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Sprained Leg in Dogs

 Submitted by Michael Adams on May 23, 2010

Leg injury in dogs is very common because of everyday activities. There are some breeds that have a higher likelihood of suffering from certain leg injuries. There are different types of dog leg injuries found and the most common ones are cuts, sprains, torn ligaments, and broken bones.

Out of all the injuries, sprains are the most common in dogs and are usually caused by overworking a joint or accidentally moving the leg in an unnatural manner.

A sprain is caused by damage to the tissue supporting a joint. This is mostly ligament damage.

In general, most of the sprains tend to get better with rest in about 48 hours. However, in some cases, sprains could be more problematic and painful. There are three grades of sprains and each may require different treatment.

  • Grade 1: Sprains in which a small portion of the ligament is torn. The ligament still keeps the bones together and is functional. Symptoms include swelling and pain.
  • Grade 2: These are sprains where the ligament is partially torn but still connected to the bone. They are characterized by swelling, pain, and inability to fully use the joint.
  • Grade 3: This sprain is the worst kind of leg injury, where the ligament is completely torn out and there is total inactivity of leg use.
Here are the symptoms of dog leg sprain:
  • Lameness
  • Pain and swelling
  • Limping
  • Foot Dragging
  • Stiff gait pattern
  • Bleeding and wounds
  • Snappy behavior
  • Lethargy.

In order to diagnose the problem, your veterinarian will start with a proper physical checkup for any warm muscle, swelling, signs of pain, and joint instability. Your veterinarian may ask for an X-ray (to find any fracture) and MRI (to find out any soft tissue tear) to know the intensity of the sprain or fracture, if any.

Though sprains are painful, with proper care and treatment your dog will recover quickly. First-aid treatment includes careful trimming of the nail followed by inspecting the rest of the foot. You should wash your dog’s sprained leg and apply disinfect. Carefully look for any foreign debris and apply antibiotic ointment. In case of swelling, you must apply ice and then see a veterinarian. Based on the diagnosis, the veterinarian may either opt for an operation or simply apply a cast and give medication to reduce the pain. The veterinarian may prescribe complete rest and give anti inflammatory drugs, which are a standard treatment for dog leg sprains.

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