You will be familiar with the sensation as a human. You tuck your leg under your body on a hard surface and the familiar tingles of pins and needles creep up. Your leg goes to sleep. But is the same for dogs when you see them struggling to get up from sleep, and even limping?
I am convinced that my dog has been getting pins and needles in his hind legs after long lie downs recently. If you think you dog’s legs have been falling sleep too, you might find what I discovered very interesting.
Can dogs get pins and needles? Dogs can get pins and needles when their legs fall asleep. It usually noticeable when your dog limps or shudders a little when standing up after a sleep. The technical term for this temporary condition is paresthesia.
Here’s all you know about this condition and how it affects your dog… and you!
Can a dog’s legs fall asleep?
Your dog’s legs can fall asleep after getting up. You will be able to identify with this; attempting to use it is like moving a leg that is no longer yours. You try to shake it out, but your leg only comes back into consciousness when it is good and ready.
This is definitely one of the more bizarre things about the human body, and it can be just as strange for dogs when they get pins and needles.
Please Note: I am not a licensed veterinarian or dog behaviorist. Just a huge dog enthusiast that likes to help dog owners understand their dogs better! For any medical assistance for your pooch, please consult your professional vet for advice.
What are pins and needles in dogs (and humans)?
The fancy term for pins and needles is paresthesia (see WebMD’s definition). In the main it is totally harmless and is mostly felt in the limbs. It is a combination of sensations.
In some people (and dogs) it can manifest as itching, tingling, burning, and/or prickling.
Paresthesia is caused by extended pressure on your nerves. This is why it is more pervasive when you lay down or sit for a long time. For your dog, it is likely to happen when they are laying on their legs. It’s also common when they have been in a carrier or crate for a few hours too.
Some dogs are more susceptible to pins and needles when their legs fall asleep more than others. It has to do with the number of nerve endings which is different between individual dogs.
For example, if your dog is overweight, they would be placing more pressure on their nerves as they lay, so they may also suffer from paresthesia or pins and needles more often.
Arthritic dogs or dogs with Parkinson’s disease are more likely to get sleepy limbs. Dogs with this type of illness can also be more prone to getting cramp in their legs.
Certain medications can also increase the chances of your dog suffering from pins and needles. Please do consult your veterinarian if it happens often.
It is worth noting, however, that your dog should not be suffering from pins and needles every time they lay down or nap.
If it becomes very common and you see them limping after every sleep, it may be indicative of other ailments.
Why does my dog limp after laying down?
As discussed, it is entirely possible that your dog has essentially smothered their leg whilst they are laying down, causing the familiar tingles of pins and needles to attack.
But this may not be the only reason, nor the most common reason.
If you have an arthritic dog, they may limp after laying down simply because of the joint pain they are suffering from.
Dog’s with nerve damage or neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease also stumble and limp more often. Their joint and muscles can become stiff, causing limping as they walk.
You can usually tell the difference because of the way your dog will react.
If your dog’s leg has gone to sleep, they may:
- Shake it about to get rid of the strange feeling.
- Lick or bite their legs to try and get rid of the tingling sensation.
- Wobble as they walk for a very short period of time.
- Dragging the offending leg until it comes back to life.
If your dog is having an arthritic flare up, they may:
- Whine due to joint pain.
- Appear stiff when getting up.
- Limp for a while until the joint warms up.
If your dog suffers from Parkinson’s disease or another neurological disease and are having a flare, they may:
- Shake as they walk.
- Have involuntarily twitches and ticks.
- Become very stiff and still in more than one limb.
- Become fidgety when they lay or sit.
When should you worry about your dog limping?
Limping should not be very common in a dog’s life. If it is a repeated behavior, it may be worth speaking to your vet to check your dog doesn’t have undiagnosed arthritis or nerve damage.
Other common causes are:
1. Something is stuck in their paw
This is the easiest to identify and treat at home. Have a look at the leg that is being dragged. If your dog avoiding putting their paw on the ground? If so, they may have a stick or thorn stuck in their paw. You can remove and treat this at home but if you are not confident doing so, do contact your veterinarian for assistance.
2. Broken bones
Dogs are like toddlers. They run. They play. They break things and themselves! Some dogs are very good at concealing a broken bone whilst others are extremely vocal about their pain. If you suspect your dog may have a broken bone, consult your vet for a full x-ray. They will then fully inform you of how to care for them whilst the bone heals.
3. Hip dysplasia
Whenever we tease about “breaking a hip”, we’re usually referring to hip dysplasia, which isn’t a true break. Hips are pretty difficult to break. They are deceptively easy to pop out their joints though.
Some dog breeds are more prone to hip dysplasia than others. For example, German Shepherds, Great Dane, Retrievers, and Saint Bernard’s. Overweight dogs are also more likely to have dysplastic hips.
4. Herniated/slipped disc
Slipped discs in dogs are associated with back and neck pain. They can also struggle to walk smoothly – limping – or paralysis.
If you notice a lot of discomfort when your dog walks, this could be the reason rather than pins and needles or a sleepy leg.
5. Muscle tears
Have you ever torn a muscle? I have. It kills. Muscle tears are entirely possible for very active dogs. This could be one of the causes your veterinarian investigates if your dog is limping frequently.
6. Joint injuries
Joint injuries are more closely associated with elderly dogs, but they can happen to dogs of all ages. If your dog has fallen over recently and is now limping, joint pain could be the core reason.
It could just be a sprain, but it is worth having the joint investigated to rule out any fractures.
As humans we understand pins and needles. Dog’s don’t. So, next time you see your poor pooch limping after a lie down, show a bit of sympathy.
If it becomes regular, consult with a vet for an expert opinion.
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