Why Is My Dog Suddenly Favoring One Leg? Explained

As a dog owner, it can be distressing to notice sudden changes in your furry friend’s behavior, especially when it comes to their mobility. One such concerning behavior is when a dog starts favoring one leg, limping, or showing signs of discomfort. 

This sudden change in gait can be indicative of an underlying issue that requires attention and proper care. In this article, we will explore the common reasons why dogs suddenly favor one leg, along with appropriate measures to take for their well-being.

Injury or Trauma

One of the most common causes for a dog favoring one leg is an injury or trauma. Dogs are active and curious creatures, and they can sometimes be prone to accidents. 

A fall, collision, or even a misstep can result in sprains, strains, fractures, or dislocations. 

If your dog suddenly starts limping or avoids putting weight on a specific leg, it’s crucial to examine the affected limb for any signs of swelling, tenderness, or deformity. 

In such cases, it’s best to consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination and appropriate treatment.

Muscle or Ligament Strains

Dogs, especially those who engage in vigorous physical activities or sports, can strain their muscles or ligaments. Just like humans, dogs can experience muscle pulls or strains, commonly known as a pulled muscle. 

Additionally, ligament injuries, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), can also cause a dog to favor one leg. 

If your dog shows signs of pain, reluctance to bear weight on the affected leg, or difficulty in walking or running, a visit to the veterinarian is recommended. 

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They can provide a diagnosis and suggest appropriate treatment, which may include rest, medication, or even surgery in severe cases.

Arthritis or Joint Issues

Arthritis, a condition characterized by joint inflammation, is not uncommon in dogs, particularly in senior or large breed dogs. 

Joint issues, such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia, can also cause dogs to exhibit lameness or favor one leg. 

These conditions often result in pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. If your dog displays these symptoms, it’s important to consult a veterinarian, who may recommend diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or joint fluid analysis, to determine the extent of the condition. 

Treatment options may include pain management, weight control, physical therapy, or surgical intervention, depending on the severity of the issue.

Foreign Body or Paw Injury

Sometimes, dogs may develop a foreign body, like a thorn or splinter, in their paw, leading to discomfort and limping. Paw injuries, such as cuts, punctures, or burns, can also cause dogs to favor one leg. 

It’s essential to inspect your dog’s paw carefully for any signs of injury, including swelling, bleeding, or foreign objects lodged between the toes. 

If you notice any abnormalities, it’s advisable to clean the wound gently and seek veterinary assistance if necessary. The veterinarian may need to remove the foreign body or provide appropriate treatment to promote healing.

Neurological Conditions

Certain neurological conditions can affect a dog’s gait and lead to favoring one leg. Conditions like intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) or nerve damage can cause pain, weakness, or paralysis in one or more limbs. 

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If your dog displays unusual symptoms, such as dragging a limb, stumbling, or coordination problems, it’s vital to consult a veterinarian with experience in neurology. 

They can conduct a thorough neurological examination and recommend diagnostic tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to determine the cause. Treatment may involve medication, rehabilitation, or in severe cases, surgical intervention.


When your dog suddenly starts favoring one leg, it’s crucial not to ignore the issue and assume it will resolve on its own. Dogs rely on their mobility for their well-being and quality of life, and any sudden changes in their gait should be taken seriously. 

Identifying the cause of lameness or favoring one leg is the first step in providing appropriate care and ensuring your dog’s comfort. 

From injuries and strains to arthritis and neurological conditions, there are several potential causes, each requiring specific treatment approaches. 

Consulting a veterinarian is paramount to obtain an accurate diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan that will help your furry friend regain their mobility and live a happy, healthy life.