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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Condition Overview

A sprain is an injury caused by sudden stretching or tearing of the ligaments in and around the joint, or the capsule itself.


Signs are pain over the joint, swelling of the tissues, and temporary lameness.


This is an injury.


X-rays should be taken for any injury that fails to improve in 24 hours.


If the dog is unable to put weight on the leg, seek veterinary consultation to rule out a fracture or dislocation.

It is most important to prevent further injury by resting the affected part. Restrict activity by confining the dog in a small area. Apply cold packs to the injured joint for 15 - 30 minutes, 3 - 4 times a day for the first 24 hours. Use a chemical cold pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Wrap the pack in a towel and secure it in place over the injured joint with a loose gauze wrap. An alternative method is to run cold water over the affected leg for 5 - 10 minutes, 3 - 4 times a day.

After the first 24 hours, switch to warm, moist compresses for 15 - 30 minutes, three times a day for the next 2 - 3 days. Apply as described for cold packs. Avoid hot compresses, which can burn the skin.

Analgesics may be prescribed by your veterinarian to relieve pain. One disadvantage of pain relievers is that they may allow the dog to begin using the leg while the injury is still fresh. This can delay healing, but if the dog's activity is restricted this is not a problem. Anti-inflammatories may hasten healing by reducing swelling and inflammation around the area. Keep the dog off the leg by confining him in a small closed area. Take him out on a leash only to eliminate. Allow at least 3 weeks for successful healing. Incomplete healing is associated with prolonged lameness and the later development of degenerative arthritis in the joint.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Please contact your veterinarian with questions.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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