An active dog that is limping or moving in an unusual way could set off mental alarms. Is it a strain? Is it a pulled muscle? Perhaps a tendon or ligament injury? What should you do?
You must first determine if the abnormality is an acute symptom or a chronic condition.
Acute injuries are those that occur quickly and within 24 to 48 hours after the event that caused them. Acute injuries are caused by sprains and falls, collisions and other impacts. They cause sharp, sudden pain, tenderness and redness, swelling and skin that feels hot.
Chronic injuries, on the other hand, are slower to develop, can get worse and last for longer periods of time, and can cause dull pain and soreness. Chronic injuries can be caused by overuse, arthritis, or injuries that were not properly treated.
SIGNS OF DOG PAIN
Sometimes an injury is obvious: the dog may be limping, wailing in pain or unable to move. It is possible to spot subtle signs and prevent more serious issues. So it is worth paying attention to your dog’s behavior and movements. These are some of the signs that your dog is experiencing stress and pain:
Avoid contact with other dogs (playing can cause pain).
Spending less time with family and/or sleeping than usual.
For no apparent reason, growling or snapping.
Avoid routine activities like getting in the car, climbing stairs or jumping on a bed or sofa.
You suddenly become hyperactive and unable to relax, panting heavily, pacing or chewing on a part of your body.
You ignore training cues, try to leave, sniff the ground in a distracted fashion, shutting down, not moving, offering other behaviors or appeasement gestures like licking or crouching.
Refuse to eat certain foods or treat.
More frequent elimination or vomiting
No longer sitting straight.
Hot spots and other skin/coat changes.
You may appear stiff and sore, preferring one leg or one of the sides of your body, or moving differently in gait or posture.
The affected area should be heated. (Rain your hand slowly over the dog’s body to check for temperature changes.
The most common canine injuries aren’t acute; they’re chronic. Cathy Davis DVM is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist and a veterinary chiropractor. She also specializes in sports medicine in Helena. Repetitive motion, overuse, wear and tear, and chronic injuries are the main causes of chronic injuries. Each dog can sustain an injury. However, overweight dogs, couch potatoes, dogs with arthritis and dogs who are involved in search and rescue are at particular risk.
WHAT TO DO
Rest is the number one recommendation for canine injuries. The number one recommendation for canine injuries, is rest. It takes time for both obvious and subtle injuries to heal. This is especially true if the injury involves ligaments or tendons that don’t have access to healing nutrients. It is important to stop running, playing, and competing when even minor symptoms appear.
Dr. Davis advises that you check the nails, fur, and pads of your dog if they are suddenly lame or bleeding. Grass awns can often be found between the toes of the skin. A cut, stinger, or foreign body can often affect the pads. A torn nail may cause severe pain.
If your dog is suffering from a serious injury, you should immediately take him to the veterinary clinic. However, if your dog is suffering from minor injuries, or if a visit to the clinic is not possible, then take him home. Note the changes you notice. Start with the date and the time you noticed them. Also, describe the dog’s behavior at that time. Your veterinarian or other therapist will be able to help you understand the injury and provide treatment.
Do range-of motion exercises to help your dog. For example, lure him with a treat or toy to make him turn to the left or right, or raise and lower his head. You can also use gentle touch and daily massage to help your dog. Do you notice a change in your dog’s behavior when you stroke her back or push her shoulders? Do you notice any unusually hot, dry, stiff, tender or swollen areas? The fastest way to find inflammation, muscle strains and other discomforts is by touching.
Dr. Davis says that massage, ice and rest are effective for many minor and acute tendon, muscle, and ligament injuries. Retaining your pet means that you must take it outside to the toilet. This includes no walking, hiking, running, jumping, stairs or playing with other animals. Your veterinarian will diagnose your pet if your pet doesn’t improve or worsen or if you continue to have the same symptoms for more than a few days.
Is it HOT OR COLD?
Acute injuries are best treated with cold because it reduces swelling. Dogs with injuries instinctively seek out puddles and streams to lie down or stand in.
Dr. Davis says, “Everyone believes that a bag full of frozen peas can make an effective icepack.” But that’s not true. Peas won’t keep cold enough for long to be effective. Cold therapy products are available at pet supply shops, as well as cold packs for sports injuries. Cold packs that are best for dogs have a gel that is malleable and can be moulded around the dog’s muscles.
Make your own cold packs by placing 2 cups water, 1/2 cup isopropyl alcohol (rubbing) and 2 tablespoons salt into a plastic bag. (Double-bag to ensure a secure seal) and freezing.
Cold can reduce circulation and cause complications. Wrap any uncovered ice packs with a towel and remove it after about 10 to 15 minutes. Wait at least two hours before you reapply. Cold treatments should not be applied before competition, training, or exercise.
Because heat stimulates circulation, releases tight muscles and relieves spasms, it can help with chronic conditions like sore muscles, arthritis, and old injuries. Acute injuries, inflammation and areas of swelling are not recommended. Heat should also not be used immediately following exercise.
Make your own warm pack by placing 2 cups of rice in a sock and heating it for 1 minute. The pack will keep hot for 20 minutes For extra relaxation, add a lavender sprig to the pack or a drop of essential oil. You can reuse the sock multiple times. You can reuse the sock multiple times. You can also use very warm water to wet a towel and then apply it to the affected area. Heat as necessary.
When using a warm pack, never leave your dog unattended. To maintain proper temperature, place a towel between your dog’s skin and the warm pack.
HANDS-ON TECHNIQUES FOR PERFECT HEALING
It is easy to teach massage basics and dogs love being stroked, rubbed, kneaded and stretched. Massage can help heal damaged tissue, ease the patient, reduce pain, and prevent future injuries. You can either hire a dog massage therapist, or study videos or books to learn the basics (see “Dog Massage Instruction,” August 20, 211).
Chiropractic adjustments adjust the alignment of vertebrae and joints to relieve pain, decrease muscle spasms and improve overall health (see “Chiropractors for Canines”, March 2008).
Acupuncture can correct or improve musculoskeletal issues such as arthritis, disc problems, stiffness, lameness, and stiffness. Acupressure is a close relative. It activates acupressure points by using finger pressure without the need to insert needles. You can do this by gently pressing your fingers or creating small circles to move the skin counterclockwise or clockwise (see “Truly healing touch,” March 2009).
Canine rehabilitation therapists, veterinarians, and canine rehab therapists offer many treatments for injuries. These include therapeutic exercise, hydrotherapy and shock wave therapy (see “Shock Waves For Arthritis,” May 2008), therapeutic ultrasound and therapeutic laser, PEMF therapy and cryotherapy. Orthotics and bracing are also available (see “Canine Knee Injury?”). Brace Yourself,” December 2020, electrical stimulation, herbal treatments and energy healing techniques like Reiki.
Your veterinarian should be consulted before you give your dog any over-the-counter medication. Dr. Davis explains that some human medications may not be tolerated or may interact with other medications in dogs.
Even if your dog seems to be responding well to pain medication, it is important to follow your veterinarian’s advice for rest and restricted exercise to allow the injury to heal fully.
While it takes time and attention, it is worth your effort to help your dog avoid injury by taking preventive steps.
Obesity prevention is an important goal. Dr. Davis says that excess weight can cause tension in the tendons, ligaments and muscles. Obesity is also an inflammation condition. Chronic inflammation can cause degenerative joint disease, as well as other health issues. A family can help your dog lose weight.
A strong core strength is beneficial for pets just as it is for humans. It reduces stress on the spine, extremities, and back. It is important to keep your dog in good condition throughout their lives. Dr. Davis says that your dog doesn’t have to be an elite athlete to train like one. There are many online conditioning and sports groups. Your local kennel club might have recommendations.
Avoid repeating the same movements repeatedly. Although throwing a tennis ball is a favorite activity for dogs, repetition can lead to injury.
Toe nails that are too long can affect the biomechanics of the toes. This can lead to a change in the alignment and motions of the legs and spine. Keep your nails short.
Be realistic about your dog’s daily schedule. You can cause injuries by suddenly changing from couch potato to dog athlete. Dogs that are inactive need to be active for a while. They should gradually increase their activity so they can prepare for adventurous fetch games, trail runs, and other “too fun” activities. Be patient if your dog sustains an injury. The passage of time is your dog’s greatest healer.
Use All the Tools Available to Keep Her Dog Together
Laurie Ekanger, her dog Dash, and goggles for protection during a laser treatment.
Dash, a 3-year old Irish Terrier, was having way too much fun last March. Laurie Ekanger, Clancy, Montana, noticed something wasn’t right. He struggled to get out of his car and climb stairs, was more anxious than usual and didn’t want to go hiking. This was unusual because Dash is often rambunctious.
Ekanger brought Dash to veterinarian Cathy Davis in Helena, Montana. Davis uses chiropractic, physical therapy, and acupuncture in her veterinary-sports-medicine practice. Dr. Davis said Dash looked like a dog suffering from soft-tissue injuries. Dr. Davis says that while there are many strains and strains on ligaments, muscles, and tendons, all of them involve microscopic tissue tear. Treatment is determined by the degree of structural involvement.
Dr. Davis observed Dash’s movements and took videos to see if there were any subtle movement abnormalities. She also examined his bones and joints. She says that if a dog requires a chiropractic adjustment, she will give it as she goes through the exam. If I feel a trigger point (which is a tightened, painful area of muscle tissue), I will release it. To repair the cells at the cellular level, I use a laser to relieve inflammation or heat. “I work in a pulsed electromagnetic beds, so patients also receive PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Frequency). Dr. Davis used a laser to treat Dash’s left elbow. He prescribed a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID), and a week of rest. Dash was able to recover and resume his active lifestyle.
Dash spent four days in June at a boarding kennel that offered open play. Ekanger says, “I received daily pictures and reports.” He had a great time and ran into the car to get picked up. He began to favor his left paw and limp at home. He was fine for two days, then he started to limp again. Then, he began to favor his left paw and lick his left ankle. Since then, Dash has been playing and running as usual.
How to help your dog in pain Whole Dog Journal: Injuries