Dog Leg Cramps: Can Dog Get Cramps? (+ Remedies)

dog leg cramps

How often do you end up with a muscle spasm after a good run around the neighborhood or a stint on the spinning bike? It can be very painful as you find yourself contorting your leg to try and ease the agony. If you’ve seen your dog behaving the same, you might wonder if dogs can get cramp.

Here the short answer about dog leg cramps followed by more detail including symptoms, what you can give a dog for cramps, and how cold weather doesn’t help!

Can dogs get cramp? Dogs do get leg cramps and other cramps in their body. Muscle spasms will come on suddenly and when sustained are known as cramps. Intense contractions and cramps can take place in both the dog’s smooth muscles and skeletal muscles.  

Leg cramps are common amongst humans, and dogs are no different. Read on to discover more about this spasm, when to worry about it and how to know if it’s a cramp bothering your pooch and how to treat it.

What causes dog leg cramps?

Similar to their human owners, dogs get leg cramps from over exertion such as running too much around the park. Muscle cramps in your dog’s leg can also be as a result of a muscle strain or injury.

Dogs also get leg cramps cold weather when the muscle in their legs spasm in extreme low temperatures.

But, there could be a whole lot of other reasons too. These could include:

  • Dehydration (not drinking enough water).
  • Bacterial and viral infections.
  • Seizures (not to be confused with Parkinson’s tremors).
  • Low vitamin levels especially Vitamin B and calcium
  • Being overweight.
  • Certain medications.
  • Neurological diseases.
  • Interruption to blood flow such as sitting or lying at an awkward angle.

Lower down the page I’ve included some natural remedies for dog cramps, plus when you should seek expert intervention from a vet.

But first, here’s other parts of your dog’s body than can cramp up, including tails, when in heat, and other circumstances.

Can dogs get cramp in their tail?

Often, dog owners think their dog has tail cramp when it’s hanging down limp with a slight horizontal angle at the base. Or their dog whimpers every time they touch their dog’s tail.

It’s not actually cramp in a dog’s tail, but instead what could be happening here is your dog has a condition called limber tail syndrome or acute caudal myopathy.

This is caused by muscle strain or sprain to your dog’s tail brought on by tight crate confinement, exposure to extreme cold conditions or changes in the weather. It’s more commonly caused by excessive swimming! Which it’s why it’s also called swimmer’s tail.

When your dog is gleefully paddling around your local park’s dam, he’s using his tail to steer and balance him in the water. Too much of this kind of activity and your dog will be suffering from tail over exertion.

Do dogs get cramp while in heat?

When your female dog is howling while in heat, it’s only natural to assume they’re in pain. When women experience monthly periods, they sometimes have to deal with severe cramps. These cramps can sometimes get so bad, your woman ends up crying. 

It is possible that dogs get cramp when in heat. Your dog may experience some discomfort while in heat and it’s not to say she hasn’t got cramps during this time.

However, it’s good to bear in mind that your dog’s heat cycle is not identical to the human’s menstrual cycle. When your dog is in heat it is the beginning of the fertilization process and an indication that she’s ready to be impregnated.

She may be crying because she’s feeling miserable and wants your attention. But most times her crying is actually a call to suitors indicating she’s ready to be mated.

So, it’s only natural to think your special female dog is crying because she’s also experiencing similar cramps during heat… or not.

Similarly, dogs might get cramps when on their period.

Can my dog get abdominal cramps?

Dogs can get tummy cramps. You may notice he or she is uncomfortable after eating or gets restless or even whimpers or cries. If your dog constantly moves in circles trying to get comfortable before laying down, they could be experiencing abdominal cramps.

Abdominal cramps can be brought on by any of the following reasons:

  • Food poisoning.
  • Bladder blockages caused by urinary stones.
  • An internal injury.
  • Intestinal obstruction.
  • Burst uterus during pregnancy.

It’s always important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you notice your dog is uncomfortable and in pain.

What are the signs of dog leg cramps?

How do you know if your dog has let cramps? Or, if it’s not something else bothering him? Some of the most common dog leg cramp symptoms include:

  • Your dog is limping after a long walk in the park (or any other form of activity).
  • He’s moving slowly or with stiff movements.
  • He shows obvious signs of pain when moving or walking.
  • Cries or whimpers when you touch him.
  • Finds it difficult to sit up or lie down.
  • Has pain in one leg (it’s unusual to have muscle spasms in multiple legs at the same time).

Signs of abdominal cramping could include:

  • Whimpering or crying.
  • Difficulty in finding a comfortable position for sitting or lying down.
  • Diarrhea OR constipation.
  • Swollen or distended stomach.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Is restless or attempt to vomit often but nothing comes up.

Other signs your dog is experiencing muscle spasms and cramps include twitching or tremors in the area where the strain or injury has taken place. You can see these clearly and even feel them when you run your hand over your dog’s body.

When should I take my dog to the vet for cramps?

Most times, rest and enough fluids will restore your dog back to his normal state. This is often the case when your dog has overexerted themselves. But, if the cramps persist, then you need to take your dog to the vet.

A proper diagnosis will determine what is causing your dog’s muscles to spasm and cramp. When the cramps are accompanied by any of the signs described above, it’s even more important to get your dog seen to.

In order to assist your vet in diagnosing your dog’s condition, it’s useful to be able to give information such as:

  • Your dog’s fluid uptake: Dehydration often causes cramps and if your dog is not drinking enough water, he’s going to be more prone to muscle spasms.
  • Your dog’s appetite: Showing no interest in food is often a sign your dog is in pain. This will help your vet to carry out a full assessment especially if he suspects abdominal cramps.
  • A recent injury: Make sure your vet knows about any injuries that may have happened recently. While it may seem like your dog has recovered, there may be an underlying condition as a result of the injury, causing the cramps.
  • Medication: If you’ve been giving your dog any over-the-counter medications or made a change to any of his treatments, then let your vet know. Certain medicines can cause your dog to experience uncomfortable cramping especially in the belly area.

Your vet may need to carry out tests to determine the source of the muscle spasms.

What can I give my dog for leg cramps?

By now you know avoiding over exertion is key to preventing your dog from getting painful leg cramps. You also need to make sure he doesn’t get dehydrated by always having clean water for him to drink.

But other ways of relieving or treating your dog’s cramps could include:

  • Muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatories to help the muscles relax and alleviate the cramps.
  • Supplementing with vitamins such as Vitamin B and calcium will help to replace loss of vitamins from not eating properly or if your dog is suffering from an illness.
  • Electrolytes will help to restore your dog’s muscles while he’s healing.
  • Massage and acupuncture will also help alleviate muscle spasms and cramping.

By getting the right diagnosis for your dog’s cramps, you’ll be able to relieve him by giving him the right treatment.

Conclusion

Dogs are just as prone to getting cramp in their legs as we are, particularly when it’s cold weather.

Learning the signs of dog leg cramp in cold weather and all seasons will mean you can help them. If it’s gets too serious, please do contact your vet.

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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/staff-staffordshire-american-dog-4453297/ 

Marc Aaron

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

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