Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
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 one of their 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 some time, but according to VetInfo.com, 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 blood flow 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
- Herniated disc
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.
For Further Reading
- Dog Health: Signs and Symptoms of Dog Hip Dysplasia
Learn the signs and symptoms of his dysplasia in dogs. Learn some effective strategies and products to make your dog's hip pain more bearable.
- Causes of Limping in Dogs
Learn about some of the most common dog limping causes. Find out how to palpate the leg to pin-point problems and potential causes for front leg limping and rear leg limping in dogs.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My dog is not in pain, but why is she limping?
Answer: A dog who is limping is in pain. Dogs do not manifest pain in the same way we do. If it hurts to put the leg down, rather than saying "ouch" the dog will limp.
© 2015 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 03, 2020:
I would suggest recording the limping when your dog gets up from sleeping and showing it the vet. I did this with my dog and he took x-rays and found beginning of arthritis.
George on September 02, 2020:
My 5 year old bull dog has a limp.
It goes away after walking for a few minutes.
What can I do?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 15, 2019:
You can try to apply for Care Credit. It has helped lots of dog owners who cannot afford vet bills.
Hayden on July 12, 2019:
My dog woke up and has been limping ever since it did not go away it’s been three days but she never stepped on anything and her bones do not feel broken nor are they swollen. What should I do? I really cannot afford to go to the vet.
Madison on March 30, 2019:
My PitBull Boxer Mix dog is only 4 yrs. old, but when she woke up today after being asleep, she was limping. She was dragging her left back paw as if it was injured. But she doesn’t wine when I move her leg around like normal. What could be the cause?
patricia on October 06, 2018:
my English bulldog is only 4yrs old and recently he limps from been asleep more on left side though can we buy supplements to grease his jointsxx
Sandy on April 24, 2017:
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
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 04, 2016:
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?
luis o on August 04, 2016:
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
MP on June 30, 2016:
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....
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 17, 2016:
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!
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 26, 2015:
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.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 25, 2015:
I guess so, just like humans, we have sleeping legs too
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 25, 2015:
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.
Kathleen Kerswig on January 25, 2015:
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!