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Dog Sprained Leg

Dog with Sprained Leg

Is your dog limping? They may have just sprained their leg.  There are a few things that you can do at home to help your dog with a sprained leg quickly recover. 

What is A Sprain? And How did my dog get this?

A sprain or strain is a soft tissue injury that causes damage to the muscle or tendon.  This is common in very active dogs.  When your dog is running or jumping around, the sudden change in direction can cause them to pull or strain and muscle.  Sprains can also be caused by trauma to a leg or degeneration of tendons and ligaments. 

Signs of a Sprained Leg

If your dog has sprained his leg, these are a few common signs that you will see:

  • Limping
  • Swollen leg or joint
  • Not wanting to walk
  • Not eating
  • Painful to touch the leg

If you have noticed any of these signs, it is best for your veterinarian to look at your dog. They can fully examine your dog to see if the signs that they are showing are due to a sprain or something more. 

How does my Vet Diagnose a Sprain?

If your dog is limping, there are a few things that your vet will want to perform, such as:

  • Physical Exam
  • Orthopedic exam (assessment of bones, joints, and surrounding soft tissues)
  • Radiographs (X-rays)

This will help your vet have a better visualization of the joints so that they will know if this is a sprain and not something more like a fractured bone.  

Treating a Sprained leg

If your dog has sprained their leg, there are many things that you can do to help them quickly recover, such as:


It is best for them to rest.  This means no running or jumping, not climbing stairs, and only going outside on a leash just to potty and right back inside. Your dog may have to continue resting for 2 to 3 weeks for it to fully heal.  Once they are back to normal, slowly return to normal exercise to prevent them from straining their leg again.


Your vet will most like to prescribe your dog Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) or other pain medication.  These will help decrease the swelling and decrease any pain.  This will help your dog feel much better. 


If your dog’s leg is swollen, ice will help decrease the inflammation and help with the pain.  Make sure that there is a towel between your dog’s skin and the ice pack in order to not hurt your dog.  

Prognosis of a dog with a sprained leg

If your dog has sprained their leg, most usually recover with rest, pain medication, and ice.  Some dogs have severe sprains and end up tearing a tendon or ligament.  These will then need surgery to correct.  A common example is cranial cruciate ligament tears (equivalent to a human ACL tear), which occurs most often in large breed dogs. Dogs with this condition typically don’t put weight on their leg, or do so minimally, and it doesn’t completely resolve with time and drugs.  To diagnose this condition, your vet may take x-rays and perform a sedated exam.  

Final Thoughts

If you have a very active dog, they will sprain their leg at some point in their life.  With rest and pain medication, they will usually quickly return to normal.  If your dog is ever not walking on a leg or not using a leg, it is best to see your vet right away.  They can make sure the injuries are not something more severe and just a simple sprain.

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