Pulled Muscles in Dogs

Updated February 21, 2017

Muscles act to move the body. When overloaded, the muscle fibers can fail. Muscle pain in dogs can be caused by overexertion during play or injury, resulting in a pulled muscle. The use of medications, rest or physical therapy can help in the healing process. Consulting with your veterinarian should be the first step to ensure a larger problem is not being overlooked. As always, compliance and consistency in treatment will yield the fastest results for your dog.

Pulled muscles

Muscles act by contracting and relaxing, which results in the movement of the body part they are attached to. During rigorous play or activity the muscle can be worked too hard, resulting in a pulled muscle. The muscle fibers have torn in an effort to do their job. When this occurs it can be accompanied by pain, swelling and a limitation in the muscle's ability to function. The bigger the tear, the longer it can take to repair.


A good remedy for a pulled muscle is to simply rest the muscle. When the muscle is continually stressed with use after it is injured, all the repairs the body attempts to make are broken down again. Resting the muscle allows for the body to repair the muscle fibers without stressing them, resulting in a better repair job. Depending on the severity of the initial pull, the dog may need to rest for a few days or a few weeks. Your veterinarian can help you determine the severity of the injury.


Carprofen (Rimadyl) is one of the leading pain medications for dogs. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that can be given once or twice daily. For dogs who have taken a tumble or been in a accident resulting in a pulled muscle, the use of Carprofen over several days can do a lot to reduce pain and swelling. You veterinarian can help you decide how long and how much should be used. Metacam is another non-steroidal medication that can be used with similar effect.


Methocarbamol is a muscle relaxant that can be used to quiet sore or pulled muscles. This medication often produces drowsiness when given and can be helpful in keeping the dog quiet. Again, your veterinarian can help determine the dose, length of administration and if other drugs like Carprofen should be used. Often a multi-layered approach of several drugs with different modes of action provide the fastest results in alleviating pain.

Physical therapy

The use of heat, ice and massage can all help increase healing and reduce pain. Heat and ice can be applied to the sore area for as long as the dog will tolerate it or 20 minutes at the most. This form of therapy can be used three to four times daily for several days until improvement is noted. Massage of the area can also help break up muscle knots and improve circulation; be gentle and only do what the dog will tolerate. Simply forcing the dog to rest for several days to a week will often produce some of the best results. A dog's excitement at getting to go out will often override any pain they feel but going to play only aggravates the area and increases healing time.

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