a car, fell from a great height, it is always an emergency. If your dog has been running and playing and suddenly starts screaming in pain and not putting any weight on a limb, it is an emergency.
Would you wait and see or would seek emergency care if you broke your leg?
With an injury painful enough to make you scream, would you wait and see or rush to the ER? The same logic applies when it comes to your dog.
Acute limping is more likely to be an emergency.
Keep in mind, though, that limping and limb pain that is getting worse instead of better could mean bone cancer. While not a true emergency per se, you want to have that diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
Have I ever taken my dog to a vet for limping immediately?
Yes, I have. I have never had a case where we’d have to rush to an ER; our dogs have never had such a major trauma, for which I am thankful.
But there were a couple of occasions when we saw a vet with a limp the same day it happened or the next.
First Aid for Limping Dogs