How to comfort a lame dog

Posted by Dr Dog. November 18th 2013.

There are so many different causes of lameness in dogs and diagnosing the underlying reason for your dog limping can only be done by a veterinary surgeon.

Lameness can be separated into short term lameness that often gets better by itself and longer term and more serious lameness that perhaps requires surgery.

If in doubt always contact your vet for advice, don’t forget if you have Argos Pet Insurance you can call the freephone vetphone advice line.

Dogs leap and jump all the time and can be prone to injury. Even older animals can sustain injury if they jar themselves suddenly or over exert themselves. As a result a large number of cases of lameness are temporary and with the correct homecare will go on to heal naturally on their own.

Vet with dog

3 steps to help your dog’s recovery

Step 1: Start by resting your dog.

The most important part of your dog’s recovery is rest. Rest means as little exercise as possible, so no playing with your dog in the house/garden, no allowing your dog to jump up on his hind legs, no jumping on/off furniture, no going up and down stairs and no jumping in and out of cars.

Rest means no walks, even short ones. It is also worth putting your dog onto a lead to go to the toilet in the garden to prevent your dog running around. You must think of your dog like a small child and enforce rest.

It is better however, after the rest period, to have 3 or 4 short controlled walks than risk an uncontrolled and harmful energetic outburst from your frustrated dog.

Strained muscles and other soft tissues need time to recover and heal. Movement should be controlled and restricted and in some cases your dog may even require confinement.

Initial rest should be for 2-3 days. If recovery is quick then continue rest for a further 2-3 days and then start a slow, gradual reintroduction to exercise. It may be that recovery is not that quick, but as long as you see an improvement on a daily basis then persist until full recovery; this could take up to a few weeks but you should be able to recognise a daily improvement.

Step 2: Reintroduction to exercise.

When your dog appears to have recovered and is walking normally on the previously lame leg then you can restart exercise. A gentle, gradual program is required starting with gentle walks on the lead. Gradually extend the duration of the walks over a number of days and build back up to normal walks.

Getting back to ‘off the lead’ exercise should not be rushed as allowing your dog too much exercise, too early, will cause a relapse. If the lameness flares up again then this is likely to be due to over exertion. In this case take a step back and then carry on the program, but at a slower pace.

When should you use a cold compress?

During the early stages of the injury your dog may benefit from cold compresses. They may help to reduce pain and inflammation in the injured leg. A cold wet cloth or bag of frozen vegetables/ice cubes in a towel will suffice. Apply the compress for 5-10 minutes several times a day over 24 hours.

After this a warm compress can be used which may help alleviate stiffness (you can make one by filling a cloth bag with dry rolled oats which can then be warmed in the microwave and then held or wrapped around the leg). Apply for 5-10 minutes, several times a day; test the warm compress against your skin to make sure it isn’t too hot. Some dogs may respond better to either the heat or the cold and alternating may also provide relief.

On this occasion be guided by the improvements you see in your dog’s health.

If the lameness doesn’t show signs of improvement, always contact your vet.

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