When to Seek Emergency Care for a Limping Pet

If your pet is limping, some specific conditions may require immediate attention. Otherwise, it’s usually okay to schedule an appointment for the next business day for veterinary care.

Lameness signs in pets that require emergency care

In case your pet displays any of the following symptoms, it is recommended that you call us at Four Paws immediately. If it is after hours, contact VVC at 540-372-3470.

  • Dragging a limb

  • Not bearing weight on a limb

  • Extreme lethargy

  • Uncontrollable bleeding

  • Excessive swelling

  • Excessive vocalization

  • Abrupt worsening of a limp

Even if your pet is experiencing only mild limping, if they have additional concerning symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, they may need urgent medical attention.


Lameness causes in pets that require emergency care

While a muscle sprain or strain can be worrying, it does not necessarily require an immediate visit to the emergency hospital. However, there are certain conditions that do need urgent care such as:

  • 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


Although your pet may not show obvious signs of injury, there could be internal damage that needs medical attention. For instance, if your pet was hit by a car and only has minor wounds and limping, a thorough evaluation may reveal harm to their liver, spleen, kidneys, or bladder, which may require intensive care at a hospital.

If your pet has been bitten by another pet, it’s important to seek emergency treatment. Though the puncture marks may seem small, they can quickly become infected. Also, if a pet has grabbed and shaken your pet, there may be significant tissue damage that could become a serious issue.

When in doubt, please contact us at Four Paws and we will be happy to give you further advice.