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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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Ask a Vet

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Rottweiler

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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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0 Recommendations

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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1 found helpful

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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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1 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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Roofus

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American Pit Bull Terrier

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9 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

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?

July 8, 2018

Roofus' Owner

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0 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

July 8, 2018

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Lolly Cowan

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Kinetic Border Collie

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

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??

July 6, 2018

Lolly Cowan's Owner


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1 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

July 6, 2018

Thank you doctor an update, I ended having to spend the whole weekend having Lolly diagnoses of cancer in her left thigh, overnight cold and hot pads and observation of heavy panting throughout the night concerned me to seeking medical attention on the weekend day before I found her swollen paw and ankle what happened over night the swelling had shifter to her thigh, size of a small ball. I have had to deal with waiting the diagnoses of type of cancer. The emergency rescue vet clinic could not provide a clear indication of the type of cancer or whether she also had IMHA, Biopsies were postponed. Ultrasound was preferred, Unfortunate delays and lack of definition of type of cancer or anemia, Returned home to see my local vet, there was concern of her blood levels were low as 19, immediately made a referral and was seen days later. Urgency was difficult as I had been told Lolly had cancer?? Extensive were done by a vet to repeat full blood count, X-ray back, stomach and tumour mast, biopsy of her thigh, aspirated sample from spleen and liver, urine test also. sample for a couple of small mast on shoulder and one around her rectum.the week of friday when this all began, Lolly was on Cephlexin to treat a UTI and of Medcam for her arthritis.All the extensive tests were done at the specialist vet hospital. Test came back negative for cancer in either of her bloods or diagnostics of biopsy's ultrasound stomach. Finding Lolly had hypersensitivity when Predisone was to treat the presumed cancer and antibiotics including pain relief. Anaemia IMHA is secondary to the leg and infections occurred during drugs prescribed to treat cancer . Lolly is not showing cancer more towards benign tumour mast?? Lolly has become congested eats and drinks, bladder and bowel are normal, her mobility has become less as she struggles with all that has happened over the past 3 weeks now. Still unknown and no clue what is wrong with my Lolly girl. At the moment I am treating with holistic medicine and supplements to help with the bleeding in her thigh the Anaemia, cleansing of the drug sensitivity and of course TLC emotional support to a shattering and unpleasant ordeal. I hope this has not altered her quality of life What do you think any suggestions what could have caused all this mystery.

July 21, 2018

Lolly Cowan's Owner

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Daisy

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Dane Shepherd

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5 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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.

June 20, 2018

Daisy's Owner

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0 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

June 20, 2018

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