Causes of Dog Limping After Sleeping

Updated on February 17, 2016
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

After lying down for a long period of time, your dog may limp. Why?
After lying down for a long period of time, your dog may limp. Why?

So your dog has been lying down, or perhaps even sleeping, and as he gets up, he limps for a few steps. The limping is noticeable for the most part for a few seconds, but after this he walks normally, as if nothing ever happened. What gives?

This limping shouldn't be confused with a dog stretching after getting up. Some dogs will stretch their back legs straight and then drag them for just a little—silly dogs! One moment you are thinking about calling your vet and the next, your dog is acting fine. So should you or shouldn't you call the vet? Is it possible that the dog just slept in a bad position and that the one of its legs fell asleep? This is certainly an interesting question. It happens to us humans occasionally, so why not to Rover?

Dog's Leg Falls Asleep

First of all, why do limbs fall asleep in the first place? This happens when pressure is put on certain nerves and blood vessels associated with sensation. That prolonged pressure causes the nerves to go a little haywire because the communication between the limb and the brain becomes erratic or is lost. This leads to a tingling, pins-and-needles sensation known as paresthesia.

All it takes to bring sensation back is to move about a bit so that the blood flows back to the limb, boosting the misfiring nerves until the signals flow again properly.

Can This Happen to Dogs?

One answer comes from a veterinarian who answered this very question in an online forum. He writes that dog legs can indeed fall asleep. When this happens, the dog may acting normally until he notices his leg doesn't work. He'll be dragging it or stop moving altogether until sensation comes back. Sensitive dogs may even yelp or lick/bite at their legs when they feel that unpleasant tingling sensation.

It's helpful to note the position your dog is sleeping in and see if there's a pattern. You should definitively see your vet if your dog limps after getting up several times in one day. While a dog's leg may fall asleep occasionally, it definitively shouldn't happen repeatedly or every single time your dog awakens from a nap. If that's the case, there may other causes.

The vet also notes that the limping starts in another context (the dog was not lying down for long or at all), then the dog should see a vet.

Why a Dog May Often Limp After Lying Down

A common explanation for frequent limping after lying down is arthritis.

A dog with arthritis will limp after lying down for sometime, but according to, these dogs also walk more slowly than they used to, their gait may change, and there may be tenderness, warmth, and swelling around their joints. The dog may also manifest problems in sitting, jumping, climbing, squatting, getting up, and lying down.

After a few steps, even a dog with arthritis may begin to walk more normally. The joint warms up and joint fluid lubricates the area, allowing easier movement. This process is similar to the way that bloodflow helps a dog's leg when it has fallen asleep.

There are many things you can do to help a dog with arthritis. Acupuncture and supplements such as chondroitin, glucosamine, Vitamin E, and fatty acids can be helpful. In more severe cases, a dog may need non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.

Injury and Other Causes of Limping

There are other possible causes for limping:

  • Joint injury
  • Soft-tissue injury
  • Cruciate ligament tear
  • Dysplastic hips
  • Broken bone
  • Hairline fracture
  • Infection
  • Herniated disc
  • Tumor

If you are concerned about your dog's limping, don't hesitate to bring him in to see a vet to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Disclaimer: this article is fruit of my research on the topic and shouldn't be used or relied on for any diagnosis or treatment. If your dog is limping, please see your vet. By reading this article, you accept this disclaimer.

Have you ever seen your dog's leg fall asleep?

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Questions & Answers


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        Sandy 12 months ago

        My dog has a large cyst at the base of his tail. He has also started limping badly on his hind leg. Could this be related to the cyst

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 20 months ago from USA

        Luis, what did your vet diagnose your dog with? What medication was given a NSAID? I would follow up with the vet and let him know that the problem is still there and what's the next step. Your dog is quite young. Did your dog have xrays done?

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        luis o 20 months ago

        I have two little dogs they are 1 yr. and a few months and one of them every time she lays down gets up and limps for a little bit, than walks almost normal but the limping is less vet check her out give her medicine got better but now that medicine is done is back again, I grab het leg and touch all over it and don't seems to batter her, so no idea what is wrong I'm concern

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        MP 22 months ago

        My 9 yr old boxer's left front leg falls asleep when she lays on left side, on recliner with head hanging off,silly dog....

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

        Thank you, our poll do far says that 54 percent of dog owners have witnessed their dogs' legs falling asleep, so it's likely something not that uncommon!

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        Informative and interesting! I did not know at that time when my dog had the same problem after getting up. Always useful to dog lovers.

      • peachpurple profile image

        peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

        I guess so, just like humans, we have sleeping legs too

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

        Thank you , Kathleen. I used to think my dog's rear leg had fallen asleep initially as she limped upon getting up, but then, as it occurred more and more often, I figured it was time to see the vet. After seeing 3 different vets, finally the diagnosis came loud and clear, it turned out being a ruptured cruciate ligament.

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        Kathleen Kerswig 3 years ago

        I used to have dogs living with me and it never occurred to me that the limping might be due to their leg falling asleep. Thanks for sharing this with us. I learn something new every day! Blessings!