Summertime, and the living is easy – except if your pet overdoes it and suffers a pulled muscle, or worse, a dislocated hip. Yes, just like people, dogs can suffer muscle strains or more debilitating muscle, ligament or joint injuries if they’re out of shape, too old or too young or not used to exercising much. As we make the transition from winter hibernation to more physically demanding summer events, our pets follow along. It is important for you and your pet to experience a slow, steady build-up of activity to avoid sports injuries.

Many people do not think that their pets can suffer significant injuries to their muscles, tendons, ligaments or joints. Sportsrelated injuries comprise a significant portion of quality-of-lifereducing events for your pet. The spring and summer months produce the greatest concentration of these injuries because owners include their pets in a variety of sports-related activities.

The most common sports-related injuries occur when attempting a new activity, or when starting to exercise after not having done so for a time. The use of sports equipment such as balls, throwing disks, retrieval dummies, ropes or mechanical/motorized equipment can increase the potential for injury to your pet.

The most common sports-related injuries to the family pet include:

  • Minor muscle or joint strains or sprains
  • Back muscle spasms
  • Toe nail injuries
  • Tendon strains or sprains of the elbows, knees, ankles or wrists
  • Tendon or ligament tears of the knees (the anterior cruciate ligament-ACL tear is the most common injury to the knee joint)
  • Trauma to the hip joint capsule or round ligament of the hip
  • Hip dislocation
  • Knee cap dislocation
  • Intervertebral disk bulging or herniation

All these potential injures bring with them a host of secondary physiologic events, such as osteoarthritis formation, chronic nerve pain, stress, and behavior changes that can have additional negative long-term impact on the human-animal bond.

There are a number of steps the activity-minded owner can take to reduce the potential for pet sports injuries. Most are common sense and require little or no additional cost or effort for the owner. They include:

  • See your veterinarian for your pet’s annual complete physical, including blood work and examination of the joints and muscles.
  • Ask your veterinarian the ideal weight range for your pet and try to keep your pet within that range year-round.
  • Discuss with your veterinarian the age appropriateness of a particular activity (this includes being too young or too old).
  • Discuss with your veterinarian the maximum activity allowable for a particular sport.
  • Observe your four-legged friend for any sudden activity changes or behavior changes during or after a sporting event.
  • Do not go from full activity to no activity or vice versa at any time of the year.
  • Plan ahead so that you know what you will be expecting from your pet during outdoor activity periods.
  • Build up both your own activity and that of your pets to avoid over exertion.
  • Be sure to think about what you will be asking your pet to do for or with you before you venture forward.
  • Keep cool water available at all times.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about having a first-aid kit.
  • Do everything in moderation with your pet.

If your pet does become injured, it is important to call your veterinarian as soon a possible for a recommendation on what steps to take to minimize the damage. Never give any of your medication to your pet without first asking your veterinarian. Do not wait to see if things get better. The advent of a host of modern anti-inflammatory medications and proper post-injury treatment can reduce the “chronic re-injury cycle” for your pet.

By planning ahead, asking the right questions and thinking things through before beginning a new activity with your pet, you can have a fun, safe and painfree summer with you and your four-legged friend.

Source:   Peter H. Eeg, DVM, National Veterinary Consultant for Invisible Fence®Brand

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