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What are Sprains?

Sprains are soft tissue injuries that involve damage to a ligament, usually caused by physical trauma to the ligament. This type of injury can occur at any joint although it is most common in the knees, elbows, and ankles in domestic animals, particularly with dogs and horses. Sprains can usually be split into three categories, determined by the amount of damage to the ligament and surrounding tissues. Sprains often present with symptoms that are nearly identical to other disorders, such as muscle strains, minor fractures, and bone degeneration.

Dogs can acquire sprains through physical activity, degeneration of the joints, and traumatic accidents, like car accidents. Sprains have similar symptoms to several other injuries and should be evaluated by a veterinary professional.

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Symptoms of Sprains in Dogs

The symptoms that indicate a sprain can range from barely noticeable to temporarily crippling, depending on the severity of the sprain itself: 

  • Excessive licking on joints or legs
  • Limping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain
  • Reddened joints
  • Reluctance to put weight on paw or limb
  • Swollen joints
  • Swollen paws

Sprains have many of the same symptoms as muscular strains and damage, minor fractures, bone degeneration, and even cancerous conditions. This makes a confirmation of the condition by a veterinary professional very valuable in determining the correct treatment plan.

Types

 

The most common sprain for a dog to develop is a leg sprain, usually in either a wrist or elbow joint, although in some cases, shoulder and hip joints may also be involved. Sprains can develop anywhere a ligament is, however. Sprains in the neck and back can cause your pet a great deal of discomfort, fortunately, are somewhat less common. This type of injury is more likely to occur in dogs with longer backs such as Dachshunds and German Shepherds. Sprains in the tail can cause your dog's tail to appear limp and sprains involving the jaw may make it uncomfortable for your pet to eat or chew.

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Causes of Sprains in Dogs

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

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Diagnosis of Sprains in Dogs

Symptoms of anything more than a mild sprain should be addressed 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 many of the same symptoms and often requires imaging to differentiate. Your veterinarian will begin with a thorough physical examination, paying particular attention to the joints and musculature. Radiographs (x-rays) will usually be employed to better visualize the joint and the surrounding bone 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 of the affected joint. An arthroscopy is a surgical procedure, performed by inserting an endoscope into the joint using a small incision. Once the veterinarian has evaluated the sprain she will give it one of three grades:

  • Grade I - Only a minor part of the ligament is torn and the joint is still functional; some swelling and pain are evident, but the dog usually is able to walk

  • Grade II - A larger part of the ligament is torn or stretched, and severe swelling is occurring; the dog may be able to walk but will have some lameness and difficulty, and the joint is only partially functional
  • Grade III - The most severe grade of sprain, in which the ligament is severely damaged or completely torn; bones may not remain intact, and the dog will be unlikely to put any weight on the paw

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Treatment of Sprains 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. Grade I sprains generally only need minimal care, although they can take several weeks to heal correctly. They are often splinted to prevent movement, and anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed, but the joint generally heals fully. 

Grade II sprains also require a splint and anti-inflammatory medication, but due to the more severe trauma may also need corrective surgery. Most grade II sprains heal completely, although the healing time may be further extended, particularly if surgery is required. Grade III sprains almost always entail some sort of surgery to remove or repair the torn ligament and if complete healing is accomplished, it will require extensive healing time. Surgery on the ligaments can be either traditional or can be achieved by laser surgery.

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Recovery of Sprains in Dogs

If the sprain is minor and does not require surgery, aftercare should be fairly simple. Keep the patient as inactive as possible during the healing period to avoid causing the sprain to reoccur, and continue with the anti-inflammatories 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 companion in a calm, quiet environment will help encourage healing, as will having appropriate food and water within their reach.

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Sprains Average Cost

From 255 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,000

Average Cost

$600

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Sprains Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Husky

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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5 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Running and hurt leg did not fall and now is limping

Jan. 8, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Maureen M. DVM

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5 Recommendations

Hi, This could be a soft tissue injury which can cause some level of pain. However it would be a good idea to get Xrays from your vet to check if everything is okay.

Jan. 8, 2021

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Shih Tzu

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Seven Months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My dog’s hind legs is collapsing every 5 seconds whenever he walks. he’s running well and jumping around still and playing with his toys. he jumped off a high couch yesterday but the symptoms started showing now. he hasn’t eaten a lot today and his back legs has been shaking.

Dec. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. There are a few things that could be going on here including a muscle strain, ruptured knee ligament, dislocated hip, spinal injury etc Certainly, his signs aren't normal. While it's reassuring he seems otherwise well, this needs to be looked into. We should have him see by a vet who will check him over and may perform some diagnostic imaging (e.g. xrays). Treatment will depend on what is found but he may well need some pain relief and/or anti inflammatories.

Dec. 24, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Eleven Months

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Unknown severity

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18 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My pitbull pup is not wanting to use his back leg but he is not displaying pain signals like whimpering he still wants to move around but I'm not letting him play as i think he has a sprain. How long does this typically take to heal?

Dec. 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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18 Recommendations

Hello, sprains can take a few days to heal. If it is a back leg causing his issues, he could have torn his ACL causing him to limp. Most dogs usually are not supper painful just uncomfortable and they limp. If it has been longer than 5 days, it would be best for his vet to examine him and make sure that this is just a sprain and not something more serious.

Dec. 13, 2020

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Boston Terrier

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Seven Months

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Unknown severity

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6 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping On And Off

My puppy jumped very high and noticed him lift his leg up after. Day after he started to limp on and off and it was worse the 3rd day so we took to vet. They checked said he was not in pain and it was probably just a mild injury. Yesterday he didn’t limp at all today when he saw me come from work he ran and I saw him limp again, could it be something else? How do I know if it’s a sprain or strain?

Dec. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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6 Recommendations

Hello, so sorry to hear about your dog. It could be just a sprain or strain and usually, they get better with time. If it was a back leg, he could have torn his ACL. Your vet would be able to check for this. Most muscle injuries take time to heal and for your dog to return to normal. It would be best for him to rest while he is healing and limit his ability to run and jump around.

Dec. 3, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Three Months

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Unknown severity

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10 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hey my puppy jumped of a curve cause he got frightened by other dogs. He landed on his hind left leg and rolled once. He made a couple yelps . I took him to the vet but no doc was in the nurse felt up and down his leg and said it didn't feel broken or look at a weird angle and it doesn't hurt when you touch and move it. He's still super active though he does put pressure to poop and pee . Would icing and resting be fine? Thank you

Nov. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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10 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From what you're saying, I think time and rest would be a good idea. If he is putting pressure on it, it could just be that he landed badly on it and strained or sprained it. If 24 to 48 hours go by and he is still limping or crying, that it would be best to have him rechecked by the veterinarian when they are in the office.

Nov. 27, 2020

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Indie

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Bichon Frise

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

I came home from work to check on my dog On Wednesday morning, as she’s had surgery on Monday to remove a lump on her left upper eye lid. When I got home I found her limping quite badly on her right back leg. She was using it but clearly finding it uncomfortable to weight bare. She was walking on tip toes rather that putting pressure on the sole of her foot. And occasionally holding it up and hobbling on the other 3 legs. I called the vet immediately and took her straight in. She was examined by the vet. Nothing obvious during physical examination except the limping. She was not yelping of wining during being examined and didn’t appear to mind the vet checking the Range movement of the leg. She is eating and drinking normally. She’s already on metacam & antibiotics following her surgery on Monday for her eye op. Vet suggested to continue with the metacam she is already on and monitor her over the weekend. She is booked in for a follow up appointment Monday and if no improvement they may do an X-ray to check for osteoarthritis? Today’s Saturday she is still limping occasionally. I can only assume, as I wasn’t at home with her when this has occurred that she has possibly hurt herself maybe jumping up or down off the sofa or fallen off awkwardly and sprained/strained it?

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Stella

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Possible Sprain

My dog was attacked by another dog outside. She has a few bite marks and scratches on her but those seem to be healing quick with neosporin and peroxide. Her leg also seems to be swollen and she walks with a limp. When I try to touch the leg she doesn’t move she just lets me touch/ squeeze/ move it, she also has not cried once. I noticed she’s slow eating her food and isn’t as energetic but she seems to be ok, just worried about the leg. What should I do?

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Kiska

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Rottweiler

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My question is: My 80 lb 1 year old Rottweiler intact female was put on Rimadyl for limping. I was told to limit activity and come back for X-rays. She’s been limping on front leg off and on for about 6 weeks. It gets worse after she’s been confined to her crate or kennel. It gets better after she moves around. My question is: Doesn’t Rimadyl mask the pain that keeps her from injuring it further? Or does it actually help reduce the inflammation? The vet didn’t explain the medication at all to me.

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Reaper

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Great Dane

dog-age-icon

4 Months

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

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

We have 2 Great Dane puppies who are brothers. A day and a half ago they were playing In the livingroom and I heard one of them loudly screaming in pain. I ran into the livingroom and comforted the pup until he stopped yelling which took a good 3 to 5 minutes. I then noticed he was severely limping on his back right leg. I examined it and he did not react to any pressure or movement to the leg so decided to keep a close watch on it. There is still no swelling at all. The limping has improved to the point at times he is walking on it almost completely normal but what is odd is if he lays still a long time it seems to make the limping worse and him getting up and walking around seems to make it better which is odd for a strain or sprain. Also occasionally if he lays on it wrong or his brother climbs on him the wrong way he will Yelp in pain.

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Sampson

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Slow

After playing frisbee the next day Sampson will hardly look up at me. He seems really sore and mov s really slow. He does eat and wags when spoken to. Should I be too worried.

Sprains Average Cost

From 255 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,000

Average Cost

$600

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Compare Pet Insurance & Wellness Plans

Save up to $273 per year

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