Dog Limping After Intramuscular Injection (What Went Wrong?)

dog getting intramuscular injection

I can remember when I first brought my dog Bongo to the vet for his shots, he behaved like the staff there were his long-lost friends. I was afraid that he might be nervous but he proved me otherwise.

There was some nervousness when the veterinarian gave him the injection but he was fine a few minutes later. Some dog owners have reported that their dogs started limping after getting an intramuscular injection. Is this normal?

A dog can start to limp after receiving an injection due to irritation to that area. Such a reaction is normal if the injection was given deep into the muscle. There could also be a possibility that your dog is having a reaction to the administered drug.

There’s usually much to worry about if your doggie experiences some discomfort after getting a jab. This article will also explore the other possible reasons that might cause your dog to start limping after an injection.

The Injection Was Too Deep

There are a number of ways to inject your dog. The most common ones are either:

  • Subcutaneous (under the skin)
  • Intramuscular (into the muscle)

A subcutaneous injection is usually the most common form of injection for vaccines, boosters and cats with feline diabetes.

Given the amount of loose skin that our dogs have, it is easy to just pinch the skin and insert the needle into the skin just beneath the door.

It is rather painless and there’s a much lower risk of hitting a nerve or vein.

Where Does An Intramuscular Injection Go In A Dog?

dog getting injection in leg

An intramuscular injection goes a lot deeper compared to a subcutaneous injection as it penetrates the dog’s muscle mass.

One advantage this form of injection has is the quick absorption of the drug due to the blood supply in the muscle. Muscle tissue can also hold a larger volume of medication than subcutaneous tissue.

However, there is a higher risk of injuring a vein or important nerve that is situated in the muscle. Even if the injection is done properly, it will feel more painful for the dog.

As you can see, if your dog was supposed to get a subcutaneous injection but the needle went in too deep into the muscle of its leg, it will definitely cause some soreness and discomfort to your dog for some time.

Needle Size Is Too Big

It might not be obvious to us non-vet pet owners but there are many different types of injection syringes that your vet can use to administer the injection to your dog.

An injection syringe has a gauge size which lets the vet know the size of the needle that is used. The gauge size can range from 7 which is the largest to 33 which is the smallest.

In dogs, most vets will use a 20-23 gauge needle to administer fluids into the dog. However, if your dog has a low pain tolerance or is terrified by needles, a higher gauge syringe will be used to minimize discomfort.

Using a needle size that is too big for the dog can cause more irritation to the injection site. It can even cause severe pain to the dog if the injection goes into the muscle.

Reusing The Same Needle

I think that there is without a doubt that ALL vets will not reuse a needle that has already been used on another patient.

Such a practice is highly unethical and dangerous as it can spread diseases amongst the animals that have been injected with the same needle.

In the case of dog owners who have to administer a daily insulin injection to the dog, I have heard of some who will actually reuse the same needle a number of times to save cost.

Yes, the argument that the needle is only used on the same dog all the time might seem valid but there is no way to prevent the needle from being contaminated by whatever is in the air.

Furthermore, reusing the same needle multiple times might cause it to bend, develop a burr or become blunt. Injecting your dog with such a needle can tear the tissue and cause a lot of pain.

Drug Allergy

There are some dogs that can be more sensitive to the drug that was injected. In the case of vaccines, the most common reaction in. dogs will be some soreness and discomfort at the injection site which will go away after a few days.

In some very rare cases, the dog might develop a boil/abscess.lump at the injection area or an allergic reaction to the vaccination.

This can make walking painful for your dog which causes it to start limping.

An allergic reaction can develop within 48 hours of receiving the injection. The other common symptoms are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin irritation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weakness

Once you notice your dog getting such symptoms after an injection, it is best to give the vet a call to see if there is a need to bring your dog back for further treatment.

Sciatic Nerve Injury

The sciatic nerve originates from your dog’s lumbar region and runs down its limbs. Given that the lumbar and limb areas are also very common areas for injections, there is some risk of sciatic nerve injury as a result of poorly administered intramuscular injections.

There are some symptoms that can result from sciatic nerve injury in dogs:

  • Unable to bend their knees properly
  • Limping
  • Back pain
  • Abnormal walking gait

Even with the best of luck, preparation and skill, any injection that takes place around the thigh area of your dog has a very small risk of injuring the sciatic nerve.

Once the sciatic nerve has been hit by the needle, your dog will start to exhibit the above symptoms within a few days. It might cause your dog to yelp out randomly due to the back pain.

In the best-case scenario, the nerve might just be irritated or inflamed and the symptoms will go away after a week or so. However, if the damage to the nerve is more severe, medication and/or surgery might be necessary to try and repair the nerve.

Recovery from sciatic nerve injury can take anywhere between 2-6 months. It would your dog tremendously if as little pressure and exertion is put on the affected limbs. Physical therapy on the leg can also help to improve blood circulation and maintain flexibility.

Why Does My Dog Need An Injection?

Most dog owners will get their dogs vaccinated when they first get the dog. There are other animal shelters that will also give their resident dogs the most common types of vaccines to strengthen their immunity against certain dog diseases.

The most common dog vaccines are:

  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Hepatitis
  • Parvovirus

Not all injections have to be vaccine-related. Dogs with diabetes will require a daily jab of insulin to help manage their symptoms.

How To Make My Dog Feel Better After A Shot?

Every dog reacts differently after getting an intramuscular injection but the majority of our canine friends won’t be in the best of moods.

Here’s how you can make your pooch feel better:

Make It Comfortable

If your dog got the injection in its leg, it is going to be feeling sore, swollen and senstive after the jab. Try laying some blankets and pillows at your dog’s favorite sleeping spots to help support the leg and make it more comfortable.

Apply Cold Or Warm Compressions

Using a cold or warm compress to the injection area can help promote recovery and add some relief for your dog.

The trick is to know when to use a hot or cold compress on your dog. For me, if the area is still swollen and inflamed, I will use a cold compress to try and bring down the swelling.

Once the swelling has subsided, I will then use a heat compress to soothe the area until my dog is back to normal.

Do not apply a cold or hot compress to the dog directly as it can freeze or burn your dog’s skin. Use a cloth to separate the direct contact and use it at 15-minute intervals.

Pain Relief Medication

Some vets may prescribe pain relief medication for your dog which is to be taken when necessary. Some dogs may react more sensitively to the injection and can be in pain and discomfort for a week or more.

Please do not give your dog any human medication like ibrufen or aspirin. Such medications are not suitable for our dogs and can cause many health complications.

Just use what the vet has given or if required, make sure to get it from the vet instead of your medicine cabinet.


It is normal for most dogs to have a bit of a limp or walk funny after getting an intramuscular injection to the leg area. There are some dogs that might even limp for a bit after being groomed.

Such symptoms usually go away after a week or so once the swelling and soreness around the area have subsided. Heck, I can’t even move my arm properly for a week after my flu vaccination.

However, if the limping doesn’t seem to get better or your dog has started to limp even when injected elsewhere, it would be best to call the vet for the next best course of action.