Dog Sprain Symptoms

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A dog with a sprain will be reluctant to engage in strenuous activities.

A dog's sprained leg or foot is the result of a hyper extension or damage to a joint ligament that resulted from unnatural movement or extreme force. There are different degrees of sprain severity to observe. A Grade I sprain is a slight tear or stretching of the joint ligament. Grade II is a partial tear of a joint ligament. Grade III, the worst sprain, is a complete separation of the ligament from the bone. All sprains in dogs will cause substantial pain that will result in some common symptoms. Be sure to take your pet to the veterinarian if these symptoms do not go away on their own.


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Lameness is the inability or refusal to use a limb. For example, a dog with a sprained hind leg will likely keep the leg raised if it has to walk around. This is a clear sign that weight cannot be applied to the leg without some pain occurring. A Grade I sprain may not result in lameness, since a slight tear or stretching of a ligament usually does not cause severe pain. Lameness is usually and indication of a Grade II or Grade III sprain in a ligament.

Swelling in the Joint

A sprain can happen in any of your dog's joints, and can occur in the legs or hips. If there is visible swelling in any of the joints, this is a possible sign that the ligaments have been torn or stretched too much. A sprained joint will be painful to the touch. If you are unsure if the swelling is the result of a sprain, run your hand across the swollen area. The chance it is a sprain increases if your dog yelps or moves away.


Reluctance to Exercise

If the sprain is in a joint visible through swelling or lameness, your dog will be feeling severe pain. As a result, dogs with sprains usually do not participate in strenuous activity. This is especially true if the sprain is in the hips, since these joints must be engaged during most activities. For example, a dog with a sprained hind leg can avoid using that leg and still participate in some physical activities but a dog with a sprained hip joint does not have that option.


Minor sprains can result in limping. This is sometimes the case with Grade I sprains. The pain is not severe enough for the dog's appendage to become temporarily lame, but it is severe enough to affect the normal movements of the dog. Limping is a very broad symptom and may be an indication of other problems, such as a cut on the paw, or other foot wound.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.