Dogs, like humans, can suffer pulled or strained muscles due to exercise or an accident. If your dog seems to be experiencing mild muscle pain as evidenced by discomfort when touched or a slight limp, your dog may have a pulled muscle. Pulled muscles can be treated at home and usually do not require veterinary intervention. Muscle strain should be self-correcting within two to three days. If your dog has symptoms of a pulled muscle for longer than a few days, or if symptoms worsen rather than improving, he needs to see a veterinarian.
Treating Pulled Muscles with RICE
RICE is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. These four steps are used for the treatment of mild muscle, tendon and ligament strain in dogs as well as humans. If you use RICE, you'll be able to treat your dog's pulled muscle effectively at home. Rest your dog by eliminating moderate and strenuous exercise until the pulled muscle has healed. Light exercise, such as a short on-leash walk, should continue so that the dog's muscles and joints don't become stiff. Avoid letting a dog with a pulled muscle jump up on humans or furniture. Ice the injury using an ice pack wrapped in a towel. Cue your dog to lie down and stay. Apply the ice pack to the injured area for no more than 15 minutes at a time. You can ice the injury several times each day until healed. Compress the pulled muscle, if possible, by wrapping it. You can purchase Vet Wrap at most pet supply stores or tack shops. If the area can't be wrapped, skip this step. Elevate the pulled muscle, if possible, by keeping it as close to the elevation of the heart as you can. This will stop blood from pooling in the injured area, causing swelling. If the pulled muscle is in an area that can't be elevated, skip this step.
Should Dogs Take Medication for a Pulled Muscle?
Do not give your dog any human medications, including over-the-counter drugs or alternative medicines. Human medicine like aspirin or ibuprofen could be very dangerous or even lethal to your dog. Only a veterinarian should prescribe pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs. If your dog's pain seems so severe that she needs medication, take her to a veterinarian.
When to Take a Dog to a Veterinarian for a Pulled Muscle
If pain or limping lasts more than three days, it's time to take your dog to a veterinarian. Serious joint injuries can appear identical to a pulled muscle when symptoms first appear. Your dog may have only a slight limp when in fact an entire tendon or ligament has been torn. The early stages of arthritis can also appear similar to a pulled muscle at first. Your veterinarian may need to use X-rays, an ultrasound, nerve blocks or other veterinary imaging techniques to determine why your dog is in pain. Depending upon the diagnosis, treatment may be as simple as more rest and some anti-inflammatory medication or as complex as major surgery.