Strains And Sprains: Tips For Spotting And Treating Injury In Your Dog

Most dogs are naturally active, spending a lot of time running, jumping and even balancing on their hind legs. All of that activity can stress your pup’s muscles out. Just like people who overextend themselves, dogs are also vulnerable to muscle strains and sprains. As a dog owner, it’s important that you understand these injuries and how to identify them. The sooner you spot the signs, the sooner your dog can get care.

What is a Strain vs. a Sprain?

  • Strains – These are injuries to the tendons that connect the bone and the muscle. These injuries often occur if your pup stretches too much, jumps or falls. These injuries frequently occur in the hip and thigh.
  • Sprains – A sprain is an injury to the ligament that connects bones. It typically causes joint damage in areas like the knee. It’s a common injury in dogs who jump off furniture, and can even happen if your pup trips over something outside.

Identifying the Injury

The first key indication that your dog has a strain or sprain is often a limp. If your dog is suddenly favoring one leg, it may be an indication of an injury. You’ll want to call your veterinarian or local animal hospital right away for an evaluation. Be prepared to tell the vet a few things about the situation.

  • What kind of behavior has you concerned? Be specific – which leg is the pup favoring? Is he or she using the leg at all?
  • What was your dog doing when the injury happened, if you saw it? If you didn’t, provide any information that you can, such as whether the dog was outside or inside.

The vet will do a physical exam, checking for warm, swollen muscles. Most vets will try to observe your dog doing normal activities, like walking, sitting and lying down. Depending on the situation, your vet may also request an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI to examine your pup’s muscles and joints.

How to Help Your Dog Recover

Unless the injury is severe and warrants surgery, your veterinarian will probably send you home with a set of specific instructions to help your dog’s strain or sprain heal.

  • Easing Inflammation – An anti-inflammatory medication can help ease the inflammation and pain while your dog heals. So can the use of an ice pack.
  • Taking it Easy – You may need to confine your pup to a crate for a couple of days to help rest the tissue that was damaged. When your dog starts to feel better, you’ll want to start gradually increasing activity levels. Start with slow, gentle walks on the leash with a brace to support the injury.

Any time you see a sign of injury like those above, you should call your veterinarian. He or she can help you find the source of the pain and treat your dog to help encourage a full recovery.