Chihuahua Limping: Back & Front Legs: Quick Diagnosis or Lameness?

why is my chihuahua limping

Chihuahuas make for fantastic pets, but they can also succumb to injuries and ailments due to their small stature. One of the more common problems can be them limping on the back leg, front paws, or displaying signs of lameness.

Occasionally you might see your Chihuahua limping after sleeping, which gradually wears off. With some limping you won’t even think your Chihuahua is in pain.

When the limping doesn’t quickly clear up within minutes but lasts for a few days, it could be attributed to a soft tissue injury. This might be something like a sprain in your Chihuahua’s leg joints and tendons. These will often clear up inside of week when combined with vet-prescribed pain killers.

Whatever the scenario though, if you see your Chihuahua limping, it’s worrying enough to want to know more. This is what this guide is about.

Why? Because there will be times when a Chihuahua limping is something far more serious than just a strain. No matter what the situation, you should always call your own vet for professional advice if your Chihuahua suddenly starts limping.

Handy Hint: Chihuahuas love to bite at feet and ankles, and for very good reasons which I will explain here!

Why is my Chihuahua limping?

The most common reasons for your Chihuahua to start limping will be strains to a tendon, ligament, or muscle – this is the soft tissue injury I referred to earlier and will happen after your Chihuahua has been exerting himself; the limping will start suddenly afterwards.

Most vets can quickly diagnose this type of injury and will probably give you some canine pain killers to help alleviate your Chihuahua’s discomfort.

Given time to recuperate, rest, and stop jumping and running, your Chihuahua should be better in just a few days. That means no walkies or indoor play!

If you haven’t yet called your own vet, here are some checks you can make which might indicate why your Chihuahua is limping:

  • Check for broken toe and claw nails.
  • Check there is no visible bleeding or cuts on the paw.
  • Check for any splinters or foreign objects in the paw.
  • Check to see if your Chihuahua is lethargic and not eating.
  • Check for any visible signs of swelling.

When you should call a vet about your limping Chihuahua

If there’s nothing obvious around the paw or leg, and you still don’t know why your Chihuahua is limping, then call your vet and book an appointment.

This is particular important if your Chihuahua wakes up from sleeping with a limp and shows no sign of the limp going inside of 30 minutes. Anything longer than and I would suggest it’s not a limp due to the way they have slept, but instead something different. Arching of the back can also be a sign.

chihuahua limping back legs
Your Chihuahua might start limping after sleeping, laying down and just waking up. (Image via

Here’s a list of reasons given by vets for why your Chihuahua has a limping back leg or starts limping on the front paws only.

Chihuahua limping back leg: common causes

From my own research and talking to a vet friend of mine, here are the most common causes of limping. Keep scrolling down for the more serious Chihuahua lameness symptoms.

  • Injured claws: Your Chihuahua might have broken a claw. This injury can be extremely painful, especially if the tear in the claw gets to the nerve ending.
  • Wound to the paw or insect sting: Your Chihuahua might have a splinter in his paw making him limp. It could be an open wound, a stone, chewing gum, or even a insect bite or sting so do a thorough check.
  • Strain or muscle injury: Your Chihuahua might have strained a leg, joint, or muscle whilst playing or even just going about his day to day business.

Chihuahua limping on back leg: more serious conditions

One would hope that your Chihuahua’s limping back or front legs will quickly get better themselves. But there are more serious health conditions that limping legs are attributed to.

  • Breaks, fractures, and dislocations: Chihuahuas are prone to leg injuries due to their small size and can easily hurt themselves when active.
  • Torn ligaments: Ligament damage will occur after your Chihuahua twists and jumps. It can be very painful but can be treated easily by a vet.
  • Hip or elbow dysplasia: All dogs are prone to these health conditions, and Chihuahuas are no different. Hip dysplasia can occur in their back leg with elbow dysplasia in the front legs and paws.
  • Luxating patella: This is the medical for a kneecap dislocation. It’s an injury that will often manifest itself at first with a pronounced limp. It occurs on the back legs and you will notice your Chihuahua skipping or limping in pain.
  • Inflammatory disease: Also known as panosteitis, Chihuahua puppies can have this inflammation on their leg bones. You might see your Chihuahua shifting from leg to leg to balance the weight with this lameness condition.
  • Bone cancer: Canine bone cancer tends to be more of a big dog breed condition but isn’t unheard of in medium sized breeds like Chihuahuas. Your vet can check for it with a simple blood test.
  • ACL injuries: ACL tears often affect the back legs and are often first noticed when your Chihuahua starts to lift up a leg. It can be fixed with an operation surgery, and your Chihuahua might even be back and walking inside of 60 days.
  • Arthritis: This condition is most common in older Chihuahuas, where limping is a gradual thing as the joints become more swollen over time. Vets can prescribe therapy and medication for the pain.
  • Lyme’s disease: This limping cause is one of the most difficult to diagnose as your Chihuahua won’t suddenly start limping, but instead will limp many months after being exposed to Lyme’s. It can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Valley fever: This is a fungal disease found in the United States and can either make a Chihuahua puppy limp, or an older dog. It is not related to how old your dog is.
  • Neurological disorders: This will often occur after damage to the spine where a disc will touch against the nerves, leading to potential lameness in your Chihuahua.

Chihuahua limping on front leg or paws

Many of the reasons I have already listed for Chihuahua lameness and limping will happen with the back and front legs. But there are some conditions which will only cause limps to one of the other.

For example; elbow dysplasia (front legs) or hip dysplasia (rear legs).

  • Elbow dysplasia (front leg limping): This happens due to bone abnormalities in the elbow joints on the front legs. It happens due to cartilage fusing to the bone resulting in an elbow joint being pushed out of place. It will be very painful to your Chihuahua, with obvious swelling.
  • Hip dysplasia (rear leg limping): This happens when your Chihuahua’s hip joints haven’t formed correctly when they were a puppy. Your Chihuahua probably won’t be able to walk upstairs, jump up, and will probably walk with what looks like a little bunny hop to deal with the pain.

How vets diagnose lameness and limping

Once you have booked an appointment in with your vet, they will do a manual check of your Chihuahua using just their hands. They will press and pull to see what the cause could be. The check will go something like this:

  • Examine the paws for obvious signs of injury.
  • Pull the legs stretched out to check for a reaction.
  • Do gentle massage on all four legs.
  • Lightly apply pressure to the spine to see if the Chihuahua puts up resistance. 

If the manual checks don’t offer a conclusion on why your Chihuahua limps, there could be some more in-depth diagnosis test such as:

  • Blood test.
  • X-ray.
  • Fluoroscopy.
  • MRI scan.

How to stop your Chihuahua from getting leg injuries

A lot of limping can be avoided, so here are a few tips on how to avoid those injuries in the first place.

  • Don’t let them walk on sharp, uneven, or surfaces covered in debris.
  • Don’t let them walk on hot surfaces or surfaces that are too cold.
  • Don’t overwork and over-exercise your Chihuahua, particularly in hot weather.
  • Don’t let your Chihuahua jump up too high as it can jar their spine.


Chihuahuas are prone to limping injuries due to their high activity levels, some will be more serious than others. If you Chihuahua is limping on a paw and you cannot find any obvious reason for doing so, please consult your vet. 

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a vet, and this isn’t intended to replace professional advice on what to do if your Chihuahua is limping on his back leg or front paws. Instead it’s an overview of what I have learned as a dog owner when my own was limping, plus what vets have told me. If you are at all concerned, please call your own vet.

You might also like…

Here are some more health-related Chihuahua articles that all owners of this breed should be aware of.

Image in header via

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

Recent Posts