You and your pup had a great time out on your weekend hike, but now your pal has a limp. Whether he landed a jump wrong or took a little slide, if he's having a difficult time walking, he should pay a visit to the vet. If the verdict is a pulled muscle, you can help your pup recover at home by keeping him sedentary.
Job One: Call the Vet
Your dog may not have to live in the wild and fend for himself, but his natural instinct likely kicks in when he's injured. Showing pain is a big deal for a dog because it signals vulnerability -- not the image any dog wants to project. If your dog's limping, it's because he's injured himself to an extent he can't mask his pain. Before you begin treating your dog, check in with the vet with a phone call. Be prepared to take the dog to the clinic for an exam.
Sit and Stay
If the vet advised you to give it a day, or if it was too late to get to the vet, you can help your dog recuperate at home. The first thing to do is keep your dog still. If he's pulled a muscle, every time he walks, runs or jumps he could aggravate his injury and make it worse. Resting his injury will start the healing process. Usually this means crating your dog. Some dogs loathe the crate, while some love it, considering it a safe, secure place. If your pup is one of the haters, try keeping his crate where the action is, so he can be part of the goings on in the household. If he's nervous or high-strung, put his crate in a quiet space with some music or the sound of a television to help soothe him, making his kennel time a little less stressful. A good chew toy or his favorite blanket will comfort him as well. He can leave his crate for a potty break, but he should be on leash.
A cold compress will help relieve any swelling your dog may be experiencing due to his pulled muscle. If you don't have a chemical cold pack, place some crushed ice in a plastic bag wrapped in a towel. Apply the cold pack to the injured area for approximately 15 to 30 minutes. You can ice his injury up to four times in a 24-hour period.
To the Doctor
If a day's passed and your pup is still having a difficult time walking, it's time for him to see a veterinarian. The vet will give your dog a thorough physical exam and look for swelling and pain around the joint, as well as check his range of motion. If you noticed any difference in your dog's appetite, behavior or water intake, report it to the vet so it can be considered in the diagnosis. If the vet suspects that something more than a pulled muscle is going on, he may order X-rays or blood work to help in the diagnosis. The vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory to aid in the healing process.