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What is Legs Swollen and Hot?

Unless your dog was recently sunbathing, developing hot legs is a sign that your pet may have a possible serious underlying condition that needs to be addressed. If your dog has hot or warm legs, he needs to be seen by a veterinarian. Often, swelling of the legs may be seen concurrently with the heat and may be caused by:

  • Fever
  • Arthritis
  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy
  • Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) 
  • Hygroma
  • Sprain

Why Legs Swollen and Hot Occurs in Dogs

Fever

Your dog’s normal temperature can range between 99.5F and 102.5F degrees. Your dog’s legs may feel hot if his temperature is higher than 102.5F. If your dog has a fever he may also have red eyes, warm ears, lack of energy, anorexia, and shivering. A fever may be caused by an infected wound, ear infection, urinary tract infection, abscessed tooth, respiratory infection or ingestion of poisonous item (toxic plant, human medication, pesticides or chemicals).

Arthritis

Arthritis is a common joint disease in older dogs. However, it can occur in younger dogs with a genetic predisposition for arthritis. Arthritis can cause warm swollen joints, pain, stiffness and lameness. As the disease progresses your dog may develop joint deformities, exercise intolerance and lameness. 

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy is a bone disease in large breed growing puppies and causes swelling of the growth plates in the limbs. This is a very painful condition. Puppies with this condition may have fevers of 106 degrees. Both legs are usually affected. Left untreated, hypertrophic osteodystrophy can be fatal.

Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer)

 Osteosarcoma is more common in large dog breeds in their middle ages to senior years. Breeds more prone to osteosarcoma include Saint Bernards, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Setters and Labrador Retrievers. As the cancer progresses the limbs become swollen and hot to the touch. 

Hygroma

A hygroma is usually a non-painful, fluid-filled sac that can form on a dog’s joints. The hygroma can form due to repeated pressure on the joint, such as repeatedly lying on hard surfaces (concrete, tile, hardwood floors). If the hygroma becomes infected it becomes painful and warm to the touch.

Sprain

Sprains can occur from trauma (vehicular impact, fight with another animal), physical activity (swimming, playing catch, hunting), or by jumping (off furniture or out of a car). Large and giant breeds are more prone to develop sprains. In addition to warm swollen joints, your dog may limp.

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What to do if your Dog is Legs Swollen and Hot

If your dog’s legs feel swollen or hot, or a combination of both, he should be seen by a veterinarian.  The veterinarian will want to know what symptoms you have observed and when they started.  He will perform a physical examination on your dog, which may include taking his temperature, checking the heart and respiratory rate, and palpating the limbs and joints.  The veterinarian may suggest a complete blood count, blood chemistry panel, urinalysis and x-rays of the limbs. If the x-rays are inconclusive the veterinarian may recommend magnetic resonance imaging or a computed tomography scan. If the veterinarian suspects bone cancer he may recommend a bone biopsy.

Bacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Patients with arthritis are treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), to reduce inflammation and pain. Physical therapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture and massage may be beneficial to an arthritic dog. 

Treatment of hypertrophic osteodystrophy is primarily supportive. The patient is prescribed pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. Dogs diagnosed with the condition are placed on strict rest and restricted activities. Dietary supplements and vitamin C may also be recommended. 

The most common treatment for bone cancer on a limb is surgical amputation. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments may also be recommended. 

Additionally, hygromas that become infected may need to be surgically removed; skin grafting may be required to close the incision. Some veterinarians may choose to surgically insert a drain into the hygroma to allow for fluid drainage. 

Some sprains may require splinting. Your dog may be prescribed anti-inflammatory and pain medications.

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Prevention of Legs Swollen and Hot

Not all conditions can be prevented.  Arthritis can be triggered by obesity, so it is important to watch your dog’s caloric intake. Studies report that dogs spayed or neutered before one year of age have a higher chance of developing bone cancer.  Some sprains can be prevented by not over exercising or training your dog.  Hygromas may be prevented by providing your dog a soft bed. Annual wellness checks are always recommended; illnesses such as Hypertrophic osteodystrophy can be monitored and more positive results to treatment obtained with early diagnosis.

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Cost of Legs Swollen and Hot

Bone cancer may cost $6000 to treat. Diagnosis and resolution of hygromas in dogs can range from $300 to $1800. Therapy for arthritis can cost up to $2500, depending on severity of the condition.

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Legs Swollen and Hot Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Goldendoodle mini

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8 months

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Unknown severity

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Has Symptoms

Slight Limp And Favoring Hind Right Leg

My dog got his foot caught in the door 😭 He seems to be fine and putting weight on it most of the time but sometimes he limps a little and favors that foot. It’s been six hours and he still sometimes limps he want to jump and play but we’ve been trying to keep him as rested as possible. We’ve felt his paw and he doesn’t pull away we’ve even moved his joints and he doesn’t seem to mind. Should we take him to the vet and spend all that money 🙈🙈🙈

Sept. 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he is putting weight on it, and doesn't seem painful, you may be able to monitor him at home for 24 to 48 hours and see if it gradually improved over that time. Resting him, and preventing active running or exercise will help. If he is still limping after 24 to 48 hours, or he suddenly won't put weight on it or is crying, then it would be best to have him seen by veterinarian. It may not be as expensive as you think, they may just need to examine him and see if he needs any medication. I hope that everything goes well for him and that he feels better soon.

Sept. 12, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Fourteen Years

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling Leg, Not Walking On Leg, Hot Leg, Not Eating Well

My dog has been refusing to eat normal, not walking on leg, swelling and heat on leg,

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Dogs can develop infections of the joint and tumors of the bone, and your dog sounds like she is having a hard time. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they will be able to examine her, see what might be going on, and see what treatments need to happen. If you are currently giving her aspirin, it would be best to stop, as that can cause some delays in clotting times. It may interfere with what medication your veterinarian decides to give. I hope that everything goes well for her.

July 27, 2020

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Pit Bull, border collie

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Joints

His legs have swollen up and has been for hours. Hes constantly lickin his feet and is getting balding spots where he keeps itching hes had flea and tick medicine yesterday and has had a flea and tick bath friday evening with cat flea and tick shampoo. Hes not panting and doesnt seem in pain I've washed him with dawn thinking it might be the medicine and he jumped around excitedly just as he does after getting a bath

July 19, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question . Swollen legs are not a common side effect of flea or tick medication, and if he is licking at his feet, the swelling is likely bothering him. That can be caused by heart or liver disease, a lymph drainage problem, or an infection. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they can examine him and see what might be causing this problem. I hope that all goes well for him!

July 19, 2020

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Rottweiler

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Six Years

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Has Symptoms

Swelling

My dog has cot a hind leg witch is swollow and hot and the swelling has moved down his leg to his paw witch is very swollen as well he do not put wait on his leg at all and is pain full if you try to move or put pressure on his let .he started to not use his leg about 2 week ago after playing with are other dog and it has got worse over thst time and swelling is very bad

July 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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I'm sorry that your dog is having problems. From your description, it sounds like it is very infected, very badly. If he does not see a veterinarian as soon as possible, that is not going to get better. He probably needs some very strong antibiotics at this point to get rid of that. It would be best to call a veterinarian and have him seen as soon as you can, and get whatever medications they recommend. I hope that he is able to recover from this okay.

July 13, 2020

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Tiny

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German Shepherd

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8 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Crying
Hot

About 3 days ago my puppies leg became swollen and warm and I’ve been icing her leg and letting her rest in a comfortable area however she cries when she tries to adjust herself or move and pees while laying down but does get up to do #2 although when she does try to walk she always has her leg up never letting it touch the ground. I thought it was a sprain but now I’m thinking it could be something more serious. I do have to hand feed her and bring the water bowl to her.

Aug. 1, 2018

Tiny's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

It does sound like something more serious than a simple sprain especially if Tiny would rather urinate where she’s laid than go outside to urinate; sprains, fractures, dislocations, nerve injury, insect bites among other causes may lead to limping and you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination as soon as possible. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 1, 2018

She also has a bumb on her inner thigh and I don’t know if that’s just the swollen part or something much more worse!

Aug. 1, 2018

Tiny's Owner

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Akita

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American bully

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Loss Of Appetite
Swollen Front Legs
Still Happy

Hi my pit bull Akita is a outside dog and I check on her everyday and make sure she is takin care of I started to notice that she stopped eating when our male pit bull ran away I figured she was depressed then when I’d call her over she started to take awhile to come to me when I’d call her I can tell she was happy but she started limping so I went and looked Around her leg and didn’t find anything two more days go by as I just keep watch of her and this time she won’t come to me her front legs are swollen so I decide to take her and they Turned me away because she’s a pit. so these past days that I’ve been searching for a vet she still no longer eats she just lays there wagging her tail still happy but her two front legs are swollen I don’t no what else to do one of them are so swollen it’s bleeding I cry every night please give me idea of what to do rather then put her down...

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Pookie

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American Bulldog

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Leg
Foot Wound

Pookie is a 100-lb American bulldog. He has chronic issues with skin irritation on his back feet, which have been seen and treated repeatedly by my vet. He recently developed a small open wound on one foot (~5 days ago) and now his whole leg is swollen and puffy. The leg is slightly warm. My vet prescribed cephalexin over the phone yesterday because the office was closed (so he's now had 3 doses). I'm not sure whether this is something that warrants an emergency vet visit because the puffiness/swelling is slightly worse today. He is eating/drinking normally, not favoring the leg, not behaving any differently than normal.