Our Shih Tzus are our best friends, and when something is wrong or they are hurting it’s as if we’re in pain too.
It can be very concerning and heart-wrenching when we notice something’s not quite right with our little Shih Tzus, so if you’ve noticed that your Shih Tzu has started limping it can be quite tempting to worry excessively or even panic.
There are several reasons why your Shih Tzu might be limping. Limping could be a sign of a paw or leg injury, a substantial injury like a broken bone, fracture, or sprain, or a less noticeable injury such as a dislocation, ligament tear, joint trauma, hip dysplasia, or spinal injury. It could also be caused by a luxated patella.
Superficial injuries can cause some pain or discomfort in our Shih Tzu’s paws and legs. If they have recently walked on hot pavement, gotten a thorn or other sharp object caught in their paw, or somehow cut or scraped their paw this can be a less serious cause of your dog’s limping.
There are some more serious causes that we will explore, but as I always recommend please be sure to have your dog checked out by your vet. This article is meant to help you investigate possible causes not give you medical advice!
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Possible Reasons Why Your Shih Tzu is Limping
There are many reasons why your Shih Tzu could be limping. Shih Tzus are little and easily prone to injury. Our little Shih Tzu had so much energy that she seemed to always be running and jumping from places she shouldn’t. There were several times when she had an injury that caused her to limp.
Because there are so many possibilities as to why your Shih Tzu is limping the best way to find out is to have your dog examined by your vet.
It may seem like your Shih Tzu isn’t in any pain, if they are only slightly limping or they don’t whine or cry when you touch their paw or leg it doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling any pain. Dogs are often very good at hiding pain and may only give clues about the pain they are in when it gets unbearable.
There are some things you will need to consider when trying to figure out why your dog is limping. There will also be similar to the questions your vet will ask you when you take your Shih Tzu in for an exam.
- Did the limping start all at once, or did it come on gradually? Sudden limping is usually a sign of trauma or injury whereas gradual limping can be a sign of a condition such as arthritis or hip dysplasia.
- Is it worse during a particular time of the day? Some owners notice that their Shih Tzu starts limping after they wake up from a nap or a period of sleeping.
- Where has your dog been walking recently? Hot pavement, broken glass, rocks, thorns, bee stings?
- Has your dog recently been very active? They may have stretched or pulled a muscle.
- Did your Shih Tzu jump from a significant height? They may have landed wrong or sprained something.
- Is there swelling or tenderness to the touch? Does any part of the leg feel warm or hot to the touch? (if the injury feels warm to the touch seek attention from a vet.)
If your dog has an obvious trauma, dislocations, breaks, change in the natural position of their leg, any bleeding, or swelling you should seek medical attention for your dog immediately. Also if your dog is in a lot of pain, yelping, or won’t put any weight on the leg a vet visit should be sought quickly.
A superficial injury is something that scrapes or cuts or burns your dog’s paw or leg from the outside. Depending on how serious the injury is you may be able to address it at home.
Your Shih Tzu may also try to lick the spot that is causing pain. Licking is a way for dogs to try and nurse the wound, but they should be kept from doing it.
You can learn more about your Shih Tzus licking and what to do in this article!
If your Shih Tzu was stung by a bee then remove the stinger, apply a paste of baking soda and water and then ice the spot. Talk to your vet about giving your dog an oral antihistamine.
Superficial injuries can affect any of your Shih Tzu’s four legs so whether they are limping on their front leg or back leg, just do a thorough and careful inspection to see if you can find any signs of injury or burn.
Trauma or Injury (Non-Superficial)
If you have an energetic fun-loving dog, or maybe a clumsy dog they may be more prone to a deeper trauma or injury. Dogs (especially young dogs) often ignore their limitations and will jump from high surfaces, run too hard, or try to turn too quickly.
Shih Tzus with their little bodies and big personalities (especially around other dogs) may not realize they can’t quite do what their four-legged friends with the longer legs can. This may lead them to overextend themselves which can cause a range of sprains, break, or tears.
If your Shih Tzu is like my dog I had growing up (I swear she had 9 lives just like a cat) she may get stuck in a fence, shut in a door, or accidentally run into a wall. The possibilities are endless!
If your dog was injured due to something hitting it, falling, or getting stuck it’s important that you have a vet assess the extent of the injury.
Some possibilities include but are not limited to.
- A pulled tendon or muscle
- A fractured or cracked bone
- A sprain
- Joint dislocation
Some injuries that may cause your dog to limp may not be so apparent. It will often take a vet exam as well as possible x-rays, or other specialized equipment to understand what is going on.
Some deeper injuries could be caused by trauma are.
A torn ACL (Limping in Rear Legs)
This is one of the most common injuries in dogs. This injury can only happen in the back legs of your Shih Tzu . A torn ACL requires rest, immobilization, and sometimes surgery.
It may be possible for your Shih Tzu to recover from an ACL tear by wearing an orthopedic brace and getting supplemental support, but depending on how severe the injury is they may need surgery.
Luxated Patella (Limping in Rear Legs)
Luxated Patella (displaced kneecap) is more common in small dogs, Shih Tzus are very susceptible to this issue. Nearly 7% of puppies will have this condition.
If your dog is overweight they are more likely to develop this problem. Keeping their weight in check can help to prevent it.
Depending on the severity your dog may be able to heal from this with rest and an increased nutritional diet. If the condition keeps occurring or gets worse it may need surgery.
Diseases That May Cause Limping in Your Shih Tzu
Some diseases that cause limping in Shih Tzus include but are not limited to.
- Bone Cancer – Normally appears in the front legs, may make your dog lame and unable to walk. It will be diagnosed by an x-ray and biopsy.
- Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease– Affects young Shih Tzus usually between 6-9 months old. A painful hip condition causing the bones to become brittle and easily break. Causes limping or lameness in rear legs. Requires surgery to fix.
- Intervertebral disc disease IVDD– This affects your Shih Tzu’s spine and can cause issues in his back legs. The cushion or disc in your dog’s vertebrae ruptures which causes pain and discomfort.
It can also affect your dog’s tail. If their tail is tucked and not wagging and he’s struggling to walk, this could be the reason. A vet needs to do an X-ray or MRI to determine the exact cause. Often surgery is required.
- Arthritis– This usually happens in more than one leg and in older Shih Tzu. Your dog may feel stiff and have trouble getting up and down, as well as may not want to jump or go up and downstairs. This happens more subtly and will be diagnosed by a physical exam with your vet.
- Lyme Disease – If your Shih Tzu has been bitten by a tick even months ago this could be the cause of their limping. You will see lameness which may seem to move around from one leg to another.
Still and swollen joints, possibly fever. Reduced energy and loss of appetite. Your vet will do a blood test to check for Lyme and if positive start your dog on a course of antibiotics.
- Valley fever – Another tick-borne illness. You may see lameness of their legs, swelling, coughing, lack of appetite, and low energy. This illness can be dormant in your Shih Tzu for up to 3 years after a tick bite. Your vet can test for this with a blood test. Treated with anti-fungal medicine.
- Neurological Disorders – There are too many different kinds of neurological disorders to list here, but these disorders will affect your Shih Tzu’s brain, and/or spine will fall into this category.
Other signs of these disorders can be circling, excessive pain, dizziness, disorientation, seizures, sudden inability to use legs, or stumbling.
Your vet may do an MRI or CT scan to find the cause. Treatments will vary and may include surgery or physical therapy.
Treatment for a Limping Shih Tzu
Many of the problems we discussed in this article if caught early and taken care of by your vet will hopefully not leave any long-lasting problems for your four-legged friend.
Treatment will depend greatly on the underlying cause of your dog’s limping. Your vet will be the best resource to know how to treat your Shih Tzu limping. If your dog is showing any other signs or symptoms with the limping such as any in this list it’s imperative that you call your vet right away.
- Pain and discomfort
- Blood on its body or in its stool
- Trouble Breathing
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While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.