What To Do If Your Dog Pulls A Muscle

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Our best friends are usually boisterous, bounding around with lots of energy. But if you see that your dog is not himself or is limping, you might not immediately know what is wrong.

It could be various conditions, including muscle, joint, or bone injuries. Your dog may have tweaked or sprained something. But what about muscle injuries specifically?

If your pup has pulled a muscle, you can aid his recovery in various ways. Rest is the best medicine, at least for the first few days. Then gentle exercise could help. Your pup may need anti-inflammatory medication, but you can also help him manage the pain with massage and possibly home remedies.

Occasionally our dogs overdo it and put too much strain on their legs. If their legs take a hammering, they can pull muscles in their legs, necks, shoulders, and hips. Whatever is troubling your dog may not be immediately apparent, so you should take him to the vet for a thorough examination.

Here’s what to do if your dog pulls a muscle:

What To Do If Your Dog Pulls A Muscle

What to do if your dog pulls a muscle

Muscle injuries can be ongoing (chronic) or sudden (acute).

You may first notice your dog’s injury when he begins limping or experiences a sudden lameness. If this does not improve after a day, it’s time to go to the vet. But in the meantime, you can check your pup for symptoms of a pulled muscle.

If the symptoms aren’t too severe, you may be able to help him at home.

Signs That Your Dog Has Pulled A Muscle

It’s a misconception that dogs only sustain muscle injuries while doing strenuous exercise. They could hurt themselves even while taking a light walk, fetching a toy, or playing rough. The most obvious signs that your dog has pulled a muscle are:

  • Limping/lameness
  • Sensitivity
  • A weak and stiff muscle
  • Limited movement
  • Cramps
  • There is swelling at the injury site, with bruising or without.
  • The dog is less active.
  • He may become grumpy, especially around other pets.
  • His demeanor may be standoffish or guarded.

If your pup has pulled a muscle in his back or neck, you will probably notice that his posture will change, e.g., he might arch his back upwards or not turn his head. Otherwise, he might seem wobbly or rigid while walking.

Dogs can also hide their injuries because of an atavistic survival instinct. That is until the pain becomes too much.

While your dog is healthy, watch how he walks, runs, turns, and jumps. When he is in shape, his movements are graceful and balanced. If your dog has a less severe strain or pulled muscle, you may notice more subtle symptoms, like limited movement, a slight change of gait, tenderness, shakiness or tightness in the muscle.

If you suspect your dog has a pulled muscle, you can try some range-of-motion exercises, such as using a toy or treat to get him to make a tight turn to either side or lift or lower his head. 

Touch is also a good indicator. If he pulls away when you stroke or put pressure on his hindquarters, this could indicate a pulled muscle. Other clues are if any areas on the body feel warm, hard, stiff, or swollen.

Treatment For Your Dog’s Pulled Muscle

It shouldn’t be too hard to diagnose if you know which symptoms to look for when you think your pup has pulled a muscle. So, what can you do to help your injured pooch?

First Aid For Your Dog

If your dog has not hurt himself badly, you should be able to treat him at home, and he should recover quickly. It’s a good idea to buy a first aid kit made especially for pets. It will include some valuable tools and a booklet with helpful instructions. 

Use An Ice Pack On The Pulled Muscle

As soon as you realize that your dog has hurt himself, wrap an ice pack in a towel and place it on the sore area to help prevent swelling. Keep it in place for 10-15 minutes. On the first day, try to repeat this treatment every 2 hours.

A first aid kit for pets will contain a special ice pack.

Bandage Your Dog’s Pulled Muscle

Wrap an elastic bandage around the painful spot if there is any swelling. Be careful not to make it too tight because you don’t want to halt circulation. You will also find a suitable bandage in a pet first aid kit.

Rest Your Injured Dog

Rest creates the most favorable conditions for healing to take place quickly. But too much rest can make the muscles weak or cause atrophy which could prolong the recovery period or worsen the injury. Keep the pup quiet for the first few days, especially if movement causes him pain.

After two days of rest, encourage mobility by taking your dog for a short, gentle walk on his leash.

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs For A Dog’s Pulled Muscle

Some human medications can be fatal for dogs. Your vet may suggest that you give your dog non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Make sure that you find out which NSAIDs are safe for dogs.

Massage For A Dog With A Pulled Muscle

You can massage the affected area because it will help with pain relief, minimize swelling, and help your dog recover faster. Your massage should not last longer than about 10 minutes.

These are the steps for massaging your dog’s pulled muscle:

  1. Calm your dog down.
  2. Pet him gently, moving to the affected area. It will warm the spot and reassure him that you are not trying to hurt him.
  3. Press gently on the sore muscle for about 15-30 seconds using your open palm. Stop immediately if the pooch is unhappy.
  4. Remove your hand for about 15-30 seconds and repeat the previous step. Continue in this way for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Pet him again to reassure him that he did well and you did not intend to hurt him with the massage.

Herbal Treatments For A Dog’s Pulled Muscle

People often treat ailments with herbal and natural supplements and essences. Our dogs can also benefit from using these products, as listed below:

  • Arnica tincture can stop bruising and alleviate pain within minutes of muscle injuries.
  • Rescue Remedy is a mix of clematis, cherry plum, impatiens, star of Bethlehem and rock rose essences. It will help to calm your dog down after a traumatic injury.
  • You can soak wraps in vinegar and cold water.
  • Mallow and comfrey teas are suitable for pulled muscles. Bathe the affected area in these infusions before wrapping the sore muscle.
  • Peppermint cools inflammation, and you can use a cold peppermint tea compress for acute muscle pain.
  • Hot herbal compresses (fomentations)  are suitable for chronic muscle pain. Cayenne works well for this because of its heating properties.

Help! My Dog Pulled A Muscle! What Now?

If you suspect that our pup has pulled a muscle and he seems to be in severe pain, it is always better to take him to the vet for a thorough check.

You would not want to make it worse. However, you can administer first aid in the form of ice packs and bandages and make sure he gets a lot of rest. 

Other treatments can include pain medication, massage, or herbal remedies with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Your best friend should be jumping and playing again within a few days, but be sure to ease him back into it gently. 

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