Dog Has Swollen Leg (cont.)

What to Do

Next, ask yourself these questions:

  • Has your dog recently been in any sort of accident or fallen? Traumatic incidents are a common reason for leg swelling in dogs. Your exam should have pinpointed the location of the injury, and your dog's response to manipulation may have given you a good idea of its severity. If at any point in this process your dog begins to cry out, struggle, or snap, stop immediately and let your vet do the rest!
  • Did you see any bleeding or discharge? If closer scrutiny of the area reveals a puncture or laceration and there is bleeding or pus without severe pain, you may have a local infection to deal with. Try following the directions for treating an abscess in “How to Treat an Abscess” on page 25.
  • Is the swelling generalized and associated with one of the major joints mentioned? Injuries that result in diffuse swelling of major joints of the legs are often serious. They may involve ligament, tendon, vessel, or nerve damage or some combination of them. The resulting joint instability predisposes it to further damage, and the swelling actually serves to prevent the joint from moving about and further harming itself. This is the type of injury that requires the help of a veterinarian experienced in orthopedics.
  • Is there swelling and pain associated with one or more of the toes? Injured toes, although they are quite painful, are often left to heal on their own without a cast or splint, sometimes even when they are fractured. The reason behind this is that the pain is usually enough to prevent the dog from putting much weight on it. In addition, the splint or cast might actually be so bothersome that the dog could do more damage in her efforts to rid herself of it than if she were never to have been placed in a splint or cast in the first place.

However, if you noticed that the swelling felt like an overall sponginess that remains indented after you stop pressing, rush your dog to an ER. This condition is known as pitting edema and is quite serious. It could mean that your dog has vascular or lymphatic disease. In either case, a major animal hospital is where you should take her right away.