Dogs can experience a number of different muscle injuries. Muscle pulls, ankle sprains, and tendon tears are common among all dogs, including athletic, working, and companion dogs.
Chronic and Acute
Some of these injuries are easy to overlook, like an iliopsoas muscle injury, but if you notice your dog appears to be in pain or discomfort, it is important to diagnose and resolve the problem to prevent and any reoccurring issues in the future that can be more difficult to treat.
Causes of Muscle Injuries in Dogs
Muscle injuries are common in athletic or working dogs during periods of high activity; however, even companion dogs can hurt themselves from falling, exercising, or playing. These injuries can occur as a result of fights or accidents, as well. These injuries range from mild to severe and can be chronic or acute. Chronic muscle injuries, such as a sprain that won’t heal, are long-lasting. On the other hand, acute muscle injuries are sudden, like tears or pulls.
Muscle tears can be a result of direct or indirect injury or trauma. For example, your dog could tear a hip muscle because of overexertion while jumping up to catch a ball. Other causes of muscle tears include the following:
- Orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia
- Repetitive or intensive training
- Not warming up before exercising
- Excessive force on the iliopsoas muscle
- Trauma, such as slipping into splayed leg position
Sprains in a dog’s muscles can occur in the tendon, ligament, or muscle due to minor twists or blows to the joint. Severe sprains can even cause joint damage. These can result from accidents, exercise, or a number of other incidents.
Clinical Signs of Muscle Injuries in Dogs
If something is causing your dog pain or discomfort, they may not show signs right away, and it might be difficult to realize they have a muscle injury. Lameness is one of the most common signs of muscle injury. Limping, swelling, and inability to bear weight are additional signs that they might be in pain.
A pet owner may be concerned that their dog is injured if they were in an accident or fight with another dog. To check for injuries, owners can press on certain points of the dog’s body to see if they are sore, warm, swollen, or out of place. Early detection and treatment are the best ways to resolve acute injuries in dogs.
Diagnosis of Muscle Injuries in Dogs
If you notice that your dog is showing the clinical signs of a muscle injury, you should take them to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. To diagnose muscle injuries, vets will start with a full-body physical exam. Additional testing may be ordered to determine a more accurate diagnosis. Various imaging modalities like radiography, ultrasound, and MRI can provide images of the injury so that a suitable treatment plan can be implemented. These tests will also notice any possible injury to the bone, such as a fracture or break.
Treatment of Muscle Injuries in Dogs
An appropriate course of treatment is crucial to preventing further injury or damage to the muscles, ligaments, or tendons. For acute muscle injuries, most dogs will need four to six weeks of rest and recovery. For the first couple of weeks, the patient will only be allowed very limited activity, like going outside to use the bathroom. Stretching, massaging, and applying ice packs are also beneficial and speed up the recovery process.
After several weeks, low-impact activities can slowly be introduced. These activities include short leash walks and controlled swimming. It will take some time before normal activities can be resumed.
Physical therapy may be recommended for some patients, especially those with severe or chronic injuries. Surgery may even be required for harsh muscle tears or patients with fibrosis.
If the patient has persistent pain during the recovery process, the vet may prescribe a medication to manage the pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications will help ease inflammation and discomfort. Muscle relaxants and femoral nerve compressions may be given to patients that underwent surgery or those with serious injuries. The veterinarian may recommend a brace or bandage to stabilize the limb and prevent the injury from worsening.
Obesity and inactivity increase the chance of muscle injuries. These patients may require a restricted diet during the recovery process. Additionally, losing weight will decrease the possibility of reoccurring injuries.
For dogs to stand on all fours, it requires a significant amount of energy, strength, and flexibility, causing a high chance of injury to leg muscles. If you are concerned that your dog has been injured, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your furry friend makes a full recovery.