There are so many reasons we love our dogs! We love their boundless energy, innate curiosity, and playful natures. But those same qualities can lead to injuries. Learn about the top five dog injuries and what they can mean for your dog.*
Some dogs will try to eat anything! Rocks, socks, coins, corncobs, underwear—it’s astounding what a curious dog can gobble up. Dogs also love to chew, which can lead to swallowing pieces of whatever they were gnawing on. Swallowing an object isn’t always an emergency. Sometimes it passes through the dog without a hitch, but other times it can cause choking or an obstruction in the digestive tract.
If your dog is choking, you can try to dislodge the object, but be careful not to injure yourself or your dog. Also, take care not to push the object further down into the throat inadvertently. In some cases, you may need to perform a dog version of the Heimlich maneuver. To do this, keep your dog’s head pointed down, put your hands on either side of the rib cage, and apply pressure to expel the object. Be ready to take your dog right to the veterinarian afterwards.
Once your dog’s airway is clear, you may need to do CPR if they have stopped breathing. It’s good to know dog CPR so you can be ready to handle this kind of emergency. Check out Everything You Need to Know About Dog CPR to learn the steps of this critical procedure. It could save your dog’s life someday!
Knee Ligament Tears
Dogs have a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) that helps stabilize their knee similar to the ACL in humans. Injuries to this ligament often start as small tears that gradually worsen. Eventually, these tears can rupture and cause pain and lameness. While any dog can suffer from a ligament tear or rupture, some dogs are more prone to this type of injury. They include:
- Overweight or obese dogs – Those extra pounds put added pressure on their ligaments and make tears more likely.
- “Weekend warriors” – These are dogs who engage in strenuous activity once a week or less. They tend to lack the proper conditioning needed to handle vigorous exercise safely.
- Older dogs – Ligament tears get worse over time so the symptoms tend to show up more in senior dogs.
Signs of a cruciate ligament injury are not always apparent, especially in the early stages, but they can include limping and stiffness. You might also notice your dog having difficulty getting up after they’ve been lying down or experiencing difficulty when jumping into the car. In addition, they may be less interested in taking walks or playing active games like fetch or chase than normal.
If you think your dog has a cruciate ligament injury, you should take them to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. There are some non-surgical treatment options depending on the size of the dog and the extent of the injury. However, surgery is often needed to repair the ligament.
Get more details on the causes, symptoms, and treatment for cruciate ligament injuries from Dr. Mary Beth Leininger.
Physical therapy might also be recommended by your veterinarian to help the injured leg and try to hold off on surgery or as an aid in recovery after surgery. Complete CoverageSM offers coverage for rehabilitative treatments like physical therapy along with coverage for surgery and other post-operative care.
Bite wounds are one of the most common injuries for dogs. They can happen during a fight with another dog, cat, or other animal. With dogs, biting is often the last of a progression of aggressive behaviors that can start with growling and snarling. There is usually some sort of warning sign before biting, which can give you the opportunity to diffuse the situation before it leads to injury.
Complete CoverageSM offers coverage for behavioral conditions, including aggression. Learn more by getting a free quote.
If your dog has a bite wound, you can apply gentle but firm pressure to the area to try to stop the bleeding. You should always seek medical attention for bite wounds since they can become infected. There is also a risk of rabies transmission in bite wounds, especially from wildlife or unvaccinated animals. In more severe cases, sutures might be needed to close the wound.
Dogs can fracture their teeth during a minor incident such as falling down the stairs or in a more serious accident like getting hit by a car. They can also break their teeth by chewing on hard items, like rocks, bones, nylon bones, cow hooves, or antlers. Signs of a fractured tooth include:
- Difficulty eating
- Flinching when that area of the mouth is touched
- Blood in the saliva
- Redness or inflammation in or around the mouth
- Chewing on one side of the mouth only
Keep in mind that you can’t always see a fractured tooth since the fracture can be below the gum line. You should take your dog to the veterinarian if you suspect a tooth fracture. Left untreated, it means continued pain for your dog and lead to complications like infection.
Treatment will depend on the extent and location of the fracture. In some cases, the tooth might simply need to be filed down so rough edges won’t irritate the tongue or soft tissue of your dog’s mouth. In more severe, situations, extraction of the tooth or other dental procedures could be necessary to resolve the pain the dog is feeling.
Dogs are at risk for lacerations, which can vary widely in severity. Small cuts or superficial scrapes can happen from accidents like tripping on a cement sidewalk or taking a tumble at the dog park. Larger, deeper lacerations can occur for a number of reasons, such as stepping on broken glass or a sharp object.
If your dog has a laceration that is bleeding, apply pressure to the area with a clean cloth or shirt. If the cut is minor, you may be able to treat it at home by carefully cleaning the area, applying a topical antibiotic, and bandaging the wound. If you’re not sure how to safely treat the wound or if the laceration is severe, you should consult with your veterinarian.
Tips to Care for an Injured Dog
Keep in mind that every situation is different, but these tips can help you handle an injured dog.
- Stay calm. Dogs can pick up on our emotional states, so if you stay calm, it can help the dog stay calm as well. You’ll also be able to think more clearly if you are cool and collected.
- Be careful. Even the friendliest of pooches can act aggressively when they are scared, anxious, or in pain. Additionally, they might try to jump out of your arms or react negatively if you touch the injured area.
- Ask for help. You could be fine handling the dog safely on your own, but it can be useful to ask a friend to lend you an extra set of hands. If you don’t know the dog or have any concerns about approaching them, you should contact a local shelter or animal control agency.
- Seek medical assistance. It can be tough to decide when a dog needs medical attention, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution. A veterinarian can properly diagnose and treat the dog’s injuries, some of which you may not be able to see, and help avoid potential complications.
Complete CoverageSM covers exam fees, diagnostics, treatment, and alternative therapies for all sorts of injuries
Being Prepared for Dog Injuries
There’s no way to protect your dog from ever getting injured, but you can take steps to be prepared for an emergency. For instance:
- Have a pet first-aid kit handy. You can buy a ready-made pet first aid kit or make one yourself with essential items like gauze, an ice pack, cotton balls, and tweezers. The infographic in this article offers a detailed list.
- Learn dog CPR. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use this skill, but it can be a lifesaver. Find out how to perform dog CPR.
- Talk with your veterinarian. Ask them when to seek medical care for your dog and for recommendations for handling an emergency. You should also find out where to go if something happens when their practice is closed.
In addition, you should consider enrolling in a pet insurance plan. Complete CoverageSM covers exam fees, diagnostics, treatment, and alternative therapies for all sorts of injuries, including the top five we’ve discussed here. This coverage can help you provide your dog with the best veterinary care possible with less worry about the cost.
Get a free quote for your best friend today!