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What is Soft Tissue Trauma?

Soft tissue can relate to any tissue that is not bone, including oral tissues such as the lips, tongue, or tonsils. Soft tissue trauma is generally understood to be any damage that is causing symptoms such as pain, but that do not involve the bone or skin. As dogs are often quite active and athletic, this type of injury is relatively common and usually resolves completely in all but the most severe of injuries.

Damage to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are common in dogs but can take some time and patience before they can be repaired.

Soft Tissue Trauma Average Cost

From 392 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,000

Average Cost

$600

Symptoms of Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs

Soft tissue trauma like strains, sprains, and muscle damage have many of the same symptoms as minor fractures, bone degeneration, and even cancerous conditions. This makes a confirmation of the condition by a veterinary professional crucial.

  • Depression
  • Excessive licking on joints or legs
  • Lethargy
  • Limping
  • Limp tail
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain
  • Reddened joints
  • Exercise reluctance
  • Swollen joints
  • Swollen paws
  • Unexplained crying out
  • Yelping when touched

Types

  • Medial shoulder instability (MSI)

    - This is one of the most common forelimb problems in dogs as it relies almost entirely upon soft tissue fibers for stability as it does not have a stable socket; along with the standard symptoms of soft tissue damage, you may see your dog refusing tight turns

  • Sprain

    - A sprain in an injury that tears or stretches the ligament; ligaments connect bone to bone and are a primary component to joints 

  • Strain

    - A strain refers to the tearing or stretching of either the muscle or of the strong bands of fibrous tissue that connects the muscles to the bones, called tendons

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Causes of Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs

Sprains, strains, and muscle damage are most often caused by trauma or injury. This can occur through traumatic incidents such as an automobile accident or a dog fight, or through a more mundane situation such as slipping on ice or attempting too ambitious a jump. Fast growing breeds and overweight dogs are more prone to sprains of all sorts and dogs with long backs, like Dachshunds and German Shepherds, are more likely to develop strains and sprains in the back and neck area.

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Diagnosis of Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs

Symptoms of anything more than an extremely mild injury should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible, and even mild limping should be treated if it lasts more than 48 hours. Muscular strains and damage, minor fractures, bone degeneration, and even cancerous conditions have nearly identical symptoms and often require imaging technology to differentiate between them. 

A thorough physical examination, paying particular attention to the joints and musculature, will help to pinpoint the area of pain as well as assess the severity of the injury. Radiographs (x-rays) will usually be employed to visualize the joints and bones in the area, in order to rule out other disorders such as fractures and osteoarthritis. Arthroscopy is an imaging technique that allows the examiner to get a clear visual image of the ligaments and tendons of any affected joints. An arthroscopy is a surgical procedure, performed by inserting an endoscope into the joint using a small incision.

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Treatment of Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs

There are some steps that you should take while you are contacting your dog’s doctor, such as placing an ice pad on the affected area to help reduce pain and swelling and making sure that the animal doesn’t aggravate the injury any further. Severe damage almost always entails some sort of surgery to remove or repair ligaments, tendons, and muscles, and if complete healing is accomplished, it will require more extensive healing time. Surgery on the ligaments can be either traditional or can be achieved by laser surgery.

Even soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and muscles that do not require surgical intervention take some time to heal properly and go through predictable stages of healing.

Stage 1

This is the more acute stage of the injury, usually within the first few hour hours after the injury up until around five days of healing. Treatment care at this point is focused on reducing pain, swelling, and inflammation and activity should be extremely restricted.

Stage 2

This occurs between around five and twenty-one days and is when active healing is starting to take place. Some light activity such as short, on leash walks and gentle stretching would be tolerated well at this point. 

Stage 3

This stage can be as short as three to six weeks, or it could last up to a year, depending mainly on the severity of the damage as well as the quality of care.

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Recovery of Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs

If the soft tissue damage is minor and does not require surgery, aftercare should be fairly simple. Keep your dog as inactive as possible during the first stage of the healing period to avoid causing the sprain to reoccur. Continue with the anti-inflammatories and add in new exercises as recommended by your veterinarian. After any surgery, it is essential to keep the site clean and free from dirt and debris. You will need to keep your pet from interfering with the site and examine it often over the next two or three weeks for swelling, bleeding or pus. Keeping your recovering dog in a calm, quiet environment will help encourage healing, as will having appropriate food and water within his reach.

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Soft Tissue Trauma Average Cost

From 392 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,000

Average Cost

$600

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Soft Tissue Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Chiweenie

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Tremors

My dog was diagnosed with a soft tissue injury on her right hind leg. She was yelping out in pain constantly and couldn’t get comfortable. She was sent home with gabapentin and rimadyl. She didn’t have an X-ray taken. She is having muscle tremors on that right leg. Is this normal ?

Sept. 5, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- If she is unable to get comfortable I do think it would be a good idea to have her rechecked and have an x-ray, just to rule out a fracture or hip luxation. Muscle tremors can occur when they are in pain. She also may need an injection of pain medication to help make her more comfortable. I hope she feels better soon!

Sept. 5, 2020

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Great Dane

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

He was limping for 2 days, he still is but not as heavily. But today a lump appeared in back leg under the skin behind the knee. It's not hurting him.

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Large breed dogs are a little bit more prone to joint and Bone injuries than are smaller dogs, and if this problem has been going on for a couple of days and not really improving, it would probably be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. I'm not sure what the lump might be without being able to see him, but it may be related, and they will be able to look at him and see if there is anything that needs to be done or what treatment he might need. I hope that everything goes well for him and he feels better soon!

July 31, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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8 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping On Left Front Leg

My 8 month old dog for the past two months has been limping on her left leg. Granted she was running around with other dogs with no pain or care! She recently went to the vet to get an X-Ray on her leg. The vet found no signs of abnormal growth and etc. The vet said it is most likely a soft tissue injury that never healed and recommended she take it easy. I am not quite sure how to do this considering I haven’t seen much progress in the limping. It comes and goes with it’s noticeableness. She is on anti-flammotories to help but is in no pain at all when you touch or move her leg

July 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. When your veterinarian told you to take it easy for her, they probably meant no excessive exercise, no running, on a leash only to go out to urinate and defecate, and to rest the joint. That is difficult with th a young lab, but that is sometimes what is needed. If things are not getting better with the anti-inflammatory therapy and that kind of rest, then it would be best to have a recheck with your veterinarian. If you have not been doing that kind of rest, it would be a good idea to try that for a few days and see if it helps. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 23, 2020

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Bentley

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French Bulldog

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8 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Licking
Limping

My 8 month old frenchie has been limping since yesterday afternoon. When I came home from work I noticed he was a bit slower than usual (not sure if he slipped or jumped off the couch). Upon further inspection, I could see he was limping (front right leg). Today his limp is more obvious. I checked his paw and felt his entire leg - he did not yelp or show any reaction/pain at all. There is no apparently swelling or warmth. He’s been home all day today, mostly in bed.

Aug. 21, 2018

Bentley's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without an examination I cannot determine the severity of the symptoms or know if the injury is soft tissue, a sprain or other injury; you should restrict Bentley’s movement for the next few days to ensure there is no running, jumping or playing and visit your Veterinarian if there is no improvement before the weekend. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 22, 2018

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Bailey

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Pomeranian

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10 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

I have a 10 yr old Pomeranian who has been limping on his front right paw for about a month now. The elbow joint is swollen. I have had him to the vet 3 times and they put him on Rimidyl and Tramadol. He weighs 9.3 lbs. he is the larger sized Pomeranian. They did X-rays and blood work and said there wasn’t anything broken or displaced and were treating for soft tissue injury. He doesn’t appear to be in pain. He will let me massage the joint. He has been on the meds for three weeks. Is it normal to still be limping? He also just started to have an occasional incontinance and when he does it is cold.

Aug. 17, 2018

Bailey's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It is possible that a soft tissue strain or sprain, or arthritis pain, can take quite a quite a while to heal. If he isn't on anything for pain at this point, he may need to be on those medications for a longer period of time. If the swollen elbow joint is a new occurrence over the month, it would be a good idea to have a recheck for him, as they may need to recheck those x-rays for any changes that might be happening.

Aug. 17, 2018

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Archie

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Goldador

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Clingy

My 5yo lab X retriever suddenly refused to go up the stairs to our flat above the pub which we run. We carried him up (with great difficulty as he weighs 41kg) and he also refused to go up another small set of steps within the flat. The vet gave him a thorough going over checking his vision, spine, hips, temperature, legs, paws etc and could not find anything clear. He put him on 2 weeks bedrest with toilet visits on a leash and no walks at all and no stairs. The problem is the stairs - We can just about carry him up but not down (although down does not bother him). How detrimental is this to his healing. He is not limping or giving any indication of where the pain is but he is definitely not 'right'.

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Keelut

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Alaskan Husky

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping, Swelling

I've had an Alaskan Husky for a week. I was told she had mild arthritis and could pull a sled for thirty miles. She was a previous lead Iditarod dog and ran another 300-mile race. Turns out she was bitten in the ankle a few months ago, causing damage to soft tissue. After a walk, she started running on three legs. She had previously spent a month recovering, but the injury is obviously more severe. The vet gave her anti-inflammatory meds but seems to have little clue as to what I can expect regarding her recovery. He doesn't know how long it will take, or if she will ever completely recover. When she isn't hopping, she is strong and symptom-free.

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Zahra

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German Shepherd

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5 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Forelimb

Zahra is about 4-5 months and has a swollen elbow. After seeing the xray the ortho vet says it could be soft tissue damage with big joint space or infection or something else and asked us to wait for a month to monitor and assess. She is on anti-inflammatory and also prescribed rest - which is very difficult since she is a puppy an wants to play and run fast all the time.

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Bruno

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French Bulldog

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Leg Contusion

My was playing and he jumped off the couch and caught his back right leg muscle on the coffee table edge. The next day he was walking, eating, drinking fine. Once I touched that area he screamed. He is not limping but he is staying mostly in on place and shaking evry once and awhile.

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Bella

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Pit bull

dog-age-icon

4 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My dog Bella a Blue Pit started limping about two months ago. After shortly after mobic was prescribed she had a severe diarrhea and vomiting eventhough the medication was given with food. On day three she stopped eating and drinking. We took her to emergency care which said she ahd a mild case of pancreatitis. Cured. However she is still limping. xrays show no broken bones nor arthritis. my vet seems to think it's some back injury causing the issue and has scheduled us for more expensive testing. any ideas . We spent a lot of money at this point with no definitive diagnosis.

Soft Tissue Trauma Average Cost

From 392 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,000

Average Cost

$600

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