7 Min Read
My Dog’s Leg Is Swollen: What Should I Do?
Why pet owners are switching to online vet care with Dutch
Prescriptions delivered free to you
Fast access to Licensed Vets over video
Unlimited video visits and follow-ups
As a pet parent, it’s important to be able to tell when something isn't right with your dog. Whether they have an itchy ear, are limping, or their leg is swollen, you need to know what's wrong and when to take them to the vet.
Swelling is never normal. If your dog's leg is swollen, it can be an indication that something is wrong. Swelling is often a symptom of another underlying health condition, such as an injury or illness. It can be acute and happen quickly, or your dog's leg can swell slowly over time, depending on the cause of the swelling. Treatment of a swollen leg in dogs depends on the cause, and swelling is a medical condition that should be treated by a vet. This article will discuss common reasons why your dog's leg is swollen, along with when to see a vet.
- Causes: Why Is My Dog's Leg Swollen?
- When To See A Vet
- Dog's Leg Is Swollen: FAQs
- Final Notes
Causes: Why Is My Dog's Leg Swollen?
As we've mentioned, your dog's leg can be swollen for a variety of reasons, so it's important to see a vet as soon as possible to diagnose the swelling and determine an effective treatment plan. Common causes of why your dog's leg might be swollen include:
The most common cause of leg swelling in dogs is injury, which can be a sprain, dislocation, joint and hip trauma, muscle tears, or paw injury. Injuries cause joints to expand and accumulate fluid leading to swelling. Swelling can happen just about anywhere on your dog's leg, including their paw or whole leg if they have a sprain. Symptoms of injury will vary depending on the source of the injury but may include:
- Favoring one leg over the other
- Redness and irritation
If you notice your dog has massive swelling and any number of the symptoms listed above, it may be an emergency. If your dog isn't putting any weight on its paw or leg, it might have a break or sprain. Additionally, if your dog is whining, it could indicate they're in severe pain.
Dog allergies are quite common, and your dog could be allergic to treats, food, dust, pollen, and insect bites. If your dog's leg is swelling, consider if you've introduced anything new into their life. For example, if you've recently given your dog new treats, it could be allergic to an ingredient. Additionally, if you started taking your dog to a new place to play, they could be allergic to the new environment or pollen in that area. Additionally, insect bites and stings can cause localized swelling in the limb. For example, if your dog is bitten by a mosquito or stung by a bee, its leg might swell in the area where they were bitten or stung. Additional symptoms of allergies may include:
- Irritated ears
- Chronic ear infections
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Constant licking1
When treating allergies, your vet must first determine what your dog is allergic to. They will likely perform allergy testing, but it's important for you to provide your vet with as much information as possible. For example, you should tell the vet if you've changed your dog's diet or daily activity recently. Allergies are typically treated by medications or creams, depending on what your dog is allergic to. To make your pet more comfortable, you can also apply a cold compress.
If you notice your dog's leg is swollen, it may indicate an infection in the leg caused by bacteria, fungus, or parasites.2 Additionally, lameness can occur from tick bites with other symptoms such as limping, redness, pain, and joint swelling.
Immune disorders are another cause of dog leg swelling. These disorders can occur due to stress, malnutrition, and the lack of crucial vitamins and minerals from proper nutrition.2 Aging can also lead to immune disorders that affect the joints and cause swelling.2
Autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can cause leg swelling due to the inflammation of organs, joints, and tendons.2
Certain medications can also have side effects that increase your dog's chances of having a swollen leg. For example, corticosteroids used for allergy treatments can cause swelling in the legs.2 Additionally, some NSAIDs can cause swelling in the legs, but this is not true for all dogs. If your dog is swelling due to their medication, it's important to tell your vet as soon as possible since you don't want your pet to have a negative reaction to treatment. Instead, your vet will put your dog on a new treatment plan.
Medical illnesses and diseases of the joints and bones, such as arthritis, tumors, and dysplasia can cause leg swelling in dogs.2 In these cases, leg swelling might just be one symptom of your dog's illness. Your dog might experience pain and lameness due to the illness, with difficulty moving and even whining.
While arthritis is more common in older dogs, it can happen to any dog and begins in the joints. Arthritis is caused by increased fluid around the joints due to swelling or bone growths.2 If your dog is suffering from arthritis, you might notice other symptoms, such as:
- Licking legs and paws
- Soreness when standing and sitting
- Difficulty climbing stairs and walking
When To See A Vet
Only a vet can accurately diagnose the cause and appropriate treatment for your dog's swollen leg, so you should get to the vet as soon as possible if you notice swelling or any other symptoms that are negatively impacting your dog's daily life.
Additionally, if your dog has uncontrollable bleeding or is showing signs of anaphylaxis, it is a veterinary emergency, and you should take your dog to the nearest emergency vet as soon as possible. Signs of anaphylaxis in dogs include:
- Trouble breathing
- Itchy skin
- Vomiting and diarrhea
The first step to treatment is for your vet to diagnose the problem. To diagnose the cause of your dog's swollen leg, a vet will examine your pet and review their history of prior injuries along with current health.3 Your vet might also perform a lameness test to see if there are any issues in the musculoskeletal tissues.3
Ultimately, treatment will depend on the source of the swelling. To help reduce swelling and pain, your vet may suggest giving your dog an NSAID, such as carprofen. However, you should never give your pet medicine without first consulting your vet.
Dog's Leg Is Swollen: FAQs
What can I give my dog for a swollen leg?
There is no over-the-counter human pain medication that is truly safe to give to your dog. It's important to talk to your vet before giving your dog any medicine because you don't know if it's safe to do so. Additionally, only a vet can tell you a safe dose to give your dog. If your dog's leg is swollen, it can be a sign that something isn't right, and they're likely experiencing pain with the swelling. Instead of trying to treat it yourself, visit your vet as soon as possible.
How do I get my dog's swelling to go down?
If you want to treat your dog's swelling, the best thing you can do is visit your vet, who can diagnose the problem and come up with an effective treatment plan. Trying to treat your pet on your own without the help of your vet can be potentially dangerous and life-threatening.
Does walking help swollen legs?
While walking can help pump excess fluid out of the dog's legs to reduce swelling, you should be cautious when walking your dog with a swollen leg. If your dog needs to go to the bathroom, take them on a shorter walk and monitor them the entire time. If you're not sure whether or not it's safe to walk your dog while they have a swollen leg, talk to your vet to determine the right amount of activity for your pet.
Your dog's leg can be swollen for a variety of reasons, including injury, allergies, and illnesses. It's always important to visit a vet as soon as possible if you notice your dog's leg is swollen or they're experiencing any other symptoms, such as limping, pain, or lameness. A vet can help you diagnose the cause of your dog's swelling and come up with an effective treatment plan. Of course, getting your dog to the vet when they have a swollen leg or pain can be difficult. Dutch makes it so you don't have to worry about getting your dog to jump in the car or walk into a clinic.Dutch offers televet services to help you better care for your pet in the comfort of your own home. With telemedicine services, a licensed veterinarian can diagnose your dog's swelling and come up with a treatment plan to help your pet feel better.
“Dog Allergies: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments.” Dutch, https://www.dutch.com/blogs/dogs/dog-allergies.
Sefo-Kapidzic, Elvira. "Dog Leg Swollen – Causes, Treatment and Prevention." Dog Health Today, 21 Apr. 2021, https://www.dogmd.net/symptoms/dog-leg-swollen/.
Harari, Joseph. "Lameness in Dogs - Dog Owners." Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Apr. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/bone,-joint,-and-muscle-disorders-of-dogs/lameness-in-dogs.