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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.

Sprains Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$600

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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Weiler Dane

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7.5 Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My dog had a case of the zombies with my other weimeriner and ended up falling back on her right back leg. She originally right away would put weight on it but then after massaging it she wS abble to walk back to the car with a small limp. Her back right ankle looks a little bit swollen compared to her other leg. She limos real bad right after she gets up from laying dosn but then after walking around the house for a mintute or 2 she puts more weight on it and has a just a small limp to it. She isn't acting diffrent at all. Just the limp.

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If this is a recent injury, you may be fine to continue to monitor her and rest if possible. Things may get better over time. If it has been a little bit of time since the injury, however, it would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, she may have a strain or sprain, or some injury that needs medication. I hope it all goes well for her.

Aug. 6, 2020

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Maltipoo

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Licking Leg, Occasionally Limping

My dog was running and started to yelp and drew his left leg up similar to when he had a sprain. I confined him to a small space so he can rest and limit his movement. There isn’t any swelling or bruising. I was going to observe for 48 hrs and take him to the vet if the symptoms persist or become worse. Is that okay?

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. That sounds like very appropriate first aid. If after 48 Hours of rest he is feeling better, he may be fine. If at that time, he is still limping or not walking on that leg, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. I hope it all goes well for him.

Aug. 4, 2020

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mini australian shepherd

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5 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

Limp

Our puppy was accidentally stepped on when he was under foot. He was limping and it kind of got better but he was still favoring it. The vet did an xray, nothing broken. Said it was a sprain. It's been 3 weeks and he still favors it, limps after playing/running etc

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. I would recommend giving your veterinarian a call and considering rechecking him. I would also make sure that you have rested him for 1 to 2 weeks because if it is a muscle injury it will need some time to heal. Your vet can also prescribe some anti-inflammatory pain medication to keep him comfortable and as young puppies are very difficult to keep quiet they may be able to provide some sedation so it is easier to keep him quiet. . If that doesn’t resolve the symptoms than a recheck x-ray would probably be in order at that point. I hope he feels better soon.

July 31, 2020

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Shetland Sheepdog

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Ten Months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My dog got into a little scuffle with our other dog last night and now he’s limping. He’s holding his front left leg up and won’t put any weight on it, but he lets me touch it.

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. If there are any bite wounds on his leg, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as dog bites can get infected quickly. If you don't see any bites and he just seems sore, you should be okay to rest him for 24 to 48 hours, and see if things get better. If he starts to use the leg and starts walking normally, then he may be fine. If he is not putting weight on it, or it gets worse, then having him seen by your veterinarian would be a good idea as well. I hope that he heals quickly.

July 31, 2020

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Peekapom

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hurt Foot I Think

Yes I think my dog may have sprained his foot he wont walk much without it giving out on him and now he wont drink much water or go to the bathroom...he is overweight but never had a problem walking before

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If this just happened, it may be a strain or a sprain, and time may help heal it. Resting for 24 hours may help resolve things. If your dog is still limping after 24 hours, or is not putting any weight on the foot, it would be best to be seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine the foot, and see what might be going on. I hope all goes well for your dog.

July 31, 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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