Sprains and Ligament Injuries in Dogs
A sprain is an injury caused by sudden stretching or tearing of the
ligaments in and around the joint, or the joint capsule itself. Signs are pain
over the joint, swelling of the tissues, and temporary lameness.
Treatment: If the dog is unable to put weight on
the leg, seek veterinary consultation to rule out a fracture or dislocation.
This is true for any injury that fails to improve in 24 hours. X-rays should be
It is most important to prevent further injury by resting the affected part.
Restrict activity by confining the dog in a small area. Apply cold packs to the
injured joint for 15 to 30 minutes, three or four times a day for the first 24
hours. Use a chemical cold pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Wrap the
pack in a towel and secure it in place over the injured joint with a loose
gauze wrap. An alternative method is to run cold water over the affected leg
for 5 to 10 minutes, three or four times a day.
After the first 24 hours, switch to warm, moist compresses for 15 to 30
minutes, three times a day for the next two to three days. Apply as described
for cold packs. Avoid hot compresses, which can burn the skin.
Analgesics may be prescribed by your veterinarian to
relieve pain. One disadvantage of pain relievers is that they may allow the dog
to begin using the leg while the injury is still fresh. This can delay healing,
but if the dog’s activity is restricted this is not a problem.
Anti-inflammatories may hasten healing by reducing swelling and inflammation
around the area. Keep the dog off the leg by confining him in a small, closed
area. Take him out on a leash only to eliminate. Allow at least three weeks for
successful healing. Incomplete healing is associated with prolonged lameness
and the later development of degenerative arthritis in the joint.
Tendons can be stretched, partly torn, or ruptured. Strained tendons follow
sudden wrenching or twisting injuries. The tendons of the forepaws (front and
back) are strained most often. The signs of tendon injury are lameness, pain on
bearing weight, and painful swelling over the course of the tendon.
Rupture of the Achilles tendon at the hock joint can be caused by sudden and
extreme flexion of the hock. This injury tends to occur in Greyhounds and
sporting and performance breeds. The Achilles tendon is the one most often
severed in dog fights and car accidents. Rupture of the Achilles tendon causes
a dropped hock.
Treatment: This is the same as described for sprains. A ruptured Achilles
tendon should be surgically repaired. Surgery will be followed by a long course
of rest and rehabilitation.