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Dog Leg Sprain: Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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If you notice your pooch suddenly pick up a leg after an activity or yelp in pain when they move, then they could be suffering from a dog leg sprain. Canine leg sprains are common and can be super painful for your dog.

But how do you spot a dog leg sprain? What remedies can you offer your dog, and how do you care for them as they recover?

This article answers all these questions and more. We also look at supplements you can give your pup to help combat dog leg sprains and keep their limbs strong.


Signs of a Dog Leg Sprain

Dog leg sprain and strain are often used to describe a dog’s injured limb. A strain refers to a torn tendon, while a sprain is often a torn or overstretched ligament. Tendons connect the muscle to the bone, while ligaments connect one bone to another.

Signs of a dog leg sprain include:

  • Limping
  • Lameness
  • Whining
  • Loss of appetite
  • Redness
  • Swelling or inflammation of the affected limb

Difference Between Back vs. Front Dog Legs

A dog’s back leg is made up of three joints: the hip, knee (stifle), and ankle (hock) joints. The knee is located at the front of the leg and connects to the ankle through the fibula and tibia bones.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) injuries and luxating patella are common injuries in hind dog legs. Luxating patella (equivalent to the knee cap in humans) occurs when the knee dislocates from its original position. A CCL involves a tear or rupture in the cranial cruciate ligament in the knee.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament can occur in any dog breed, but they are most common in medium to large-breed dogs like Newfoundlands, labradors, german shepherds, golden retrievers, and Rottweilers.

Difference Between Back vs. Front Dog Legs


The forelimbs support your dog when he engages in weight-bearing activities like climbing up and down the stairs, running, or jumping around. This means that the forelimbs bear the impact of hard landings, which can result in fractured bones and torn, overstretched, or twisted ligaments. The occurrence of a dog front leg sprain is common and often leads to front leg limping.

Other common front leg injuries include shoulder and dog elbow dysplasia, carpal hyperextension, and wrist strain injuries.

How to Spot a Puppy Leg Sprain

Can a puppy sprain its leg? They sure can.

Puppies can be notoriously playful, goofy, and mischievous sometimes and will want to take on their older siblings. This often gets them into trouble and hurts their limbs.

Puppies are vulnerable to sprains because their bodies are tender, and their leg muscles are not fully developed yet. So it is not uncommon for them to unintentionally overexert themselves in play and hurt their limbs.

You can spot a puppy leg sprain if your pup shows the following symptoms:

  • Favoring one leg over the other
  • Hiding away or avoiding engaging in play and other activities
  • Constant licking and nibbling on the affected limb
  • Lameness or walking on their toes

How Does a Dog Sprain Their Leg?

A dog can sprain or strain their tendons and muscles due to exerting excess pressure on their limb or an accident resulting in traumatic injury. However, sometimes your dog can sprain their leg from falling, tripping, slipping, or even stepping on their paw the wrong way.

Other potential causes of dog leg sprain include:

  • Accident leading to trauma like being hit by a car or involvement in a car accident
  • Falling as a result of a miscalculated jump or getting their hind leg stuck in a hole while running
  • Sudden and vigorous movements may cause overexertion on the hock joint resulting in a dog ankle sprain
  • Sudden or sustained weight gain can excerpt excess pressure on the limbs over time. Progressively, the hock joint can become unstable or tear as the dog engages in energetic physical activities
  • Repetitive strenuous activity can result in the ligaments of the hock joint being overworked

How Can a Dog Sprain an Ankle?

A dog hind leg sprain commonly occurs on the ankle. The hock joint is the equivalent of an ankle joint in humans. The hock joint is located on a dog’s hind leg and connects the shin bone–tibia and fibula–to the paw. The joint is held together by multiple ligaments and tendons for stability.

If your dog has sprained his ankle, it is a good idea to provide front-leg support. Your vet might place a front leg support to help stabilize the ankle and allow it to heal correctly. The front leg support is made of elastic material placed around the dog's leg and attached to itself, sometimes with a plastic insert to ensure no ankle movement while it heals.

Treatment for Dog Sprain Leg


If you suspect your dog has sprained a leg or you spot any of the symptoms of a sprain, it is important to have a veterinary doctor look. The veterinarian will assess the extent of the injury and advise on the course of treatment depending on the severity of the sprain.

Often, the vet performs an orthopedic examination of the leg tissues, muscles, joints, and bones. They might order an X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI to examine the internal damage on the limb.

After the examination and depending on the extent of the sprain, the vet will be able to classify the injury into one of these categories:

Sprain Category


Grade 1

  • Very mild tearing or overstretching of the muscle
  • Slight swelling of the affected limb

Grade 2

  • Ligament is significantly torn or overstretched
  • Significant swelling or bruising can be seen on the affected area
  • Signs of pain when the limb is touched
  • Temporal lameness and difficulty in walking

Grade 3

  • Ligament is completely ruptured or severely damaged
  • Excessive swelling and severe pain
  • Inability to use the limb

Importance of Treating a Sprain Dog Leg

Minor dog leg sprains heal quickly through rest and applying ice on the affected limb to reduce swelling. However, once a dog sprains their leg, there is an increased likelihood of the injury reoccurring. If a sprain dog leg is left untreated, the injury could develop into a chronic condition that might lead to lameness or permanently losing the ability to use that limb.


One of the best ways to help your dog quickly recover from a sprain is to allow plenty of rest. If your pooch has been diagnosed with a dog rear leg sprain or a front leg sprain, it is crucial to restrict his movements and activities. In some instances, it is necessary to consider crating for high-energy, active dogs.

Joint supplements

Joint supplements often contain glucosamine which is a naturally occurring nutraceutical that is great at alleviating inflammation in joints. Glucosamine for dogs helps fight inflammation and encourages the regeneration of cartilage damaged by conditions like arthritis.

The anti-inflammatory properties of glucosamine make it an excellent alternative to NSAIDs because it has been shown to have no long-term side effects.

Glucosamine works best when paired with chondroitin sulfate, which stimulates cartilage repair. TRI-ACTA H.A. for Pets is an excellent option. It includes glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid, which all support the healing of joint injuries and, with regular use, help prevent these injuries from recurring.

TRI-ACTA H.A. for Pets

Our maximum strength formula is optimally designed to accelerate the formation of cartilage, minimize inflammation, expedite the healing process, and improve joint conditions.


Pain and anti-inflammatory meds

The vet might also recommend Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help with the pain and swelling on the joint. When a cell is damaged due to injury or disease, it releases chemical compounds called prostaglandins that make nerves susceptible to pain. These chemicals, in return, cause inflammation, redness, and pain in the affected area.

NSAIDs work by inhibiting the production or functions of prostaglandins, thus reducing pain and inhibiting inflammation. However, NSAIDs are not without side effects. Some of the most common side effects of NSAIDs in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Intestinal and stomach ulcers

There are other alternative natural or herba l joint pain and inflammation remedies that you can explore for your dog. Caution should, however, be taken. Do not give your dog any herbal remedy without consulting your veterinarian first.

Using a joint brace

A limb brace is a device to support and stabilize limbs, joints, and ligaments. It also promotes mobility during the healing process. A vet can use a brace or splint to support the injured dog's leg.

There is a difference between a brace and a splint support for your dog. Splints are better for short-term temporary use to support healing, while braces are typically custom-made to support the limb for long-term or permanent injuries. The vet will prescribe using a brace or splint for your dog after a thorough assessment of the injured limb.

The choice for a joint brace is determined by the location and severity of the dog's leg sprain. Dogs needing a brace will often be fitted with a custom brace. Some benefits of using braces or splint support on your dog include

  • Offering immediate support for a sprained or broken limb
  • Helping your dog to move while recovering from an injury or surgical procedure
  • Helps limit mobility of the injured limb during recovery
  • Prevent the limb from dragging and causing more damage to the ligaments when your dog moves

The vet will also determine for how long your dog will need to wear the supportive device. Some braces and splints are used temporarily, while others can be used interchangeably while your dog recovers.


When a dog experiences a severe leg sprain or what would be categorized as a grade three sprain, it will almost always need surgery to remove or repair the torn ligament. Depending on the extent of the injury, your vet might opt for a traditional surgical procedure or use laser technology. Your dog will need about 8-12 weeks to recover from the CCL surgical intervention.

Some factors determining recovery time include:

  1. Type of surgery performed on the limb
  2. Overall health condition of your dog pre and post-surgery
  3. Whether your dog develops post-surgery arthritis and the level of inflammation

There are several things you will need to do to help care for your dog after leg surgery. Depending on the type of surgery, your vet will recommend post-op care to help your dog recover from the procedure and the injury.

Below is a list of possible post-surgery care activities:

  • Administer prescribed medications and supplements. After surgery, your vet will most likely prescribe pain medicines, anti-inflammatories, sedatives, or antibiotics. In addition, they might also recommend incorporating a joint supplement to help the injury heal faster.
  • Keep the surgical site clean. Your vet might show you how to clean and monitor the wound for infection. Else, they will give you an appointment to review the sutures and clean the incision
  • Using ice and heat packs. Ice packs are great at reducing inflammation. Once the swelling reduces, you can use a heat pack to increase blood flow and circulation in the incision area.
  • Restrict physical activity. To help the injured limb heal faster, it is essential to restrict vigorous and unnecessary activities. If the vet recommends, you can crate your dog to keep them from hurting themself while jumping or running around. Your vet can also recommend using a brace or sling for support.
  • Rehabilitation therapy. With the help of your vet, you can map out a rehabilitation exercise schedule to help your dog regain full mobility of the injured leg.

Proofing your home

In addition to treating a dog leg sprain, it is essential to provide preventative care for your dog to prevent future re-occurrence of the injury by doing the following:

  • Keeping your dog at a healthy weight. Obesity in dogs predisposes them to frequent dog leg sprains and joint-related injuries.
  • Provide stepping aids or ramps for your dog to get onto the couch or bed easily. That way, there is a reduced risk of a misplaced step that might lead to a re-occurrence of the injury.
  • After healing a dog leg sprain, take your dog on slow walks. Restricting his movements with a leash is a good idea to prevent injury reoccurrence.

If your dog has been treated for a sprained leg, you might wonder for how long your dog will limp after the injury. It all depends on the extent of the canine leg sprain. Recovery time varies from six weeks for minor sprains to several months for severe sprain injuries.

Top Supplements for Dog Leg Sprains

An excellent joint supplement can help your dog heal faster when they experience dog leg sprains. It is good to know what to look for when shopping for a joint supplement for your canine buddy. A quality joint supplement should have the following:

  1. Active ingredients. Be on the lookout for joint supplements with multiple filler ingredients. Though they help stabilize the product and give it a long shelf life, fillers have no therapeutic value to your dog. Furthermore, some dogs can be allergic to filler ingredients.
  2. Proof of efficacy. There should be proof that the supplement delivers the therapeutic benefits as indicated on the label.
  3. Quality ingredients and proper labeling. For a joint supplement to provide the most effective therapeutic response, it must contain high-quality pharmaceutical-grade ingredients. In addition, it should have clear label information about ingredients and dosage as per the animal weight.

We compiled a list of joint supplements that we think are a good selection for your dog:

TRI-ACTA and TRI-ACTA H.A for Pets

triacta for pet regular and extra strength

TRI-ACTA joint supplements are made from the highest quality pharmaceutical-grade ingredients. They contain 100% active ingredients and are approved as a dietary supplement to support your favorite pet from puppyhood through adulthood. TRI-ACTA H.A. has been proven to restore mobility for older pets, quicken the healing process, and slow down aging effects on joint health.

TRI-ACTA H.A. for Pets

Our maximum strength formula is optimally designed to accelerate the formation of cartilage, minimize inflammation, expedite the healing process, and improve joint conditions.


*Prices for TRI-ACTA start from CAD $23.99, and TRI-ACTA H.A. starts at CAD $27.99 as of January 2023.

Open Farm Hip and Joint Chew Dog Supplements

Open Farm Hip


Open farm is a premium brand company that makes dog supplement products. This hip and joint supplement is made with 100% traceable ingredients. It is a unique product because it contains ParActin, also known as Andrographis Paniculata extract. ParActin is a proven anti-inflammatory agent that helps with joint mobility.

Hip and joint supplements contain vitamin C and Tumeric. Vitamin C supports the immune system while turmeric has been proven to have potent anti-inflammatory benefits. However, the product contains a list of inactive ingredients, including oat flour which can cause an upset stomach in dogs. Also predominantly missing from the list of ingredient is chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, which are vital for cartilage health.

*Price starts at CAD $38.99 as of January 2023.

Duggie Dailies Hip and Joint

Duggie Dailies Hip and JointDuggie Dailies Hip and Joint


This joint and hip product from Doggie Dailies contains a potent combination of MSM, Hyaluronic acid, Chondroitin, and Glucosamine. The supplement is also fortified with salmon and cod liver oil which help a dog overcome allergies, strengthen the heart and promote healthy skin and coat. COQ10–coenzyme Q 10–has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

However, the amount of each active ingredient is minimal, forcing larger dogs to consume more of the chews. Also, the product has a long list of inactive ingredients.

*Price starts at CAD $67.00 as of January 2023.

Myos Pet Canine Muscle Formula

Myos Pet Canine Muscle Formula


Myos muscle formula is a unique product for muscle strength and improved mobility. It contains a single pure ingredient Fortetropin. Fortetropin is manufactured from fertilized chicken egg yolks. It has been touted to reduce muscle atrophy in dogs, help build muscle strength, and expedite recovery from muscle injury and surgical procedures.

The only downside to this product from Myos is that it is a one-ingredient product. It, therefore, foregoes the benefits of other joint health-promoting ingredients like glucosamine, MSM, and chondroitin sulfate.

*Price starts at CAD $115.99- $409.99 as of January 2023.

Purica Recovery

Purica Recovery


Purica is a well-known and beloved Canadian brand. The recovery whole body and joint function supplements contain MSM, plant-based glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid. It also has the added benefits of vitamin C, and E. Vitamin C reduces inflammation while vitamin E promotes healthy skin and immune system.

Unfortunately, the concentration of components like glucosamine is quite minimal compared to similar products in the market. Also, Purica Recovery's whole body health and joint function supplement contain nutricol, an extract of green tea and grape seed. Nutricol increases the ability of cells to repair themselves and resist damage.

Unfortunately, Nutricol may cause an upset stomach in some dogs. It also contains Inulin which is a prebiotic that can cause flatulence in high doses.

*Price starts at CAD $30.99 as of January 2023.

Joint Supplement Quick Comparison

Supplement Name




Hyaluronic Acid




Open Farm Hip & Joint



Duggie Dailies Hip & Joint


Myos Pet Canine Muscle


No fillers,

contains Fortetropin

Purica Recovery



We always recommend a joint supplement that contains all the ingredients necessary to give your dog optimal therapeutic effect for joint health. A filler-free supplement is your best bet that your pooch is getting more of the good stuff in each dose.



Keeping your pet pain-free and comfortable is a top priority when your dog has a leg sprain. Often, it is difficult to convince an active and energetic dog of the importance of resting to recover fully from a sprained joint. However, following the veterinarian’s advice keenly is beneficial to ensure that your dog fully recovers.

So remember to look for any signs of a sprained or strained ligament. If you notice that your dog is reluctant to engage in activities or is exhibiting any signs associated with a sprained dog leg, like lameness, pain, or inflammation, have them checked by the vet.

Even if your dog doesn't show signs of pain, it is important to honor every vet appointment to ensure your dog gets a full body examination and take proactive measures like effective joint supplements for ongoing mobility support. For severe dog sprain injuries requiring surgical intervention, ensure your dog can easily get to its food. Also, remember to provide easy ways to get around the house as they recuperate.

TRI-ACTA H.A. for Pets

Our maximum strength formula is optimally designed to accelerate the formation of cartilage, minimize inflammation, expedite the healing process, and improve joint conditions.


If you found this article piece helpful, don't forget to check out our blog for more resources for dogs to help you give the best care to your canine bestie.