Skip to Content

7 Reasons Why Chihuahuas Are Limping & Run On 3 Legs

Why Is My Chihuahua Limping

Your Chihuahua was walking fine. Playing, jumping, running – no problem.

But suddenly… they start limping. And use only 3 of their legs.

Oh-oh! Something’s wrong… But what could it be? 

And how to help your Chi get back on all four again?

Fret no more! This article holds the information you’re looking for. 

Keep reading and discover:

  • What a luxating patella and how it can be fixed.
  • How to spot whether your Chihuahua has injured their leg.
  • If a broken nail could be a reason for your Chihuahua’s limping.
  • 3 easy tips on how to prevent your Chihuahua from walking on three legs.
  • And a lot more…

Why is my Chihuahua limping?

Your Chihuahua is limping due to inflammation, pain, or osteoarthritis associated with patellar luxation. Injury to the leg bones, ligaments, muscles, or paw pads can cause limping. Ingrown or overlong nails, supraspinatus tendinopathy, or Lyme Disease can also cause limping. 

Why does my Chihuahua hop, walk or run on 3 legs?

Your Chihuahua hops, walks, or runs on 3 legs due to conditions such as luxating patella. It affects only the back legs. Your Chihuahua could also have an Injury to their leg or paw pad, ingrown nails, supraspinatus tendinopathy (front legs only), Lyme Disease, or something stuck to their foot. 

7 reasons why your Chihuahua limps (and hops, walks or runs on 3 legs)

#1: They have a luxating patella (back leg problem)

The patella is the kneecap. Luxate is a medical term that means to put out of joint or dislocate. So, a luxating patella is a kneecap that becomes dislocated. 

People also refer to this condition as patellar luxation. Less official names include slipped kneecap, dislocated knee, and trick knee.

Patellar luxation is a very common cause of lameness in dogs. It can be the result of an injury. But more often, dogs who have patellar luxation were born this way. 

Research shows small dogs are more likely to be born with this condition than big dogs. This includes Chihuahuas.

It affects one or both of the back legs. If your Chihuahua is limping on or lifting a front foot, you can rule out a luxating patella. 

Luxating patellas can range from mild to severe. 

But what does it look like when your Chihuahua has a luxated patella?

If the condition isn’t severe, you may only notice a sudden skip in your Chihuahua’s walking or running. They will hold up one of their back legs, hopping, walking, or running on 3 legs for a couple of steps. 

Then they put the leg back down again and continue as if nothing happened. This is because the kneecap slipped out and then slipped back in again on its own.

In more severe cases, the patella will not go back by itself. In this case, your Chihuahua will not put their leg back down. A vet will have to put the kneecap back into place. 

In the most severe cases, the patella is always out of place. A vet will have to perform surgery to correct this. 

Do Chihuahuas limp on their leg if they have a luxated patella? 

No. If your Chihuahua has dislocated it’s kneecap, it will not put it down and try to walk on it. 

But patellar luxation can cause pain and inflammation even when the kneecap is back in place. This pain and inflammation can cause limping.

Research shows that dogs with patellar luxation are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. The latter can cause limping.

#2: They have injured their leg

Chihuahua With Injured Leg Limping

PetMD lists some general causes of limping.

The first 3 causes on this list are injuries to bones, ligaments, and muscles. These injuries can affect both the back and the front legs. 

There are a number of things that can cause a leg injury in your Chihuahua. Falling, slipping, and rough play with other dogs. 

But Chihuahuas are such small and delicate dogs, so these things seem more dangerous for them.

Their size and delicacy make jumping off the sofa or bed a potential problem for Chihuahuas. 

You may have seen something happen to your Chihuahua, so you know the cause of the injury. Or they may limp or hop on 3 legs into the room, and you have no idea why. 

If you know the cause, you can often guess how severe the injury is. For example, suppose your Chihuahua slipped down the stairs. 

In that case, this is more likely to cause severe damage than tripping on an uneven surface. It gets complicated when you don’t know what happened.

Some Chihuahuas can be a bit oversensitive. They will limp or hold up one of their legs, but five minutes later, they’ll be fine. 

Others will only display signs of pain when it is severe. Knowing your Chihuahua will help you decide if you need to take them to the vet. 

PetMD suggests checking bleeding, noticeable swelling, fever, vomiting, and behavioral changes. These signs can mean an injury that will need treatment. 

They also recommend watching if the limping will go away, if it seems to come and go, or if it gets worse. 

#3: They have hurt their paw pad

If your Chihuahua steps on a sharp stone or a piece of glass, it can cut their paw pads. A dog with a cut paw pad will be very reluctant to walk on it. 

If your Chihuahua is limping or walking around on 3 legs, check that there are no cuts or raw patches on their pads. Don’t forget to look between the pads. 

You can also watch for excessive licking, which can be a sign that your Chihuahua has a sore on their foot. 

#4: They have a problem with their nails

Chihuahua With Broken Nail

Your Chihuahua may limp if there is a problem with their nails. VCA Hospitals report that a torn nail is painful to dogs. 

Nails can catch and rip on carpets, grassroots, etc. Or they can break while a dog is running or jumping. 

Your Chihuahua’s nails protect something called the quick. This contains lots of nerves and blood vessels and is even attached to the bone.

Broken nails bleed and are very painful because of the damage to the quick, not the keratinized part of the nail. 

A dog with a broken nail will lick the affected paw and limp or hop on 3 legs to lessen the pressure on the damaged nail bed. 

If your Chihuahua’s nails are too short, it exposes the quick. It can be uncomfortable enough to cause limping. It might even be painful enough that your dog won’t put its foot down.  

Chihuahuas can also get ingrown nails that are very painful. They will be hesitant to put their leg down or put full pressure on their foot (limping). 

A broken nail will bleed, so you can use this to identify the cause. An ingrown nail will not bleed. But you can notice heat and inflammation associated with infection. 

#5: They have supraspinatus tendinopathy (front leg problem)

As I mentioned in point two, jumping from couches and beds can hurt a Chihuahua. 

Your Chihuahua may not suffer immediate injury from jumping down. But always jumping and landing on outstretched front legs can cause supraspinatus tendinopathy.

This is a fancy name for a repetitive strain injury to the shoulder.

In one of their publications, VCA Hospitals discuss this shoulder strain injury. According to this publication, this condition can affect one or both front legs. 

Depending on the severity, your Chihuahua can either limp or avoid putting their leg down. 

Treatment of shoulder strain injury is difficult. So, the best thing is to help your Chihuahua avoid it. 

#6: They have Lyme Disease

Certain ticks carry and give Lyme Disease. 

According to PetMD, common symptoms of Lyme Disease are fever, malaise, and lameness.

Lameness can be from mild to severe limping or lifting the leg. It is due to inflammation of the leg joints, which will look swollen and feel warm to the touch. 

Does your Chihuahua seem lame for a few days, get better for a while, and then become lame again? 

This can be a sign of Lyme Disease. The inflammation will not always affect the same leg each time it flares up again. 

If you think your Chihuahua might have Lyme Disease, take them to see a vet.

#7: They have something on their foot

Chihuahuas, like all dogs, don’t like having things stuck to their feet. If your Chihuahua starts hopping on 3 legs but doesn’t show any signs of pain, check their paw. 

If there is a leaf or piece of sticky paper stuck to their foot, pull it off and see if they will now walk on their leg.  

This seems like a silly reason to hop on three legs, but think how annoying it is to have a stone in your shoe.

3 tips to prevent Chihuahua limping and running on 3 legs

#1: Diagnose and treat luxating patella

Does your Chihuahua lift one of its back legs for a few steps while walking or running? It might be a mild case of luxating patella. 

Suppose your Chihuahua lifts one of its back legs when walking or running and does not put it down. In that case, it can be a more severe case of luxating patella. 

This is such a common condition in Chihuahuas. 

So, the chances are high that this is the cause of your dog’s limping. You should take your Chihuahua to the vet so they can diagnose the condition and treat it. 

A vet should assess patellar luxation, even mild cases. This is because it can cause other problems. 

#2: Nail care

Keep your Chihuahua’s nails in good condition. Have them trimmed (but not too short!) and speak to your vet about supplements that will keep the nails strong and healthy. 

#3: Be careful what you let them do and where you take them

Chihuahuas are delicate dogs. 

To help them avoid injury you should not let them jump off high places like sofas and beds. 

Also, watch them when they are playing with other dogs—step in if things get too rough. 

You should also be careful where you take them for walks. Places with thorns, sharp stones, or broken bottles can result in an injury to your Chihuahua’s paw pads.

Avoid areas where there is long grass as your Chihuahua can pick up ticks in these places. Certain ticks carry Lyme Disease.