It’s never fun to see your loved one in pain. You want to do everything you can to help take away the hurt. When it comes to your pet, it’s harder to do because they can’t tell you what’s wrong. But they do show you and you can help from them there. When it’s their leg, telltale signs are limping, refusing to put weight on it, or licking the affected area. Here are some tips on how to treat your dog’s leg pain.
How Do Dogs Hurt Their Legs?
Dogs can hurt their legs in a variety of ways, just like humans. They can bump into something, twist their ankle while running, stumble or trip, or stop or turn too suddenly. Dogs are playful; they love to chase things, jump, turn, and frolic, so that makes them extra susceptible to leg injuries. Over now and then, they overdo it.
Sprains and strains are common injuries and most of them don’t require surgery to heal. Strains are when they hurt their tendons, and sprains are when they hurt ligaments, such as their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). A torn CCL in dogs is a common injury, but a nasty one. Both usually cause lameness in the afflicted leg, so if you notice your dog is limping for longer than a day, or if they seem to be in pain, take them to your vet right away.
Both strains and sprains can be either caused by ongoing injuries or illness, or can be sudden. Your vet will figure out what the cause was, how severe it is, and what the best course of action is to treat it.
No matter the cause, though, your dog is likely in pain.
How To Help My Dog’s Leg Pain
Your vet can offer a wide variety of solutions, ranging from medicine to at-home remedies.
You know how you take Ibuprofen for headaches or muscle aches? That’s because it is an anti-inflammatory that helps calm inflamed nerves, tendons, joints, and muscles. While you should never give your dog Ibuprofen, your vet may be able to prescribe an anti-inflammatory that is safe for your dog to take. The medicine will calm down their injury and help relieve pain temporarily.
Apply an Ice Pack or Cold Compress
Depending on your dog’s tolerance of cold and how good they are at staying still, you can try gently applying a cold pack, a frozen bag of peas, or a cold compress to their leg. Gently press it to the part of their leg that hurts and hold it there for 5-10 minutes. Take it off for 10 minutes and apply it again as needed.
This cooling relieves pain temporarily and often buys you enough time for anti-inflammatories to kick in.
If you have a heating pad, turn it on a low setting and apply it to the injury for 5-10 minutes at a time. Do not allow your dog prolonged exposure to the heating pad to avoid burns.
Make Sure Your Dog Rests
Don’t let your dog run outside or jump onto furniture until they’re healed. Letting them play as normal or hop on the couch for naps or cuddles may exacerbate their injury. Keep them on a leash for walks and keep their time outside to a minimum.
If their injury is severe, you may want to block off an area of the home for your dog to stay in for a few days. Put blankets and pillows down, remove anything they can jump on, and provide fresh food and water. Make sure this area has easy access (without stairs) to the outside too.
You can crate them for short periods, but never leave your dog in a crate too long, as this will cause stiffness in their other legs and cause them more pain.
Use a Dog Leg Brace
A dog leg brace helps prevent excessive movement and rotation while supporting your dog’s leg and reducing the risk of injury. Doggy Brace products discourage your pet from making too tight or too quick movements, which are two of the most common ways they injure their legs.
If your dog hurt its leg, they will avoid putting weight on their injury. They’ll overcompensate and put too much weight on their healthy leg instead, which increases their chance of hurting their other leg. A brace allows your pup to comfortably put more weight on their hurt leg so they’re not dramatically shifting their weight onto one side.
Hydrotherapy is the act of using water to lessen the weight on your dog’s limbs. If your dog doesn’t like swimming, there are facilities that offer submerged treadmills. Hydrotherapy was originally made for horses and racing Greyhounds, so it was designed to help dogs! If your pup has any leg injury, including a torn ACL, they can benefit from hydrotherapy.
Typically performed in a swimming pool or a plexiglass chamber holding an underwater treadmill, hydrotherapy stimulates the cardiovascular and lymph systems, strengthens muscles, and allows painful joints to move comfortably.
Hydrotherapy has proven to be a successful recovery method too: dogs of all ages have gotten stronger, decreased lameness, loosened tight muscles, increased coordination, improved balance, hastened healing, and increased stamina and flexibility with hydrotherapy.