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Dog: Pulled Muscle and What You Need to Know

Pulled muscles, also known as muscle strains, are incredibly common and minor injuries our pups may experience in their lifetime. 

Our excitable furballs bring an endearing high level of energy to play, but this can sometimes get them into trouble. An accidental leg twist or too many long days in a row at the dog park can put stress on the muscles, leading to muscle strain. 

Some particular pups, like overweight doggos, are more likely to suffer from a strain than others. Since our dogs can't tell us what's wrong, we have to be extra-careful to keep an eye on any dog pulled muscle symptoms so that we can address the problem as soon as possible.

Read more below on how dogs pull muscles, signs of muscle strain based on the area they've hurt, and how to help heal your puppy's strained muscle with lots of rest at home. 

What is a pulled muscle?

A muscle strain is a common, soft tissue injury that occurs when a tendon or muscle is torn or overstretched. It often occurs during overuse, misuse, or when tired.

Can dogs pull muscles?

Absolutely! Just like humans, dogs can easily strain their muscles. Dogs love to play, and that excitement can lead to them overusing their muscles during horseplay. A muscle strain can happen anytime, even on a gentle walk. 

Risk factors for muscle strain

Some risk factors make a pup more likely to suffer from a strain:

  • Obesity
  • Inactive couch potato pups
  • Diseases like arthritis
  • Weekend warriors (dogs that are only active on the weekends)

Commonly pulled muscles in dogs

A dog can pull any muscle in their body, but these are the most commonly strained areas for our furry friends. 

Dog pulled muscle in neck

Symptoms for neck sprain are a wobbly gait, swelling, neck pain to the touch, and postural changes, with their back often curved upward. They can also appear lethargic and exhibit more aggressive behavior than usual.

Dog pulled muscle in front leg

Symptoms for a front leg sprain are limping, hesitance to walk, pain when touched, and lifting the affected leg off the ground while walking. 

Dog pulled muscle in back leg

Symptoms for a back leg sprain are swelling, limping, or complete inability to walk, pain when touched, and hesitance to sit on the hind legs. 

Causes of dog leg strain or neck injury

A dog hurt leg can happen when a pup stretches too far, too often, or too much, or if a dog slips during regular play and tries to "catch" themselves.

For a dog hurt back or neck, they can get these in the same ways as above - mostly overuse! Too much pulling on a collar can also strain their muscles. 

How to heal a dog pulled leg muscle

First steps: seeing the vet

So your pup is exhibiting the signs of a muscle strain - first thing first, get them to your local vet clinic as soon as you can. Although most strains are minor and respond well to treatment at home, you need to know precisely what you're dealing with before you can begin treatment. 

Your pup could have a hairline fracture or dog leg sprain, both of which are more severe injuries that often require surgery. The vet technician will perform a physical exam on your little one and take x-rays to rule out any significant problems. 

Recovering from strain at home

Once you've got the go-ahead from your vet, you can begin to treat your pup's muscle strain at home. Incorporate as many of the following into the next few weeks of recovery to get your dog back to his usual self in record time!

Rest, rest, and more rest

This is, hands down, the #1 most important way for a dog to recover from a muscle strain. Getting our pups to rest can be a bit of a struggle, so make it as easy as you can. Give your dog the best care possible.

Set up a comfortable bed for your dog near to you so that you can keep a close watch and comfort them during the first few days. Crate your dog when you're not around to keep them immobile or set up baby gates to limit them to a smaller area of the house, and to discourage extra movement. 

Keep your dog leashed at all times when outside for the first week or two. Walks should be slow and limited to necessary visits outside only. 

Get a dog ramp for bed to discourage them from jumping on or off your bed, couch, or car seats. Using a ramp, they can easily access these critical points without your help. 

Ice, Ice Baby

Ice is a proven, super-effective method to help acute injuries, like a muscle strain. Regular icing will go a long way in those first 48 hours after injury. Place ice in a dry towel for up to 10 minutes on the affected area, and then remove for at least 15 minutes before reapplication to avoid ice burns. Repeat three times daily for the first week or so. 

Ice reduces swelling and inflammation. It also provides your pupper with some needed pain relief. Don't apply heat, which isn't great for acute injuries and can increase inflammation.

Anti-inflammatories

A vet can prescribe your puppy some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine that you can give them for the first days after the initial injury. Your pup will likely be in some pain, and these pills will help take the edge off and help to speed along healing by decreasing inflammation in the injury.

Dog pulled muscle recovery time

You'll want to keep your dog on mostly "bed rest" for 5 to 10 days after the injury. 

After this time, you can start to introduce some gentle, controlled exercise back into your routine. Keep a close eye on your dog's behavior, and if they seem tired, let them rest. Pushing for too much activity too quickly will lengthen the healing process.

It may take several weeks or months for your dog's strength to return, and physiotherapy and massage can help to get power back to where it once was. 

Final words: working to heal dog muscle strain

While unfortunate, a muscle strain is usually a reasonably easy injury for your pup to recover from without any permanent damage. 

Always check with the vet to receive a diagnosis so that you're not treating the injury incorrectly - other injuries could require surgery, braces, or other more aggressive treatments.

Your dog is sure to make a speedy recovery with adequate rest, icing, and medication as needed.

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