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Everything You Need to Know About Dog Leg Strains & Sprains

by Justin Girdler |

Dogs are active creatures that love to roam and play. But something a simple misstep or accident could damage their mobility. Any number of activities can lead to injuries, including strains and sprains.

Learning about dog sprains and strains is a must if you and your dog live an active lifestyle. That way, you'll know what to do if your dog ever encounters these injuries. Read on to learn more about strains and sprains and how to treat them.

What is a Dog Strain?

A strain is an injury to your pet's tendons or the connective tissues between the bones and muscles. If your furry friend stretches its tendons, muscles, or ligaments, it could hurt these soft tissues.

Any of the following could result in a strained leg:

  • Improper falls, bends, or stretches
  • Excess weight
  • Overuse
  • Recurring injuries
  • Sudden changes in movement or direction

The severity of a strain can range from a mild injury to a torn muscle or tendon.

What are the Symptoms of a Strain?

If your dog sustains a strain, it can show the following symptoms:

  • Limping
  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Whining
  • Irregular eating habits or behavior 

Sometimes, a severe strain or pulled muscle can keep your pet from moving the affected muscles, weakening them and stopping them from moving their legs.

How is a Dog Muscle Strain Treated?

Your pet's treatment will depend on how the strain happened. If your dog has a minor strain, your vet will likely cover the injured area with supporting bandages. They may also prescribe pain medicine to help ease any aches caused by the injury.

Typically, the vet will examine your dog's muscles and bones. In some instances, they require additional examinations like ultrasounds or X-ray tests to make their diagnosis. Explain to your vet how the injury happened and ensure to note when you first noticed your dog's symptoms. 

Your vet may recommend crating your pup to rest up from their injury. After a time, your vet should allow you to take your dog on short walks so that they can slowly get back to being active. In some cases, vets recommend physical therapy to dogs with severe injuries.

More importantly, make sure that the injury heals completely. Let your dog rest and prevent it from performing vigorous activities like jumping and playing for at least two weeks. Remember, damage can worsen if your dog moves too much or improperly while recovering.

How Long Does a Strain Take to Heal?

In most cases, a strain will subside anytime within a few days to a couple of weeks. Following your vet's advice is best to ensure a complete and smooth recovery.

What is a Sprain in Dogs?

A sprain affects any of your dog’s ligaments. This injury happens when the affected tissue sustains physical trauma.

Sprains can stem from the following factors:

  • Physical activity
  • Joint degeneration
  • Accidents

The most common type of dog muscle sprains affects the wrist, elbow, or even shoulder and hip joints.

How Severe Can a Dog’s Sprain Get?

Like strains, the severity of a sprain can vary. Your vet will classify the severity of your dog’s injury into any of the following categories after performing a physical exam.

Grade I

  • The affected ligament has a mild tear.
  • Your pet can still move the injured joint.
  • The injured joint is swollen and painful, but your dog can still walk.

Grade II

  • The injured ligament sustains a more significant tear or gets stretched.
  • Swelling can be observed in the affected joint.
  • Your dog limps or experiences difficulty while walking.
  • The sprain limits joint movement.

Grade III

  • Your pet has a seriously damaged or fully torn ligament.
  • Your pet’s bones can go out of place.
  • Your dog is unable to put weight on its paw.

What are the Symptoms of a Sprain?

Sprains share a lot of symptoms with conditions like strains and mild fractures. But dog sprain symptoms will depend on how severe the injury is.

Here’s what you should watch out for if your dog has a sprained leg:

  • Your pet licks its joints or legs excessively.
  • Your dog limps while walking.
  • Your pet loses its appetite.
  • Your dog experiences intense pain when moving.
  • Your pet’s joints have a reddish color.
  • Your pet avoids putting weight on its paw or limb.
  • Your pet has swollen joints or paws.
  • Your dog refrains from moving around.
  • Your pet exhibits aggressive behavior.
  • Your dog cries or whines.

Vets recommend getting your dog a proper diagnosis if their symptoms last more than 48 hours. Because of how similar sprains symptoms are to other serious injuries or conditions. Your vet would need to examine your pet thoroughly to determine whether it’s a mild sprain or not. Imaging like X-rays would help them make a proper diagnosis and decide the right treatment for your pet.

How is a Dog’s Sprained Leg Treated?

If you notice that your dog has a sprain, call your vet right away. While reaching out to your vet, you can apply ice to the injured joint to ease the discomfort and swelling.

The severity of your dog’s sprained leg will determine the type of care your pet will receive. Let’s look at the possible treatment methods.

  • Grade I sprains - Your vet will apply a splint on the affected area to restrict your pet’s movement and recommend anti-inflammatory medicine.
  • Grade II sprains - Your vet will splint the injured joint and prescribe medication. They may also recommend surgery to address more severe damage.
  • Grade III sprains - At this point, your dog might need surgery for its injured ligament. Your pet can undergo cranial or anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery. Doctors can perform traditional or laser surgery on your dog.

How Long Does a Sprain Take to Heal in a Dog?

Sprains in dogs have different recovery times. Here’s what you can expect as your pet undergoes treatment.

  • Grade I sprains are minor and can heal within weeks.
  • Grade II sprains improve with treatment. However, these injuries can take more time to heal, especially if your pet undergoes surgery.
  • Recovery can extend from weeks to months if your dog has a Grade III sprain.

Ensure a Smooth Recovery from Injury

A strain or sprain can make your pet inactive for a few weeks. Not knowing what to do can be challenging, especially if you aren't familiar with how the injuries work and why they happen. But as long as you know the symptoms and treatment options, it's a big step forward in helping your dog recover.

Looking to ensure a stress-free recovery for your dog? Visit our blog today and check out how the Lick Sleeve can help.



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