When to Seek Emergency Care for a Limping Pet


Your pet’s lameness can usually wait until the next business day for veterinary care. However, certain conditions, plus limping, mean you need to head to your nearest emergency veterinary hospital right away.


Lameness signs in pets that require emergency care

If your four-legged friend shows any of the following signs, head to the emergency room:

  • Dragging a limb
  • Not bearing weight on a limb
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Excessive swelling
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Abrupt worsening of a limp

If your pet has minor lameness, as well as worrying signs like vomiting or diarrhea, they may require emergency treatment for the primary cause, and not necessarily the limp.


Lameness causes in pets that require emergency care

Pets can fall lame for a multitude of reasons, some of which need immediate treatment. While a muscle sprain or strain is concerning, you do not need to rush to the nearest emergency hospital. However, certain conditions do require urgent care, including:

  • A fractured limb
  • Paresis or paralysis of one or more limbs
  • A deep or large wound that will not stop bleeding
  • A venomous insect or snake bite
  • A car accident
  • A dog fight


Some of these situations may not appear to result in much injury, but internal issues could develop that require treatment. For example, you may think that your pet who was hit by a car and has only some road rash on their legs and a minor limp is fine, but a comprehensive examination may reveal damage to their liver, spleen, kidneys, or bladder, which could require intensive hospitalization. 


Another common situation that requires emergency treatment is a pet that has been bitten by another pet. Puncture marks leave only small holes, but the wounds quickly become infected. Additionally, a pet who grabs and shakes your pet can cause a great deal of underlying tissue damage that can rapidly turn into a serious problem.


Determining whether your four-legged friend who has become a three-legged pet needs emergency care can be difficult. So, give our team a call to discuss your pet’s condition, and we can advise you whether they need emergency treatment.