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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 taken.

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.

Tendon Injuries

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.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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