by Dwight Alleyne, DVM
One joy of owning a dog is being active with them. An active dog can be a great benefit to a pet owner, encouraging you to get outside and back in touch with your playful side. But what happens when their activity gets a little too adventurous? As you watch your furry friend perform amazing feats of athleticism, it’s only natural to be concerned about injuries.
As pet owners, we never want to see our pets get hurt. Here, we’ll cover the common injuries an active dog can incur, ways you can help minimize them and keep them running, jumping and playing for years to come.
Common Injuries in Dogs
Since active dogs push their joints, bones and muscles to the max, the most common injuries can occur in those areas. If an injury results in moderate swelling or lameness for an extended amount of time, veterinary treatment will be needed.
Injuries to the Knee
A favorite pastime for many active pups is chasing things. They love to chase small furry animals in the yard such as squirrels, chipmunks or rabbits. This involves many quick and short movements that can put a lot of pressure on the hind limbs, particularly the knees. A common injury that occurs is a rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament, which is equivalent to a human hurting their ACL. That is an injury to consider if you find your dog limping after an intense chase.
Since dogs walk on all fours, the back is the most important part of the body for their mobility. If you watch your dog when it’s most active, you’ll recognize how the back twists and bends in different directions. Unfortunately, with all the motion, there’s an increased risk for injury (especially in long breeds like Dachshunds and Corgis). Since the back has many muscles associated with it, strains can occur. A common issue that also occurs with the back is a bulging disc. The discs are structures between the bones of the back that provide shock resistance to the spine. Sometimes these can bulge and put pressure on the spinal cord, leading to pain.
Damage to Tendons
Like we mentioned above, an active dog maximizes the use of its muscles. Tendons are structures that attach muscle to bone, so they’re often prone to injury. If a dog sprains its leg, it likely resulted from a damaged tendon. Common areas for tendon injury include the shoulder, the Achilles heel and tendons associated with the wrist and forepaws. Injuries generally happen because of overextension or stress to these tendons.
How to Protect Your Active Dog from Injury
As a devoted pet owner, reading about these injuries might make you worry more about your active furry friend than you did before you landed on this article (sorry). But there’s no need to fear! There are ways to help minimize these injuries.
If you know that your dog will be very active, you can prepare the muscles for their intense workout. A warm-up can include slow, controlled walks for about 10 to 15 minutes. This can then be followed up by short periods of increased activity, which can include running or jumping.
Stretching can help minimize muscle tears and strains. The best way to accomplish this is to mimic the movements they’ll do during their planned activity. The best areas to stretch include the back, hips and limbs.
Make Sure You Have a Cool-Down Period
If your pet has had a period of intense activity, you should progressively slow down their activity. This can be accomplished by taking them on a fast trot down to a slow walk. The best time interval for this is over a 10- to 15-minute period.
How to Maintain Good Muscle and Joint Health
Intense activity over time can put wear and tear on the skeletal system of your dog. Besides what we mentioned earlier, there are other options that can play a role in helping maintain healthy function of the muscles and joints.
Natural Products and Supplements
Fortunately, there are many aids that can contribute to healthy joints and muscles. Glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help with long-term joint health.
Cannabinoid (CBD) oil is also being researched as a potential way to keep injuries at bay due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system in our pet’s bodies. Studies on mice have shown that CBD can exert anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the body. These effects could help an active dog greatly by allowing for a quicker muscle recovery after exercise which, in general, can improve muscle growth and strength, potentially reducing the risk of injury. That said, research regarding the effects of CBD and hemp-based products on pets are still in the early stages, and veterinary scientists are still gathering information on the full benefits of CBD.
If you’re a proud parent of an active dog, you may want to discuss CBD with your veterinarian to see how it can benefit your pet. If they give you the green light, check out natural CBD products like Heelr’s Joint & Muscle CBD chews.
Most active dogs don’t have a problem with weight. But over time, even the most active dog can become overweight if they have poor nutrition. Increased weight can play a role in excessive pressure on the joints and strain on the muscles, so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight for your pet through proper nutrition.
It’s easy to understand why active dogs can be more at risk for injuries. But by sticking to these tips, you’ll increase the chance that your active dog will live a long, injury-free life.
Dr. Dwight Alleyne is a veterinarian who has over a decade of experience treating cats and dogs. He is also the creator of the Animal Doctor Blog, where he provides general health advice and pet-product reviews.