My dog sprained his leg. What do I do?

Just like people, dogs can fall victim to many different ailments affecting their bones and joints. Fractures and sprains are not common, whether it be a young and active dog or older, more fragile pets. In order to avoid further injury, and decrease the duration of painful symptoms, it is important to quickly recognize the signs of a fracture or sprain affecting your dog.

Fractures in dogs

A fracture, or broken bone, is relatively easy to discern. An open fracture (where the skin has been cut) is an obvious emergency. In situations where there is no visible skin wound, certains symptoms will be easily noted: an abnormal position to the leg, swelling, a limp and significant pain.

If you suspect a fracture, bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately so that the appropriate treatment and pain control can be administered as soon as possible.

Sprains in dogs

A sprain dogs is caused by an injury to a tendon, ligament or muscle attached to a joint. A sprain may be due to a minor incident, like an abrupt twisting motion or a blow to a joint during a play session.  Unfortunately, a sprain may bring on the development of more serious physical problems like arthritis if not treated quickly.

How to identify a sprain in dogs?

The most common sign of a sprain is a limp. Your dog may avoid putting weight on the affected leg and walks with more difficulty. Your dog may also avoid placing his leg on the ground completely, if at all.

Your dog may also lick the affected leg. Swelling of the area may also be noted.

A sprain may also affect your dog’s behaviour. You may notice a decreased appetite, diminished activity, decreased interest in exercise or play, all in the hopes of lessening further injury to a painful leg.

Finally, a sprain may cause your dog to cry out, bark, or growl when the injured leg is touched.

Sprains in dogs: first aid

Reduced activity and rest will be essential to allow your dog’s injury to heal. Avoid all physical activity for the first 2 days following the incident. Your dog may have to be restricted to a smaller space (a small bedroom, for example) and should only be taken outside on a short leash, even within the confines of the backyard. Only take him outside for short walks, and walk slowly so as to not aggravate the injury.

Applying cold compresses may also help relieve any pain following a sprain. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply this compress around the injured area for 10 to 15 minutes, every 2 hours as needed. The cold sensation will reduce pain and swelling, and may help speed up healing.

If your dog is mature, ill, or suffers from a recurring injury, the application of moist heat may be helpful. Wrap a warm damp towel around the leg for 10 to 15 minutes, waiting at least 1 hour between treatments. The heat applied will help promote blood flow to the injured area, relax muscles and decrease pain.

Monitoring your dog for the first 48 hours will be crucial in the case of a sprain. A sprain will usually heal quickly, and your veterinarian should be consulted if you have any concerns.