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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

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Legs Swollen and Hot Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Galileo
Beagle
8 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Bleeding
lack of appetite
Limping
hot temperature of the affected leg

My dog started to have swollen legs yesterday, and i was shocked because the day before it started i had been able to walk him around the neighborhood and i am very careful of where we are walking for him to avoid getting hurt. so i was surprised of what had happened to his leg. and today it has started to bleed in some areas of the affected leg. and he has lost his appetite to eat dog food but he eats bread. and what's more heart breaking is that he is not making any sound or cry of pain. what do i need to do? Thank you for your help :)

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
Sudden hot swelling legs is concerning and may be indicative of a few different conditions which may include infection, insect bites, snake bites among other causes; since you were out walking yesterday and you’re describing that there is bleeding from that leg, you should visit your Veterinarian or an Emergency Veterinarian immediately as this isn’t something you can manage at home. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Roofus
American Pit Bull Terrier
9 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Swelling

My dog was bitten by my mother's weenie dog and his back leg is swollen and hot to the touch. He is limping. But still happy applys pressure and i can rub it and he doesn't do anything not even pulls away. Should i wrap it in like ace bandage?or let it heal on its own?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
It is unusual for the entire leg to be warm and swollen after a bite unless there is something more serious going on; since there is severe swelling and the leg is warm I would recommend visiting your Veterinarian for an examination to ensure that there isn’t an infection, injury or other issue causing the leg to swell. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Daisy
Dane Shepherd
5 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

Daisy has been limping for a couple days just moved her hip and she cried before then didn't notice the swollen lil bit of her hip and it's warm. She has layed on it squatted to pee and ran but all with no weight being put on it or not much.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
You should really visit your Veterinarian about this, without examining Daisy’s hip I cannot really give you any specifics about the type of injury or a suitable treatment; in the meantime try to keep her off her paws and allow her to relax. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Lolly Cowan
Kinetic Border Collie
13 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Swollen leg

Noticed after two days and nights of heavy breathing and difficulty raising herself even with assistance I normally provide due to her arithris and UTI, has had the heavy breathing walking and whilst resting. Lolly is a senoir dog of 13years.Noticed after a light massage her left leg was swollen, comparing her paw and lower leg their were significant differences. Ater being advised to apply heat and give her pain relief, continue with her antibiotics. I noticed that not just her lower leg, but also her entire leg/thigh is also swollen. Panting at night settles if I lay with her??

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
There are various causes for leg swelling in dogs which may include lymphedema, trauma, infections among other causes; the panting may be in relation to pain or need to cool down. Without examining Lolly I cannot confirm the specific cause, but I would recommend that you follow any instructions from your Veterinarian (antibiotics, pain relief, warm compress) and monitor for improvement, if there are no signs of improvement you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Zeus
English Mastiff
6 1/2 years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Depressed
Fatigued

Medication Used

Rimadyl
Clindamycin

My dog has a hard swollen rear leg. It runs hip to almost ankle. There is a open wound on the inside , not sure if it’s from constant licking or a bite. Could be both.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
If Zeus is constantly licking his leg, it is important to stop him which may include placing a cone on him during recovery; he is currently receiving an antibiotic and pain relief so it is a case of wait and see how the treatment will go. If the skin is broken, you can bathe the area with a dilute antiseptic to keep the wound clean; if you see no improvement after the course of treatment, you should return to your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Barak
Mixed
10 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Limping, decrease appetite

My dog's leg is swollen and hot. He was hit by a car 3 yes ago. He had surgery and his femur bone was removed. He is 10 yrs old. Could it be arthritis or something more serious? What can I do?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without examining Barak, I can't determine what might be going on with his leg, but he may have an infection, a sprain or strain, or cancer. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible to have an exam and determine what might be going on with him and if there is a treatment possible. I hope that he is okay.

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Axel
Boxer
4 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Blood filled
Redness
Swelling

My 5 yo Boxer has a chronic issue with rear left leg swelling. We have treated for hemangiosarcoma twice now. There’s blood accumulating between the hip and knee. Gets red, swollen, and hot. This seems to dissipate with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and vitamin K. A week or so goes by and it’s back. We tend to think it’s lymph node issues, but we still can’t pinooint a cause.
It’s very troubling.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
I am unable to think of a specific cause for the accumulation of blood in the thigh area on one side; I’m sure that blood tests, x-rays and other related tests have been done already. I cannot think of a specific cause off the top of my head and would recommend visiting a Specialist when the next flare up occurs to get their input into this condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

My 9 year old German Shepard lab mix is having the same issues for the past 3 mos now and we have had her tested, x-rays and blood work, there is nothing that comes up, her leg goes lame when this inflammation happens, it is in her her upper thigh to mid thigh, and seems to be warm. We have had her on Tramadol and Steroids, the Vet seems to think that is is arthritis, I'm not sure what else I can do to her my dog as she is in pain and it breaks my heart to see her this way, she is an active indoor dog. any suggestions are welcome

Thank you for your time.

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Tiny
German Shepherd
8 Weeks
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Crying
hot
Swelling

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.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 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

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!

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Buttercup
Mixed with Chihuahua
5 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Limping
Painful to touch
Fever(maybe?)

My small rescue dog(has some Chihuahua in her) started limping late last night. She was completely okay an hour before, she was running around playing, she ate & then all of a sudden her back leg became swollen & painful to touch between what I would call her knee & her toes. The only thing not swollen in that area is her toes & it does not extend up to her hip. She also seems to have a fever but I don't have a thermometer to check for a definite answer. Her nose is a little dry but it's not warm so I can't be sure. Again, this came on all of a sudden, it didn't progress or get worse over time, it was extremely sudden. Unfortunately, I don't have the funds to pay the vet to do a bunch of unnecessary, expensive tests only to find out that it's just a sprain. But if there's a possibility that it could be a more serious issue then I will find the funds I need. Thank you for any help you can offer!!

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 Recommendations
Without seeing Buttercup, I can't comment on whether this is a sprain or something more serious, but if she is bearing weight on the leg and progressively improving over 2-3 days, then she may have sprained her leg and she may be okay. If she is not putting weight on the leg, can't get comfortable, stops eating or becomes lethargic, then it would be best to have her seen. We try not to do unnecessary tests, and they will ask your approval for any testing before they do it, if it is needed. I hope that all goes well for her.

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