<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=332465044330223&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

How to Spot a Dog Sprain: A Complete Guide

Table of Contents

Most of us can’t get enough of seeing our dogs romp around in the backyard (who doesn’t love a doggie smile?!). Unfortunately, sometimes all that playing can lead to dog sprain injuries.

So, what do you do when these injuries happen, and how can you spot that it’s a sprain your dog is dealing with?

In this guide, we’ll go over all of that. We’ll also walk you through how to treat a few types of dog sprains.

What Causes a Dog Sprain?

The most common causes of a dog sprain are excessive physical activity, slips, falls, or tripping. Just like we humans can overwork our muscles working out or playing sports, dogs can too.

Other times, accidents could be the culprit for why your fur baby is suddenly limping.

Regardless of what causes the issue, sprains damage muscle ligaments. These are classified as soft tissue injuries because they affect the soft tissue around those muscles. Sprains commonly occur in ankles, elbows, and knees.

Each type of sprain tends to have a different cause. Here are some common causes of typical dog sprain injuries.

Type of Dog Sprain


Dog Wrist Sprain

Hard landing, rough exercise

Dog Ankle Sprain

Strenuous activities, missteps

Leg Sprain in Dogs

Tripping, falling, being overly active

Paw Sprain in Dogs

Falling from a massive height, traumatic accident

Sprained Hip Dog

Severe trauma or an extreme accident

Puppy Ankle Sprain

Being overly active, missteps, tripping, and falling

Dog sprains are normally classified according to the severity of the damage to the surrounding tissues and the main tendon or ligament.

Even if you’re unsure which type of sprain your pup is dealing with, don’t panic! Your vet will be able to figure out what type of sprain it is or classify the sprain.

Types of Dog Sprains

Types of Dog Sprains

Because of the varying severity and location of dog sprains, they have several types.

Keeping an eye on your dog's activity can help you figure out what type of sprain you’re dealing with. That way, it’ll be easier for you to provide dog sprain treatment.

As mentioned earlier, some of the most common zones a dog can experience a sprain include:

  • Wrist (yes, dogs have wrists too!)
  • Ankle
  • Leg
  • Paw
  • Hip

Let’s go over each of these types of sprains in a bit more detail.

Dog Wrist Sprain

Wait a minute, dogs have wrists?!

Although we don’t often think of dogs as having wrists, they do! You can locate it below the elbow on the dog’s foreleg.

Wrist sprains in dogs often occur because of a hard landing from a rough exercise or a car accident. The pain your dog feels with a wrist sprain can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes.

Some of the most common symptoms of these types of sprains include:

  • Redness and swelling of the joints
  • Limping or moving one leg more than the other
  • Swollen paws
  • Lameness

If you suspect your dog is experiencing a wrist sprain, it’s time to take a trip to the vet.

Not only can your vet treat the pain, but they can rule out other causes of wrist discomfort such as dog arthritis or bone degeneration.

Veterinarians suspecting a wrist sprain will perform a physical examination, do bloodwork, and take your dog’s x-ray. The radiograph helps the vet look closer at the dog’s joints to arrive at a more definitive diagnosis for your doggo.

Dog Ankle Sprain

Just like how wrist sprains can occur on your dog’s forelegs, ankle sprains can happen on his hind legs. A dog’s ankle is between its knees and toes.

Like dog wrist sprains, limping is the most common first sign of a dog ankle sprain. If you see your pet favoring one hindleg over the other, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a dog ankle sprain.

Other signs of a dog ankle sprain include the following:

  • Swollen area near the joints on the dog’s hindlegs
  • Lameness
  • Feeling irritated or aggressive when you touch his hindlegs
  • Excessive licking on the involved ankle

Again, like wrist sprains, you should also consult the vet when ankle sprains occur.

Leg Sprain in Dog

Leg Sprain in Dog

Dogs overworking their leg muscles can experience leg sprain. The main culprits behind this condition are strenuous activities and harsh landings because of missteps.

The easiest way to tell if it’s a dog muscle sprain you’re dealing with is to look at how your dog is walking. Many times, dogs will limp, walk funnily, or shift their weight to a healthier leg in order to avoid pain.

You’re positive your dog has a leg sprain when he limps or has an unusual gait to support the injured leg. He will likely shift his weight toward the healthy leg to avoid pain or discomfort.

Other signs of a possible leg sprain are the following:

  • Hearing your dog whimper when he moves
  • Swollen paws
  • Swollen or red joints
  • Hesitant to move and play
  • Irritable with other people and fellow dogs
  • Reacts when you touch the involved area

Keep an eye on how your dog is responding to try to get an idea of what’s bugging him. And remember—you should always get a professional opinion from your vet!

Paw Sprain in Dog

Like carpal tunnel in humans, dogs can also experience paw sprain. The more scientific term is carpal hyperextension, and as you can guess from the name, this just means that a dog overextended his paw use.

Paw sprains are also common in older dogs because their ligaments degenerate and wear out. But if it appears in younger puppies, paw sprain can be due to developmental abnormalities.

The most obvious sign of a paw sprain is a noticeable wrist bending. This results in the lower limbs assuming more flattened positions.

In mild cases, dogs can still run and move normally. But when it’s severe, you’ll notice your doggo is more reluctant to play and move around.

A few other symptoms you might spot if your dog has a paw sprain include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Pressure sores
  • Unstable joints

You can help older dogs get around these issues by giving them joint supplements. This helps strengthen their joints and prevent paw overextension.

TRI-ACTA, for example, is a great supplement to help prevent weak joints and build strong bones. Integricare’s TRI-ACTA is also a natural supplement with no unwanted ingredients that could end up harming your pup’s joint health more than helping it!

Sprained Hip Dog

Aside from a dog’s legs, wrists, and ankles, they can also experience hip sprain or dislocation.

To make this a little easier to understand, a dog’s hip is a ball and socket joint. When it dislocates, the joint’s ball part comes out or detaches from the socket (ouch!).

A sprained hip damages its joint capsule, together with the muscle, ligaments, and hip bones.

In some cases, hip dysplasia can also cause a sprained hip or dislocation in dogs. However, the good news is that these injuries are usually only caused by extreme trauma, such as a car accident.

The bad news is that these are some of the most painful dog sprains.

As a result, most dogs with a sprained hip will avoid moving around altogether. Other warning signs of a dog sprained hip include:

  • Weak hind legs
  • Frail appearance
  • Irritability

If you start to notice any of these signs, it might be time to book a vet appointment.

Puppy Ankle Sprain

Most of us think of dog sprains as being issues only senior pups deal with. However, young puppies can also run into sprains.

One of the most common sprains puppies run into are ankle sprains. Like adult dogs, a puppy ankle sprain is caused by missteps, accidents, and trauma.

The main cause of puppy sprains is your dog’s limited mobility. Young pups are still learning to romp and run, which can cause them to trip or fall suddenly and sprain their ankle.

A couple of signs your puppy might have a sprain include:

  • Abnormal gait
  • Shifting of the puppy’s weight to the healthy ankle
  • Whimpering when you touch the sprained side
  • Feeling weak and less active

Always be sure to get your puppy checked out if you suspect a sprain, however. Puppies are also great at getting into mischief, so it could be a foreign object or another issue that’s causing their pain!

Dog Sprain Treatment

Dog Sprain Treatment

With all those different types of dog sprains, you’re probably thinking, “how on earth do I treat my pup?”

Dog sprain treatment will depend on the severity and type of sprain but usually require rest and compressions.

In general, to figure out the right treatment, your vet will first determine where the dog sprain occurred. Then, they’ll determine the severity of the sprain. There are three main grades of severity for dog sprains:

  1. Grade I: the joint is functional with only a part of the ligament torn
  2. Grade II: joint is partially functional with swelling, but the dog can still walk
  3. Grade III: most severe, severely torn, and damaged ligament and disconnected from the bones

One easy way to speed up that healing process is to introduce a joint supplement. Doing so helps support healthy cartilage growth and recovery so that your dog can get back to his usual self.

How to Treat a Dog Sprain for Wrist

Remember, treating your dog’s wrist sprain depends on the severity of the sprain. If your dog only has a Grade I sprain, rest, compressions, and a bit of therapy should do the trick.

Securing the injured area with a wrapped bandage can also help speed up healing. Anti-inflammatory medicines can help reduce the dog’s pain and discomfort.

However, your dog might need surgery for Grades II and III sprains. Or, you might find that you’ve got to splint the joint.

Note: when your dog experiences a Grade III wrist sprain, there’s no guarantee his joints will return to their healthy states. This means your furbabies can experience reduced mobility and physical activity.

The total recovery time for mild wrist sprains in dogs can take several weeks. In some cases, however, the healing process can be a bit quicker.

One easy way to speed up that healing process is to introduce a joint supplement. Doing so helps support healthy cartilage growth and recovery so that your dog can get back to his usual self.

How to Treat Dog Sprain for Ankle

When it comes to how to treat dog ankle sprain, you’ll want to follow these steps:

  1. Let your dog rest for at least two days.
  2. Try walking your dog slowly over short distances. Be careful not to overwork his sprained ankle, and limit his activity.
  3. Place an ice pack on your dog’s injured ankle. The cold compress can help with reducing swelling and pain. Keep the ice pack on the angle for at least ten to fifteen minutes.
  4. Moist heat is also recommended when the sprain has become a chronic injury. You can use a damp towel heated in the microwave or soaked in warm water.
  5. Continue observing the injured ankle for two more days. Observe for possible signs of the condition improving or worsening.
  6. Add in a joint supplement like TRI-ACTA H.A. to help support healthy recovery.

If you suspect the condition is worsening, it’s time to consult your veterinarian. Your vet can give you medicines like anti-inflammatories to help your dog heal and get back on track.

Dog Paw Sprain Treatment

Paw sprains can be mild or severe. And like wrist and ankle sprains, the treatment will depend on the injury’s severity.

The best way to treat a dog paw sprain is to get the vet involved. The vet can take an X-ray to see what’s going on and rule out things like broken bones.

If you’re lucky and your dog only has a mild paw sprain, you can treat it the same way you’d treat a mild ankle sprain.

That means rest, rest, rest! In addition, adding a joint supplement with hyaluronic acid in it can really help reduce inflammation and expedite healing. You can also give your dog anti-inflammatory meds when prescribed by the vet.

In more severe cases, however, you could have to turn to orthopedic surgery. In that case, the recovery time tends to be a few months as opposed to a few weeks.

Dog Sprain Hip Treatment

Dog Sprain Hip Treatment

Because a sprained hip is a more serious matter in dogs, you should consult your vet immediately.

The vet will conduct a series of tests, including a complete physical examination to confirm that it really is a sprained hip you’re dealing with. In addition, he’ll probably take an X-ray or two.

Depending on the severity of the injury, there are a couple of different treatments you might need to implement:

  • Bandages
  • Cold compresses
  • Full rest days
  • Surgery
  • Open and closed reductions

You can also give your dog a joint supplement with hyaluronic acid to help support his injury, regardless of the severity.

How to Treat a Sprain Leg in Dogs

Treating a dog’s sprained leg is similar to treating a sprained ankle. Usually, all it takes is a couple of rest days and a cold compress. 

On the other hand, if things don’t seem to be improving after a few rest days, it’s time to call the vet. 

Your vet can run a physical exam and take some x-rays to see what else might be going on. Vets may prescribe medicines, or they may suggest a joint supplement to support your dog’s recovery. Either way, they’ll help get your dog’s leg sprain feeling better in no time.

Puppy Ankle Sprain Treatment

Because puppies are still young, they can recover from sprains a bit faster. Just give them a few full days of rest and limit their activity.

That should be enough to have them feeling like themselves again!

For young puppies, anti-inflammatory medications aren’t usually needed. That’s because most puppy sprains are relatively mild.

However, when it comes to taking care of a puppy or young dog, it’s always a good idea to give preventative supplements to avoid these kinds of issues in the first place. TRI-ACTA is a supplement that can:

  • Protect joint tissue
  • Support healthy cartilage
  • Increase movement

All those things help your puppy avoid sprains and continue to enjoy romping around!


What to do for a dog sprain?

When your dog has a sprain, let him rest and apply cold compresses to the sore area. If things don’t clear up in a day or two, give your vet a call to rule out more severe issues.

How to help dogs heal from a sprain?

You can help dogs heal from a sprain by adding a joint supplement to their diet and by limiting their activity. You can also try anti-inflammatory medications if prescribed by your veterinarian.


dog sprain

Even though most dog sprains are mild, you should still treat them seriously. Dog sprains are injuries that could affect your dog’s overall mobility, strength, and general health.

If your dogger does have a sprain, remember that treatment depends on the type, severity, and location of the injury. Get a second opinion from your vet, so you don’t misdiagnose the issue and can help your dog heal quickly.

Another great way to support dog sprain recovery and prevent dog sprain injuries in the first place is with joint supplements. Plus, these supplements can help promote healing when you treat any injuries that do pop up. Check out TRI-ACTA to help your pup feel his best and maintain healthy joints.

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.