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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

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.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1805 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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