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Top 5 Dog Injuries

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A small dog walking outside with a cone around their head

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.*

Swallowed Objects

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’re 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 inadvertently push the object further down into the throat. 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 and gently lift their back end towards your chest. Balling one hand into a fist and placing the palm of your other hand over top, in a swift and forceful motion, simultaneously move your hands inward (towards your dog’s stomach) and upward (towards their ribs). Do this motion five times and then check their mouth again for the object. If it still isn’t visible, use the heel of your hand to perform a sharp blow on your dog’s back, between their should blades. After attempting this motion five times, once again check their mouth for the item.

With larger dogs that you may be unable to lift to your chest, you can have them lie down on one side. Use one hand to support their back and with your other hand being a fist, perform the same Heimlich motions. If you have a much smaller dog, you can use the same process, but be mindful of not using as much force as you would on a larger dog, since that could accidentally cause injury. Be ready to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately afterward.

Once your dog’s airway is clear, you may need to perform CPR if they have stopped breathing. It's good to know dog CPR to be prepared in this kind of emergency, potentially even saving your dog's life someday. Depending on the item and quantity your pup swallowed, they may require foreign object removal surgery.

A great way to prevent your dog from putting things in their mouth that they shouldn’t is to pet-proof your home. While it’s important to pick up clothes, put away shoes, and keep small objects out of your dog’s reach, it’s equally crucial to securely store anything toxic to canines, including cleaning solutions, beauty products, medications, and various types of plants.

Fractured Toenails

Fractured toenails are a common injury in canines—it can happen at any age. Although some fractured nails can be relatively minor, more major broken nails can cause bleeding, pain, and infections. With more severe fractures, the break is often deeper, there can be more bleeding, and your dog will need to be seen by their veterinarian. Until you can get your dog proper treatment, it’s best to apply gentle, steady pressure on the affected area.

One of the best ways to prevent fractured nails is to keep them trimmed. On average, a dog’s nails should be trimmed around once a month , and either you or your dog’s groomer can do this. Be sure to always use nail trimmers or files that are dog safe.

Bite Wounds

Bite wounds are one of the most common injuries for dogs and can happen during a fight with another dog, cat, or other animal. With dogs, biting is often the last stage in a progression of aggressive behaviors that may start with growling and snarling. There is usually some sort of warning sign before biting, which may allow you time and opportunity to diffuse the situation before it leads to injury.

If your dog has a bite wound, you can apply gentle but firm pressure to the area 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 with bite wounds, especially from wildlife or unvaccinated animals. In some cases, sutures are necessary to close the wound.

Fractured Teeth

Dogs can fracture their teeth during a minor incident, such as falling down the stairs, or in a more severe accident, like getting hit by a car. They can also break their teeth by chewing on hard items like rocks, animal bones, cow hooves, antlers, or nylon bones. Signs of a fractured tooth include:

  • Difficulty eating
  • Drooling
  • 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 could 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 don’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.

Lacerations

All dogs, no matter their size, breed, or age, are at risk for lacerations, which can vary widely in severity. Minor cuts or superficial scrapes can result from accidents like tripping on a cement sidewalk or taking a tumble at the dog park. Deeper, more significant lacerations can happen in several ways, like 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, dog-safe antibiotic, and bandaging the wound. If you’re unsure how to treat the injury safely or if the laceration is severe, you should consult with your veterinarian.

A brown dog lying down with a green cast on its foot

Tips to Care for an Injured Dog

Every situation is different but keeping these tips in mind 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 calm and collected.
  • Be careful. Even the friendliest pooches can act aggressively when scared, anxious, or in pain. Additionally, they might try to jump out of your arms or react defensively if you touch the injured area.
  • Ask for help. You could be fine handling the dog safely on your own, but asking a friend to lend you an extra set of hands can be useful. 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.

After your dog receives the necessary treatment, their recovery time could vary from a single day to a few weeks. To help your pup heal the best they can, it’s essential that you follow any directions your veterinarian recommends. You should also consider what caused the injury in the first place and determine if there’s a way to prevent it from happening again.

Being Prepared for Dog Injuries

There’s no way to protect your dog from getting injured, but you can take steps to prepare 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. Essential items include gauze, an ice pack, cotton balls, scissors, disposable gloves, adhesive tape, alcohol wipes, pet-safe antibiotic ointment, and tweezers. It can also be helpful to keep styptic powder in your pet’s first-aid kit. This can be used to stop bleeding if you accidentally cut your pup’s nails too short.
  • Learn dog CPR. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use this skill, but it can be a lifesaver.
  • 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. Be sure to keep your pet’s veterinary office number or the emergency clinic’s number somewhere handy—in your favorites contact list or on your fridge. Anytime you have someone dog sit for you, be sure to leave them this number as well.

Another way to help protect your pet is to consider enrolling them in a pet insurance plan. Pet insurance can help cover eligible exam fees, diagnostics, treatment, and alternative therapies for all sorts of injuries, including the top five most common dog injuries. This coverage can help you provide your dog with the best veterinary care possible with less worry about the cost.

*Internal Claims Data, 2018-22 An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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